“Nationalise all broadcast media”

There is a lot of angst being expressed over news coverage during the week at The Standard: The manufacturing of a narrative

They are complaining about the excess of coverage of stories they don’t think are important, and a lack of coverage of stories they think are important. The media are the immediate scapegoats, but National and big business and world conspiracies also feature in the list of culprits.

Ironically with a post and comments that try to play down Clare Curran’s indiscretions in trying to promote her policies for a publicly funded broadcast television alternative, these claims and suggestions propose that media is fully controlled by the state.

Unicus:

Of course the Government can and must act to protect our country from what is a rampant corporate propaganda machine . It is not enough to simply express disgust about this calculated and co ordinated attempt to bring down the legitimately elected government of our country Although Curren is not the individual to do the job RNZ and Television NZ must be re structured imediately .

Ed:

The media are paid puppets for international finance.
The government will control the narrative if it takes control of the airwaves from private corporate interests.
The airwaves are the commons.
They should be returned to the 99%.

solkta:

Yes, the government should immediately nationalise all broadcast media; along with all law firms, insurance companies and banks.

One of the primary and most important functions of media in a democracy is to hold the government to account. This would take an important check on power away.

I’m not sure that they will be so keen on the government controlling the narrative by taking control of the airwaves when National takes over the government again.

And on the right wing conspiracy – Robert Guyton:

No, Baba: ” A narrative is building being built of incompetence and dishonesty around this government that will be very difficult to shake”.
The perception is being created, purposefully, in order to destroy the Labour-led Government – who’s doing this? You know full well, ol’ mortar’n’pestle witch!

Babayaga:

The narrative is being self inflicted. It really is that simple.

Robert Guyton:

“Self -inflicted”?
Bullsh*t!
Inflicted by the Right Wing machine.
Baba – you’re full of it!

John Drinnan:

So are you saying that most journalists in the country are corrupt and promoting a story that they know is untrue – all to meet the demands of a cruel lying media That famous right wing Gordon Campbell? For goodness sake?

I’m not sure why that last sentence has a question mark.

US media bias resources

There is a lot of discussion about media bias in the US, especially since Donald Trump became the centre of attention. It’s well known that CNN leaves very leftward, and Fox News strongly favours the right. There are a lot of others, some more extreme, and many somewhere in between.

Political bias or leaning is not in itself a bad thing, as long as news is well reported and backed by facts. No one media outlet can be all things to everyone across the spectrum.

Check the Political Bias of Any Media Site in This Massive Database media site political bias chart

Image Credit: Imgur

Media Bias/Fact Check claims to be The Most Comprehensive Media Bias Resource and categorises many media:

  • Left Bias
    These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward liberal causes through story selection and/or political affiliation.  They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage liberal causes. Some sources in this category may be untrustworthy.
  • Left-Center Bias
    These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward liberal causes through story selection and/or political affiliation.  They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage liberal causes. Some sources in this category may be untrustworthy.
  • Least Biased
    These sources have minimal bias and use very few loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes).  The reporting is factual and usually sourced.  These are the most credible media sources.
  • Right-Center Bias
    These media sources are slightly to moderately conservative in bias. They often publish factual information that utilizes loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes) to favor conservative causes. These sources are generally trustworthy for information, but may require further investigation.
  • Right Bias
    These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward conservative causes through story selection and/or political affiliation. They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage conservative causes. Some sources in this category may be untrustworthy.
  • Pro-Science
    These sources consist of legitimate science or are evidence based through the use of credible scientific sourcing.  Legitimate science follows the scientific method, is unbiased and does not use emotional words.  These sources also respect the consensus of experts in the given scientific field and strive to publish peer reviewed science. Some sources in this category may have a slight political bias, but adhere to scientific principles.
  • Conspiracy-Pseudoscience
    Sources in the Conspiracy-Pseudoscience category may publish unverifiable information that is not always supported by evidence. These sources may be untrustworthy for credible/verifiable information, therefore fact checking and further investigation is recommended on a per article basis when obtaining information from these sources.
  • Questionable Sources
    A questionable source exhibits one or more of the following: extreme bias, overt propaganda, poor or no sourcing to credible information and/or is fake news. Fake News is the deliberate attempt to publish hoaxes and/or disinformation for the purpose of profit or influence (Learn More). Sources listed in the Questionable Category may be very untrustworthy and should be fact checked on a per article basis. Please note sources on this list are not considered fake newsunless specifically written in the notes section for that source.
  • Satire
    These sources exclusively use humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. Primarily these sources are clear that they are satire and do not attempt to deceive.

