Media and playing into the hands of terror

When terrorist acts happen it poses very difficult decisions for media, and these decisions have to be made very quickly, while other media are busy with their headlines.

It is important that media report big and important news, but they have to be careful about not giving terrorists too much of what they are primarily wanting, publicity.

Something media should be most wary of is feeding speculation, rumours and deliberate conspiracies before facts are known.

Laura Walters at Newsroom: International media drops the ball on Sri Lanka terror coverage

Analysis: Unsubstantiated claims of retaliation led some of the biggest news sites in the world. Laura Walters looks at the responsibility of media in covering an increasingly volatile tit-for-tat war of terror.

On Tuesday evening, New Zealanders’ news feeds were filled with a flood of media reports claiming the Sri Lankan bombings, which killed more than 300 people, were revenge for the Christchurch mosque attacks.

The reports added validitity and oxygen to this growing, somewhat biblical, idea of a tit-for-tat terror war.

In response to these reports, Emma Beals, a Kiwi independent journalist who specialises in coverage of the Middle East, ISIS and terrorsim tweeted, “This is a terrifying statement”.

Providing publicity for the terrorists and agents of the terrorists who want to drive hate and division and who are trying to escalate terror and terror wars is a difficult but essential consideration for responsible media, especially when there is so much irresponsible media around and available online now.

This reporting again raises media’s role and burden of responsibility when reporting on terror events – something that’s been a topic of much discussionin New Zealand since the Christchurch attacks. It’s an area where domestic media is still finding its feet, but news organisations have been proactive in creating internal policies, and working together to come up with reporting guidelines ahead of the shooter’s trial.

Ellis said New Zealand media did a good job at balancing the claim with the context in its coverage of the retaliation angle. With a fast-moving situation, or evolving news story, like a terror attack, it was important not to over-egg these types of claims.

“I think it behoves the media to act with a degree of greater responsibility than that,” he said.

Going forward, media outlets needed to apply constant editorial judgment when covering terror attacks, and related developments.

That’s a big editorial responsibility, but an essential requirement for media. It is most important for large media (the much maligned but essential mainstream media’ provides most of the coverage of large news events) to do this as well as possible, but at the other end of the media scale sole operator sites like this also have to consider the implications of not only what is posted, but also what is commented.

There are people who are genuinely concerned about escalations of terror and tit for tat terror and want to talk about it, but it can be challenging differentiating this from those who are deliberately trying to inflame already volatile situations, and are in effect acting as agents of terrorists.

Playing into the hands of terror

Along with the issues of prominently reporting unverified claims, there’s the knock-on effect of sending signals of a dangerous tit-for-tat terror war.

“It plants in the minds of others some sort of legitimacy in retribution and of course, there’s none,” Ellis said

“It changes the character of the events and turns them into a clash of civilisations.”

Since the minister’s comments surfaced, security and terrorism experts, including reporters like the New York Times’ reporter Rukmini Callimachi, have expressed scepticism at whether an attack of this magnitude and sophistication could have been organised in the weeks since the March 15 attack.

Massey University Centre for Defence and Security Studies teaching fellow John Battersby said he expected the planning and logistics for the Sri Lankan attacks were already in train prior to the Christchurch attack, however, the Christchurch attacks may have provided impetus to individuals or groups already determined on some terrorist act.

“As soon as the Sri Lankan news broke I wondered immediately if Christchurch featured somewhere in the calculation of the perpetrators,” he said.

On the other hand, it could all be a red-herring, “so I am allowing the possibility but will need confirmation with hard evidence”.

Battersby reiterated, like other commentators, he was sceptical about the whole attack plan and sequence being put together solely as a result of Christchurch, just as he was not convinced that Sri Lanka’s National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) fully planned and executed this without some serious outside assistance.

In times like these, it was important not to rush to judgment, and instead see what the intelligence actually said.

Likewise, when unpicking whether ISIS was behind the attack, as it unsurprisingly claimed.

This was the nuance and context missing from the initial reporting.

Some inadvertently play into the hands of terrorists (we are all at risk of this when providing coverage and forums for terrorist acts), while others, extreme activist opportunists, use terrorist acts to promote their own divisive agendas and seek publicity for themselves.

This provides a dilemma, for example on what UK extremist Katie Hopkins did in attacking Jacinda Ardern. Should her deliberately inflammatory nonsense be publicly confronted and condemned, or should it be ignored? Ignoring it is difficult of those who seeking to spread her crap have free shots with no challenge.

I considered the same issues when posting on the ongoing divisive ‘war of religion’ crap being spread at Whale Oil.