The database is US-centric but includes many international media, including a number of Australian, but I can’t see any New Zealand sources. UPDATE: Stuff is included under ‘Left-Center bias’.

More on the media and murky lobbying in politics

Bryce Edwards has continued to question the relationships between paid lobbyists and politicians, but also points out that relationships between lobbyists and media mean it isn unlikely ton get much exposure.

Political Roundup:  Lifting the lid on lobbying in politics

Recent revelations that a lobbying firm owner and director was recruited to work over summer as Chief of Staff for the Prime Minister, with the expectation he would then immediately return to lobbying, barely raised a mention in our media.

What should have been a major political scandal, was the subject of a must-read investigative report last week on The Spinoff website – see Asher Emanuel’s Conflict of interest concerns over lobbyist turned chief of Jacinda Ardern’s staff. Emanuel’s article is important because it raises unanswered questions about ethics and procedures in the hiring of lobbyists to work for the government.

One explanation for this extraordinary situation going largely unreported, is that Wellington political insiders often operate as a “political class” who are careful not to step on each other’s toes. For the media, in particular, a symbiotic relationship can make it problematic to report on powerful individuals who they depend on for stories and access.

Danyl Mclauchlan earlier this week pointed to a second, very important, factor in why so little public scrutiny had been applied to this lobbyist. He writes, “a jaw-dropping conflict of interest” such as this could have been massive: “If such a thing happened during the Key government there would have been a huge outcry: protests, online petitions, Twitter hashtags, Radio New Zealand flooded with academics lamenting the death of our democracy. Instead there was an indifferent silence” – see: Simon Bridges and the opposition vacuum.

Partly, Mclauchlan attributes this to partisan bias. But, crucially, he suggests that another important component of New Zealand’s “political class” – Parliament’s Opposition – decided not to make the issue a scandal. He says “Most government scandals need opposition leaders asking questions in the house, crafting lines so that the voters can understand what’s happening, providing optics for the TV news, and having their research units breaking new angles to keep the story live. If none of these things happen then there’s no scandal.”

The Opposition is supposed to be a check on Executive power – it’s their job to expose the government’s ethical transgressions such as any misuse of power or willingness to allow conflicts of interest to occur at high levels. So why didn’t National push the issue? According to Mclauchlan: “National has no interest in progressing such a story because they in many ways spent the last nine years acting as a vertically integrated lobbying and fundraising operation, and their former chief of staff is now a consulting partner with the same lobbying firm as Labour’s former chief of staff.”

More here from Edwards:

But with the primary means of holding power to account – the media and the Opposition – both complicit it is unlikely this will be given much scrutiny.

Good on Edwards for having a crack at it. He could be putting his media access at risk.

Refreshing taking fight to Ardern’s celebrification

Jacinda Ardern has taken ‘celebrity politics’ to a whole new level since. This began before she became Labour leader and Prime Minister. Her media management had already included celebrity style magazine coverage. That has continued, with the latest example being Ardern featuring in a US magazine, Vogue.

In general the New Zealand media has both lapped it up and egged it on, and this looks to be increasing with the pregnancy of Ardern being given far more importance than governance of the country.

It’s bit of a big deal in New Zealand politics that Ardern became pregnant while taking on the most important role in the country. Pregnancy and giving birth is a big deal for any mother – but in the whole scheme of things having babies is very routine, it has been happening for a lot longer than the New Zealand has had Ardern and the world has had princesses.

For New Zealand how Ardern functions as a Prime Minister running the country should be of far greater importance than what she names her kid and other mundane trivia outside immediate family.