It was important media thought carefully about how to cover before playing into that plan for exposure of ideas and ambitions, and again, exercise the editorial judgment Ellis referred to.

Battersby said terrorism was now genuinely global, “where non-state actors are using the entire globe as a theatre to perpetrate their terror”.

“Extremist individuals or factions, on absolute fringes of our societies responding to each other’s provocations, by carrying out attacks on unsuspecting people at their most vulnerable times is a hideous and alarming feature of 21st Century globalised terrorism. Nations need to seriously get their heads together and confront this global risk, with a coordinated and integrated response.”

At a time like this, responsible, measured, and verified coverage is crucial.

That’s the job for large media organisations. Small ones like here need to also be responsible and measured, and try to repeat credible and verified coverage as much as possible, while still allowing relatively free discussions. That is a daily challenge.

 

Louisa Wall: “The Media have a responsibility to do no harm”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday that she is is chairing a meeting in Paris next month in a attempt to find a way to prevent terrorists from being able to social media to promote and publicise terrorism.

Labour MP Louisa Wall on Facebook yesterday widened her focus to ‘The Media’:

Kia Ora. The Media and those that transmit their political content and other political content generated for these public mediums, are defined as The Fourth Estate or fourth power that refers to the press and news media both in explicit capacity of advocacy and implicit ability to frame political issues. It is time that it was formally recognized as part of a political system, as it wields significant indirect social influence.

This would impose a Duty of Care on The Media – a formalisation of the social contract, the implicit responsibilities requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others.

The Media have a responsibility to do no harm. Kia Kaha PM Jacinda Ardern for the meeting on May 15 – two months after the Christchurch terror attacks which claimed the lives of 50 people – which aims to see world leaders and tech company bosses agree to the “Christchurch call” – a pledge to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

Linked to NZ Herald: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to lead global attempt to shutdown social media terrorism

This prompted a reaction from some journalists.

Andrea Vance (@avancenz):

Uh, what? Bringing media under control of Parliament … is this govt policy ?

(Facebook post image included)

Liked by SamSachdeva, Hamish McNeilly, Hamish Rutherford, Stacey Kirk, Laura McQuillan, Richard Boock, Paul Harper, Kim Baker Wilson, Tracey Watkins, John Campbell (all media/journalists) plus Chris Bishop (MP).

Two lawyers add their views:

Graeme Edgeler (@GraemeEdgeler):

It sounds bad, but I kind of feel most of these things are already present, certainly for online and broadcast media anyway. Duty of care is not a ridiculous paraphrase of the duties on media in some defamation defences, and under the HDCA.

Stephen Franks (@franks_lawyer):

Without the defences of truth and honest opinion it is completely sinister and as far from the law that protected both freedom and honest public discourse as we could get.

Graeme Edgeler:

I was thinking, for example, of the defamation defence of responsible communication on a matter public interest as provided in Durie v Gardiner [2018] NZCA 278.

Stephen Frank:

I understand that and am very conscious of NZ judges massive indifference to the vital role of liability for lies, as a condition/corollary of free speech, but your comment is still misleading rationalisation of sinister nonsense from Ardern and her fumbling Minister of Justice.

That is widening somewhat from what Wall posted.

Despite the concerns shown by journalists I don’t think Louisa Wall has much sway in Labour let alone in Government. She is ranked 23 (Clare Curran is 22), despite being an MP for 11 years, a term and a bit from 2008 as a list MP, and since 2011 as MP for Manurewa (2017 majority 8,374).

Conduct of media and Trump questioned after release of Mueller summary

So far just a summary of the report of the inquiry by Special Counsel (Robert Muller) has been released, but claims and accusations are flying, with the media bearing the brunt of most criticism.

Trump is justifiably very please with the outcome, but as usual has made inaccurate statements – he has not been fully exonerated as he claims, and his conduct during the inquiry, in particular his accusations against Mueller, was far from presidential.

But the media is copping most of the flak.

Politico:  Media stares down ‘reckoning’ after Mueller report underwhelms

Fox News host Sean Hannity accused “CNN, MSNBC, and the mainstream media” of having “lied” for two years in his first tweet on Sunday after a four-page summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusions was made public.

Pot, kettle.

“Now they will be held accountable,” he warned.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump. Jr. accused “CNN, MSNBC, BuzzFeed and the rest of the mainstream media” of “non-stop conspiracy theories” in a statement, while urging “honest journalists within the media” to “have the courage to hold these now fully debunked truthers accountable.”

That Mueller concluded no one from Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia in attempting to influence the election has ramped up scrutiny of the news media’s handling of the two-year investigation.

There may be some truth in that, but it is an over generalisation – Lowry is a part of the media and I presume he isn’t criticising himself.

Longtime Rolling Stone writer and author Matt Taibbi published an excerpt from his new book on Saturday which argued that “Russiagate is this generation’s WMD,” a reference to news coverage during the run-up the Iraq war, widely seen as the greatest journalistic failure in modern memory.

“The sheer scale of the errors and exaggerations this time around dwarfs the last mess”.

But as with some of the media on the collusion accusations, this may be premature, until details of the inquiry findings are released – and if they are not all released, it will provide scope for continued questions.

It may be premature to castigate the news media when a lot questions remain unanswered. Attorney General William Barr only provided a four-page summary of Mueller’s report, which notably on the issue of obstruction, “does not conclude that the president committed a crime,” but “also does not exonerate him.” It remains unclear why, exactly, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded over the weekend that there was not sufficient evidence to support obstruction — especially as the president was never interviewed.

Also, blaming “the media” writ large is problematic in potentially lumping unsupported speculation — whether on cable news or on social media — with dogged reporting on an investigation which led to a half-dozen Trump associates, including a former campaign chairman and national security adviser, either being charged or pleading guilty to crimes. Not to mention, there are still a dozen investigations, largely based in New York, stemming from the special counsel’s investigation.

Some journalists have already pushed back on the weekend criticism. “Given the issues, stakes, and seriousness with which special counsel treated all of this, the media’s coverage of Russia-Trump connection and possible obstruction over the last two years was somewhere between about right and not quite aggressive enough,” tweeted Esquire’s Ryan Lizza.

Of course there are valid criticisms of the modern media (all of it). Lance Morrow (City Journal): Journalism Dies in Self-Importance

I suppose it’s true that “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” as the Washington Post’s slogan says. But journalism may also die, by morphing into forms that can no longer be described as journalism. Journalism may come to mean a crooked scandal sheet, or high-minded propaganda. Sometimes squalor and self-righteousness are equally disreputable.

The other day, Ted Koppel, a voice from the late-twentieth-century practice of journalism, spoke about what has become of his old business in the age of Trump. “We are not the reservoir of objectivity that I think we were,” Koppel said, in an understatement. The Left always cites Fox News in this regard. He singled out the Washington Post and the New York Times, saying that they have gone overboard in their bias, transforming themselves into anti-Trump advocates.

“We are not talking about the Washington Post [or New York Times] of 50 years ago,” Koppel said. “We’re talking about organizations that . . . have decided, as organizations, that Donald J. Trump is bad for the United States.”

Other media, or at least parts of it (like Fox), have at times blatantly taken Trump’s side.

Koppel made clear that he does not disagree with the verdict that Trump is “bad for the United States.” He means only that the Post and Times abandon their journalistic responsibility when they take sides so blatantly.

Today, opinion and dogmatic speculation are the currency of politics and journalism. Facts have become elusive or even unnecessary, except for, say, the body counts at mass shootings. Otherwise, the world is fluid and angry and ideological. Among other things, the new journalism—more theater than journalism, a slugfest of memes—is a lot easier to practice. Much of it, on either side, is little more than noise.

Washington Times:  Media pulled off big con with Russia collusion story

America got conned again.

It was all a big set-up. A ruse. A dirty canard.

The whole thing was one giant lie.

And everybody peddling it — from House Democratic leaders, to Senate Democrats running for president, to the Senate Republican who reported the whole thing in the first place, to the roaring lions of the Great White Media…

I presume the Washington Times excludes themselves from ‘Great White Media’.

Media defends itself. Politico – Week 96: Trump Might Not Be Guilty, But Neither Is the Press

Trump walked away victorious if bloodied from the announcement, hailing the Barr letter, in a classic bit of exaggeration, as a “complete and total exoneration” as he boarded Air Force One in Florida. But Trump had every right to revel.

Mueller’s air-tight inquiry—did his team ever leak?—encouraged political speculation from Democrats and journalistic supposition on the part of reporters that Russian monkey wrenching of the election, which almost everyone now concedes happened, had succeeded in penetrating and influencing the Trump campaign.

No information should not be an automatic excuse for speculation.

Mueller’s failure to connect Trumpworld directly to Russian skullduggery in a way that would hold up in a court of law made a shambles—for the time being, at least—of the theories formed by pols and reporters studying the issue from outside Mueller’s cone of knowledge.