Fran O’Sullivan writes against the current: Time Jacinda Ardern eases back on celebrification?

Jacinda Ardern can thank Judith Collins’ incisive political attack for reminding her of her biggest job: get on her game as Prime Minister.

The media-endorsed “mother of the nation” celebrification — which has been wall-to-wall since Ardern announced her pregnancy — could (if she is not mindful) undermine her impact as NZ’s political leader.

Opposition politicians have since tip-toed around Ardern. They have not wanted to be seen to land blows on a young pregnant woman who happens to be enormously relatable and popular.

Most have played into the “generational change” meme without pointing out that the only reason we have a 37-year-old female Prime Minister is because a septuagenarian put her there.

But when Collins — some 20 years Ardern’s senior — launched her campaign for National’s leadership, she took a different approach by taking the fight directly to the Prime Minister.

It was refreshing.

After weeks of media coverage suggesting Ardern’s pregnancy meant she was now a shoo-in to lead the Labour-NZ First coalition to win another term at the 2020 election, an Opposition politician had finally broken cover from their self-imposed PC straitjacket.

Others might have a problem taking on Ardern out of concern that they would look heavy-handed or be seen to pick on the young, pregnant woman.

But Collins said: “I have been pregnant running a law firm and studying as well. As a young mum I understand exactly how tough it is to do that. But she understands that too.

“That is not the role she’s asked New Zealanders to support her for.”

“She has asked them to make her and keep her as Prime Minister of New Zealand.

I think that’s a fair call.

“And that is the role I would hold her to account for.”

Collins’ forthright attack has clearly resonated within the ninth floor of the Beehive.

It was notable that when Ardern addressed senior members of the Auckland business community at breakfast yesterday, she was completely on song in delivering a speech that set out the Government’s focus for the next three years.

She gave a polished and confident delivery.

Notably, there was no mention of her pregnancy. Nor were there any jokes about Clarke Gayford — the upcoming stay-at-home dad. Her Vogue cover was not mentioned (apart from a closing comment by Westpac chief executive David McLean that some of his staff were lining up for selfies with the PM who had been in Vogue).

This shift in key enabled the business community to focus on what the Prime Minister had to say.

It was an important speech that conveyed important messages. It did not warrant being buried by distraction — nor was it.

Ardern has been a quick learner and an astute reader of public sentiment. She has played the celebrity card with aplomb, with the help of a more than willing media.

Here she seems to have switched to serious Prime Minister. Are the media able to switch off the celebrity button as easily? I doubt it.

Ardern — still establishing her prime ministerial platform — must get runs on the board while maintaining her relentlessly positive approach.

It is a balance.

Vogue called Ardern the anti-Trump. She plays the media differently, but she still plays the media bigly like Trump.

What New Zealand needs is an anti-celebrity.

Ardern’s positioning as Prime Minister is at times also undermined by a media fascination which borders on being fatuous.

This was embarrassingly obvious last weekend, when Julie Bishop was questioned about the shoes that Ardern wore when she popped in on a dinner that Winston Peters hosted at his home for the visiting Australian Foreign Minister.

“Seriously?” asked Bishop.

Seriously, New Zealand’s media is at severe risk of collapsing into cringe.

We would benefit from an anti-gaga media.

Media mistakes and the fake president

While journalists would prefer not to make mistakes, like life in general, mistakes have always been made and always will be.

This is really only a problem if the media isn’t policed, isn’t held to account and media doesn’t acknowledge and correct their mistakes.

The best media monitor and hold each other to account, and in the main correct any mistakes they make as well as they can. Good journalists aspire to accuracy.

Inaccurate reporting has been (generally unfairly) been lumped under the generally bogus label of ‘fake news’.

President Donald Trump has used accusations of ‘fake news’ to divert from his own fakery and failings. To an extent this has been a successful strategy, so far. But it is likely to end up dragging him down, sooner or later.

Jack Shafer at Politico: Who’s Winning Trump’s War With the Press?

The guy who said, “Never quarrel with a man who buys his ink by the barrel,” didn’t anticipate Donald Trump. Since becoming president, Trump has argued the news media to a stalemate thanks to the power of his alliance with the Fox News Network and his 44 million-follower Twitter account, which functions as one of the world’s largest printing presses. And the ink is free.

Trump is not winning, but he has certainly had some success. But the Press, or at least most of the press, is going to outlast him and his self tainting legacy. he is at real risk of becoming remembered as the Fake President.

So far he has successfully exploited media mistakes – and the media always have and always will make them.

The making of mistakes cannot be divorced from the making of journalism. As historian David Greenberg notes in Republic of Spin, mistakes littered the coverage of the Watergate scandal. Greenberg writes:

Reporters, swept up in the chase, made mistakes that they failed to correct. In May 1973, Walter Cronkite opened the CBS Evening News with an item erroneously implicating a Bethesda bank run by Pat Buchanan’s brother in Watergate money-laundering. The AP falsely reported that [John] Ehrlichman was present at a key cover-up meeting among Nixon, Haldeman, and Dean. ABC’s Sam Donaldson wrongly asserted that James McCord had implicated departed aide Harry Dent in the White House sabotage efforts; Donaldson was forced to apologize. News outlets also overplayed trivial items, as the New York Times did by placing on the front page a three-column story about the possibility that Nixon’s campaign had received gambling money from the Bahamas. As [WashingtonPost editor Robert Maynard conceded, there was “a lot of fast and loose stuff being printed.”

Additional Watergate screw-ups: The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein “committed two critical mistakes” in their reporting on the scandal, as Craig Silverman showed in a 2011 Columbia Journalism Review piece.

I dredge up Watergate as a point of comparison not because it was especially flawed, but because it wasn’t. I dredge it up because, like the current Trump coverage, it was closely scrutinized and whenever the news is closely scrutinized, more errors will be discovered. That’s why the New York Times publishes more corrections than any other newspaper—because it’s the most heavily analyzed (and, of course, because the Timesbelieves in error correction).

Maybe somebody should explain to our presidential press critic that the news organizations he so disparages do the most aggressive policing of media miscues, especially if the miscues appear in a competing outlet.

So the media tend to correct each other. Trump’s attacks are going to improve media vigilance and accuracy, something that may well end up working against him.

Being the most mistake-prone president in history hasn’t prevented Trump from capitalizing on the press corps’ recent errors.

That also makes him an easy target – and when he makes big mistakes the media is likely to make a big story of it, more accurately than in the past due to Trump’s fakemongering.

Not only does Trump distract his critics with 280-character rampages, he dilutes whatever offense he has committed by committing new offenses. Writing in Axios, Jim VandeHei plotted out the standard Trump Twitter playbook: First he throws a Twitter bomb. Then “the outrage machine kicks in,” as the cable channels collect the outrage from both sides. As the prime-time broadcasts take the torch, VandeHei continues, the he said, she said wrangle dominates. In many cases, the precipitating news item—in this case, Trump’s accusers—sinks beneath under Trump’s histrionics.

In the short term Trump has been getting away with it. At some stage it is likely to trip him up.

Our current media standoff depends on Fox News Channel to transmit and amplify the Trump worldview. The network didn’t plump for Trump until he became his party’s likely nominee. But it was only after he became president that Fox enshrouded him in 24/7 protective cover, remaking itself indistinguishable from state-run media, as the New Republic’s Alex Shephard was early to observe.

Fox sycophancy dominates its prime-time hours, as Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity praise Dear Leader, and the morning shift, when the hosts of Fox & Friends supply him with ample supplication. Trump completes this unvirtuous circle by tweeting back his approval. The ensuing feedback loop serves both the man and the network, making both seem larger than they really are.

I follow Fox on Twitter, and at times there seems to be a constant stream of pro-Trump sycophancy, and anti-critic (and anti-Clinton) attacks in support of Trump’s tactics.

Trump certainly wins some battles with the media, or at least diverts attention from his losses.

But I think it is a war he cannot win, if he continues on the same track – and there is no sign of him changing his attack as defence approach.