Did the press blow the Trump story? That’s what journalist Matt Taibbi wrote in his newsletter the day before the release of the Barr letter, excoriating “every pundit and Democratic pol” who hyped an emerging Russia headline. He dings CNN, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, the New York Times, and others for what he considers credulous and gullible reporting, comparing their output to the faulty coverage of WMD during the Iraq War run-up. The Taibbi tirade will be cringemaking for every reporter whose extrapolations of the Russian story now place them on the wrong side of the Barr précis.

But there’s a major difference between the press coverage of the WMD story and the Russia business, one that deserves highlighting.

Media should have reported on the Mueller inquiry. It was a big deal and quite newsworthy. But in the absence of facts ‘reporting’ and ‘news’ were often overrun with speculation and predictions.

In defense of the coverage, let’s remember that charges of collusion didn’t arise in a vacuum. Thanks to Mueller, we now know about the steady and suspicious dalliances with Russians during the campaign by the easily compromised, ethically challenged, political amateurs inside Trumpworld—George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. (and Michael Flynn after the campaign).

Recall how many documented lies Mueller has caught the president’s men telling. Recall again the relationship between Manafort and his business associate Konstantin V. Kilimnik, believed by Mueller to be allied with Russian intelligence.

There was a lot of news that justified reporting.

The dishonesty and lying of senior members of trump’s campaign team, and their prosecutions and findings of guilt, were big news.

So with all due respect to Donald Jr., who was quick on Sunday to turn the absence of more indictments from Mueller into an indictment of what he called “the Collusion Truthers,” I will not be “apologizing for needlessly destabilizing the country.” Quite the opposite. Investigators investigated. Reporters reported. The republic still stands.

As long as Trump is bestowing exoneration on himself today, let’s not forget to mention Mueller and his much-reviled deep-state warriors—remember all those “13 angry Democrats” tweets?—who proved they could wield the law in a fair and impartial matter.

There was misreporting and preposterous claims in the absence of facts from across the media spectrum.

Can the Mueller findings be trusted? At this stage only a brief summary has been revealed by the Attorney General, who was appointed by Trump.

Remember that one prominent person was scathing of Mueller and his inquiry.

NZ Herald chose to publish this from David Von Drehle:

For nearly two years as special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, Mueller has endured a nearly constant barrage of insults and character assassination from a Twittering President Donald Trump and his bootlicking propagandists.

There is only one explanation for the president’s relentless attacks. He thought that Mueller was likely to throw the book at him. And there are only two explanations for that expectation. Either Trump knew he deserved it, or Trump assumed Mueller would sink to his own level of mendacity and self-serving to pervert justice. The idea that a public servant, indeed, a team of public servants, would quietly discharge a mission with honour was utterly beyond Trump’s fathoming.

America had an unpleasant job that needed doing. The president of the United States had surrounded himself with people who lied about their contacts with highly placed Russians. He had fired the director of the FBI, James Comey, and within hours he personally assured the Russian ambassador that he did so to shut down an inquiry into these lies.

It was possible all this could be explained as the product of incompetence and naivete, because Trump had been utterly unprepared for the presidency and was surrounded by gangsters and clowns.

But it was also possible something intentional was going on.

Someone had to sort out the facts. The task would be exhausting, it would be thankless and it would likely end in some degree of vilification.

Mueller’s report has not yet been published, and there will be more to say about it when more of it has been seen. Perhaps parts of it will remain secret for years, if not decades. But we can say that Mueller ran the tightest ship Washington has seen in a very long time, leakproof and diligent. And it appears he was more than fair to the president and the first family. According to Attorney General William Barr, Mueller alleged no collusion with the Russians.

That seems more than fair. Maybe the president will apologise now for his many months of attacks on the silent Mueller. “I’m sorry,” Trump might say, “I guess you weren’t on a witch hunt after all. I guess you didn’t hire a bunch of partisan hacks, as I repeatedly charged. Thank you for doing your job with honesty and integrity.”

Nothing like an apology From trump yet, Just a typical misrepresentation of the summary findings.

On ‘Obstruction of Justice’ the Attorney General’s letter states that the Special Counsel said “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”.

Mueller found no evidence of collusion, and  “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offence’.

But what was clear during the investigation was that claims from both the media and Trump were inappropriate.

The Mueller report should put an end to questions of collusion, but what appears to be an exemplary investigation by Muller is in stark contrast to the performances of the President and the media. If neither change their approach to their respective jobs then the disrepute of politics and political reporting remains a stain on the United States.

 

Trump and Kim predict success in Vietnam, media excluded

It’s hard to know what will actually come out of the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Young Un in Vietnam. It will take time to see what progress is made.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pose before their meeting during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

An odd looking pair – photo from Reuters

Reuters:  Trump and North Korea’s Kim predict success in high-stakes nuclear summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump met in Vietnam on Wednesday for a second summit that the United States hopes will persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for promises of peace and development.