Trump is unlikely to out-Fox the people indefinitely – many already see through his fake clothes.

Thanks to his own efforts Trump is establishing himself as a Fake President.

Whale shit

Bigger than bull at Whale Oil.

The campaign against Golriz Ghahraman is still rambling on at WO. Yesterday was quieter, with ‘just’ a lame cartoon plus another dirty Photoshop posted by Juana Atkins.

But they are back at it with two posts already today, with some Whale sized shit from Slater.

With all of the revelations we’ve seen about Golriz Ghahraman over the last week, I had expected the story to be picked up by the mainstream media.  That’s their job right? To report on facts and raise issues of concern about the current government, particularly when it comes to lies and deception peddled by our Members of Parliament.  Yet it’s been strangely quiet.

Media were all over it when the story broke, and for a day or two afterwards, and then it subsided, as is the norm for stories. What I think Slater means is that the media are quiet now while he is trying to beat a dead horse story.

So far, the mainstream media have stayed away from this story in droves.  They seem unwilling to publish anything that might make this Government look bad.  Stories the previous Government would have been castigated about for weeks seem to slip quietly under the rug.

From the 26th November (Tuesday) all the main media outlets covered the story. Therre is even a new opinion piece on Stuff today by Damien Grant: ‘Why I admire Golriz Ghahraman’:

We like to hold our elected representatives to an impossible moral standard. The few who can achieve such purity are so devoid of drive and ambition that they are ineffective in the blood-spattered arena that is modern politics.

Fudging your CV, embellishing the past and periodic acts of bastardy while appearing angelic – even as the viscera of your opponents taint the edges of your apparel –  are prerequisites for a successful life in politics.

John Key was called the smiling assassin. Jacinda Ardern’s first act as leader was to nudge Metiria Turei under a recycling truck while empathetically embracing the nation’s  impoverished children in a Kate Sylvester dress.

Ghahraman can have no complaint that Quin has brought these issues into the light. When you stand for office such scrutiny is expected but I do not care if Ghahraman fudged her CV or had photos taken with war criminals.

We vote for people because we want them to get things done. There isn’t any point in marrying a eunuch or voting for a saint.

Slater does not seem to favour the saintly style of blogging, but seems to expect unblemished politicians (except ones he is shilling for) and media.

He closes his post wanly:

We are long overdue some real balance by the mainstream media.

Unwittingly witty. He wants ‘real balance’ from other media. That’s kinda cute given his own degrees of imbalance.

Like this:

Photoshop of the day

by SB on December 2, 2017 at 1:00pm

Slater seems to have approved of this, he has commented in the thread.

This is whale sized shit.

And he wonders why media don’t continue his political attack campaigns any more.

“Media attack on New Zealand’s democracy”

A post by Dr. Hans B. Grueber at ZealandiaBlog suggests that there is a Media attack on New Zealand’s democracy

It’s true that the only ones seemingly concerned about parliament being left in limbo since the election and politicians not fronting up or answering any questions of note are journalists.

Twenty five years ago New Zealand voted in a first referendum for the (more) democratic proportional voting system called MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) as recommended  by the Royal Commission after the most thorough investigation into all electoral systems around the world.

The media are extremely slow learners. Over all these years they still  seem to be living in the old imperial First Past the Post world. For example they still talk about electorate and list MPs as if there was a difference. In the other MMP country Germany nobody makes that distinctions and never has. In our current debate we still hear the myth that electorate MPs are supposed to be first class while list MPs second class. The former being accountable and being able to be voted out by the people while the later (only) being accountable to their parties, which put them on the list. This myth could not be further from the truth.

As one scientist quipped in the US context that MPs in safe seats are less accountable to the public than the members of the Stalinist polit-bureau. The later having changed much more often under public pressure that safe seats under First-Past-the-Post. As I already said in a 1992 debate in safe National seats like Te Kuiti or Southland Clutha the party can put a blue ribbon around a sheep dog and it will be elected.

This year the blue ribbon around Toddy in Clutha Southland got fairly tatty, leading to him leaving Parliament with his tail between his legs. This was largelky due to the efforts of some of the media.

Not even a conspiracy

Still every election where the results are not to the liking of the neo-liberal media inevitably the electoral system is blamed.

Even the media are labelled ‘neo-liberal’ now. Was that the cause of or a result of the ‘neo-liberal’ revolution in the 1980s?

The New Zealand media in general do not even try to conceal their disdain for our electoral system and democracy. After this year’s election, which as usual under proportional representation didn’t produce a clear winner with over 50% of the vote they almost demanded that the party with the most votes – as it two weeks later turned out to be 44% – be given the right to form the next government.

The fact that 56% had voted against the old government wasn’t ever worth a mention.

I’ve seen something like that mentioned quite a bit. For someone promoting the merits of MMP to be treating it as a binary for/against vote is curious.

It isn’t a fact that “56% had voted against the old government”. There is no way of knowing the reasons why each of 2,591,896 people voted, especially the 186,706 who voted NZ First.

ACT voters, some Maori Party voters and others may not have specifically voted against the old government. Even some of those who voted for the Greens may not have cared who runs the next Government, they may simply have wanted to ensure that the Greens retained a voice in Parliament (I have voted exactly that way in the past)

It was actually 55.6% who didn’t vote for National. And 63.1% who didn’t vote for Labour, 92.8% who didn’t vote NZ First, 93.7% who didn’t vote Green.

We didn’t have a new government on election night, Oh My God !

The media wouldn’t even allow for the final results to come out before crying out about New Zealand being taken hostage by a party with only just over 7% of the vote. They are just taking their time to negotiate and make up their minds. These media, editors, commentators, and pundits assumed that the New Zealand people of voting age are still like little children who cannot wait and want to open the presents under the tree before Christmas day. The only ones who can’t wait are the media themselves. This is the age of instant gratification after all.

It does seem that it is mainly some of the media who are impatient for a new government.

Another media beat-up in the crazy assumption that it will scare the people is the fact that for an interim period after every election the old government continues as caretaker government in charge of running the day to day business of government. However they are not allowed to introduce any policy changes of make major decisions.

This is portrayed as a terrible thing as if the country would not happily function for a few weeks or even months without a proper government.

I haven’t seen the caretaker government portrayed as a terrible thing, although I have heard some concerns expressed about New Zealand not actively reacting on the international stage. However New Zealand’s lack of input will hardly be missed by most of the world.

The other MMP country Germany held elections on the same weekend. The far right neo-liberal party (FDP) represents the interests of the the business community, which according to the media here cannot live without the certainty of a new government. One of their representatives just appeared on the most influential political TV talkshow. When asked about a coalition before Christmas he replied that such serious negotiations could not be rushed. The host’s only reply was that they just would have to wait.

Belgium a few years back was without a new government for about 18 months after their election. The people loved it as no harm and damage was done to them unlike to us by successive neo-liberal governments over the last 33 years.

A caretaker government won’t change what has been done by successive “neo-liberal governments” over the last 33 years. Gruber keeps confusing two things, our current political limbo under MMP, and his apparent obsession with and opposition to neo-liberalism. It’s worth pointing out that seven of the “neo-liberalist” governments we have had have been elected under MMP.

And it’s worth remembering that if the incoming government 33 years ago had done nothing for some time, and hadn’t taken drastic action, some fairly severe damage to the country is likely to have occurred.

The media still stuck in the First-Past-the-Post world ignore the fact that all this is totally normal under any proportional system in the world. They are seriously suggesting the we, the people, didn’t know what we were doing when we voted over the last 25 years not only once but three times for MMP – a far more democratic system than we had before.

More democratic, which has resulted in more representative Parliaments, but I wouldn’t say far more, and still misused and abused by parties and politicians when it suits their ambitions for power.

Concerted Attack

Following the mainstream media including the state owned broadcasters you cannot but conclude that we are witnessing a concerted attack on our electoral system. Not only do we read and hear comments by editors, political reporters and media personnel of the above nature. The media also give overwhelming space to totally outrageous and false comments in the letter pages and give a platform to anti MMP campaigners of ‘Dirty Politics‘ fame to spread their old disinformation and lies.

It seems we have been watching the Media attack on New Zealand’s democracy.

I think Grueber is right that some of the media has been overly critical of what our eight MMP election has delivered – a headline and scandal vacuum – but it nothing like a concerted attack.

Some journalists have actually suggested tweaks to our MMP, like lowering the threshold, and having a clearer system for forming a new government. I think both would be good improvements to the already better than most system of democracy that we have.

And a healthy democracy needs a critical media, even if they don’t always get things right, aren’t as balanced as they should be and get too excited about things that don’t matter much, like not having a new government for a few weeks.

Our system of democracy is pretty good, our governments over the last 33 years have in the main been pretty good (they will always annoy some of the people some of the time), and our media does a fairly good job most of the time.

We can be critical of the media, as they can be critical of our politicians and aspects of political system, but attacking media for an “attack on New Zealand’s democracy” is in a way an attack on our democracy as the media are an important part of it.

Journalists complaining about nothing much happening is not something most voters will care about.

Better that we look at how we can improve our way of doing democracy.

Journalists and social media bias

When you follow New Zealand journalists in social media you get an idea of where some of their political sympathies lie. This can be subtle, and far removed from the perceptions of some (usually hard lefties and hard righties) that all journalists are biased to the left, or that all media are biased to the right.

For US news I get both Fox News and CNN feeds on Twitter, and they are both generally biased, most notably Fox.

Ironically Fox writes about a less right leaning competitor: NY Times changes social media guidelines so reporters don’t appear biased

New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet issued new social media guidelines to his newsroom on Friday and advised staffers to “read them closely, and take them to heart” so that the paper’s journalists are not perceived as biased.

“Many of our journalists are influential voices on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms. The voices of our readers, listeners and viewers inform and improve our reporting,” Baquet wrote. “But we also need to make sure that we are engaging responsibly on social media, in line with the values of our newsroom.”

Baquet discussed Twitter at a forum at George Washington University Thursday and said his staff should not be able to say anything on social media that they cannot say” in the Times, according to Politico.

The Times’ rival, The Washington Post, published a story back in Oct. 2016 headlined, “#Biased? Reporters on Twitter don’t hold back about Trump”. The article mentioned Times reporters throughout, noting that “reporters are supposed to keep their opinion out of the stories they write” but that policy doesn’t seem to apply to Twitter. The Post called out Times staffers Alex Burns for attacking Trump on a regular basis – and that was before he defeated Hillary Clinton on Election Day.

While some journalists state on their Twitter profile that any tweets are their own opinions they can’t help being seem as associated with their jobs and their media organisations, so they must be aware of this and behave accordingly.

Media Research Center Vice President Dan Gainor thinks it’s too little, too late when it comes to the Times’ reporters appearing anti-Trump on social media.

“Twitter has been around for 10 years and The New York Times is only now realizing that its staff say lots of stupid, left-wing things there? I know Baquet isn’t active on Twitter, but he claims he is aware of the Times agenda problem. You’d never know it though,” Gainor told Fox News.

Fox frequently slams other media for being anti-Trump, but even though she is a political relic Fox continue to show strong bias against Hillary Clinton and the liberal left, as well as an obvious bias in favour of Trump. Their current feed has scores of positive tweets like…

…about interspersed with several like:

There are mild biases in media here at times, but they are nothing like the extremes of the US media.

They can go both ways at times, this is two consecutive tweets from CNN:

 

Government forming negotiations in progress

After the final election results were released on Saturday negotiations to form a new government began in earnest. NZ First had meetings with both National and Labour yesterday, and these are expected to continue over the next few days.

Winston Peters still says he expects to announce his choice by Thursday, when the formal election result, or “writ”, is returned. That was always an odd target date.

But whether he meets that target or not that may not be the final outcome as other parties may need time to consider what has been negotiated. The Greens in particular say they are committed to taking any decision to a special general meeting for the party members to decide.

Some of the media are getting a bit precious. There was complaining yesterday about being blocked from seeing how was attending negotiation meetings in Parliament, with complaints of secrecy and non-transparency, but that seems ridiculous to me. I think that most people won’t care who attends, al they will be interested in is the final outcome. It’s not that we have any say in what is going on.

I’m really getting fed up with media coverage of not much happening, and I’m avoiding a lot of their coverage. If something interesting or important happens can someone please alert me in case I miss it.

There is no urgency. The caretaker government is operating fine. We don’t get another vote for another 3 years, unless NZ First negotiate referendums on their policies.

Speculation has been in overdrive – in the absence of any news of importance all I will speculate is that media speculation will continue unabated to fill the vacuum.

Politics isn’t theatre

Politics is serious stuff, especially in an election campaign when we get to decide, sort of, who will run the country for the next three years.

Several months ago some journalists openly dreaded a boring election between the two main contenders, Bill English and Andrew Little. All they had to over-embellish headlines was the old troubadour, Winston Peters.

Then Little changed everything when he stood aside, allowing Jacinda Ardern to take over. The media had already played a party in Ardern’s promotion to deputy earlier this year, and this was headlines on a plate for them.

The media was besotted, as were a lot of potential Labour supporters who had had a drought of hope for nine years. So we had ‘Jacindamania’, the ‘Jacinda effect’.

Journos were fizzing at the bung in anticipation of last Thursday’s first leaders debate.  This turned out to be a useful opener, but there was media disappointment at the lack of excitement.

Bryce Edwards summed it up:

Last night’s leaders debate on TVNZ1 was lacklustre. A lot of people will tell you that the debate was quality – it was calm, it was respectful, and it focused on policy. But, actually it was boring and we didn’t learn anything new. Yes, of course they put forward their different policy generalities and attempts to show that they have vision and values. But it was all terribly bland and vague.

Woe is Bryce. A boring debate! Most people find most politics boring most of the time.

We did learn something important and new – two leading politicians could have a respectful debate.

Media would have loved attacks and abuse and mayhem, but here’s an important thing – elections aren’t for the entertainment of journos and pundits. Or they shouldn’t be.

Barry Soper:  The Soap Box: Politics is missing the theatre

Politics is these days missing the theatre, although in fairness Winston Peters is still performing and looks set to be playing the starring role after the vote in three weeks time.

He’ll undoubtedly put on another performance this week while the big players will continue what so far has been a fairly mundane affair…

Woe is Soper – despite continually giving the old Thespian Peters a nationwide soapbox the campaign is still lacking sufficient drama!

And it’s fair to say the current aspirants don’t put in the same election campaign hard slog that former contenders did. Long gone are the daily Town Hall meetings around regional New Zealand, along with the theatre that accompanied them…

Soper is yearning for the past, much like Peters. The world has moved on to much more wide ranging and far reaching forms of communication.

Last week, officially the first of the campaign, saw Jacinda Ardern essentially at schools and tertiary institutions where she was mobbed by students wanting selfies while Bill English also hit learning institutions but at least did venture into a shopping mall for a walkabout among the great unwashed which can be high risk, given they’re expected to shake the hand of any random who approaches them.

But these are essentially the fill-in events while they prepare and perform for their spin doctors away from the cameras for the main event, the television debate. There’s another one of those tonight and another one on Thursday.

Actually there is going to be a town-hall type debate in Christchurch tomorrow night – where opposing leaders contest, rather than an old fashioned one party PR exercise that Soper seems to prefer,

You’d have to wonder what they can say that hasn’t already been said but with the political tumult of the past several weeks, the only thing that’s predictable about this campaign is the unpredictable.

Many voters want to be able to actually assess the capabilities and policies of the politicians, and these debates are the best way most have of doing that.

They aren’t looking for the best actor – to the contrary, they want to most credible and most capable leader. There are far more important things to do in running a country than supplying drama and headlines.

In trying to decide who to vote for I try hard to see past the headlines, past the theatre, past the noise and nonsense, so I can judge policy details and especially competence.