Kim and Trump shook hands and smiled briefly in front of a row of their national flags at the Metropole before heading to dinner together.

Trump told reporters he thought the talks would be very successful, and when asked if he was “walking back” on denuclearization demands, said “no”.

Kim said they had overcome obstacles to hold the second summit and praised Trump for his “courageous decision” to begin a dialogue.

“Now that we’re meeting here again like this, I’m confident that there will be an excellent outcome that everyone welcomes, and I’ll do my best to make it happen,” Kim said.

Trump and Kim held a 20-minute, one-on-one chat before sitting down to dinner with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Kim’s top envoy, Kim Yong Chol, and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.

Reuters:  White House excludes reporters from Trump-Kim dinner after they asked questions

The White House barred reporters from Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg from covering a dinner between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday after two of them asked Trump questions during his initial interactions with Kim.

The pool was present when Trump and Kim first met and shook hands. During that short initial meeting, while cameras were rolling, Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason asked Trump what he wanted to achieve at the summit and whether he had backed away from his demand for North Korea’s denuclearization.

Reporters in the pool regularly shout out questions to leaders and on Wednesday they asked Trump about the summit and the testimony in Congress of his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, in two separate opportunities known as “pool sprays.”

The reporters were later excluded from covering the dinner because of what White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said were “sensitivities over shouted questions in the previous sprays,” the Washington Post reported.

It’s unlikely media will get much from answers from Trump and Kim, but this looks petty from the White House. And it iis an attack on the freedom of the press and their essential role in reporting and holding to account.

Reuters said it was “deeply troubled” by the exclusion of Mason and other reporters from covering the dinner.

“We believe it is essential that government provide access to – and the ability to ask questions of – officials and hold them to account,” Reuters said in a statement.

The Associated Press said it opposed White House efforts to restrict access to the president.

“It is critically important that any president uphold American press freedom standards, not only at home but especially while abroad,” said AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton.

While Trump appears to be working on peace with North Korea he looks a long way from making peace with US media.

Media activists versus Bridges

Everyone can see that Simon Bridges has been struggling to impress as National’s leader. Many have said so, and not just those who wish that any National leader and their party will struggle.

It’s the media’s job to report what they see.

But it shouldn’t be the media’s job (or rather some who are presented as political journalists) to try to get any leader dumped, or to try to promote an alternative leader.

However this is what seems to be happening. And to an extent the media have the power to make it happen.

John Armstrong:  Media script requires Bridges to end up as dog tucker

The media have proclaimed Simon Bridges to be dog tucker. Having issued that decree, the media will do its darnedest to make sure he does become exactly that – dog tucker.

That is the ugly truth now confronting Bridges in his continuing struggle to keep his leadership of the National Party intact and alive.

It is unfair. Some pundits had made up their minds that Bridges was the wrong person to lead National within weeks of him securing the job. Those verdicts were quickly followed by bold predictions that it would not be long before he was rolled by his fellow MPs.

No account was taken of the difficulty of taking over a political party which has been thrown into the irrelevance of Opposition after having called the shots from the Government benches in Parliament for nigh on a decade.

It is not media bias at work here, however. When the media hunts as a pack – as is the case with Bridges – it is colour blind.

It is not fussy about where it feeds. It is not fussy whether the victim comes with a blue or a red tag. If you doubt that just ask Andrew Little.

Or David Shearer or David Cunliffe.

Armstrong is right – the media don’t care what colour the blood is, they smell it liken sharks and go in for the kill.

That the media are so rabid is simply the consequence of the adversarial nature of politics. The media are consumed with what is going wrong rather than what any government or Opposition party might be getting right.

I think this is only partly right. The long established adversarial nature of politics is part of the reason – but that combines with two more recent trends – the desire (and need) for clocks online, and also the rise in the level of personal involvement, advocacy and activism by journalists. Some of them are far from detached observers and reporters. Some want to be moves and shakers.

The hunt is constant for inconsistency, gaffes, blunders, infighting and so on. Negativity rules, OK.

Makes ‘better’ headlines than positives.

Despite its efforts, the media claim few scalps by their devices alone. They are instead vultures hovering over the road-kill offered up in the preferred prime minister ratings in what is now a sporadic number of polls.

That there are now only two news organisations commissioning such voter surveys – and at three-monthly intervals – means discerning a trend can be virtually impossible.

To draw conclusions from the surge in backing for Labour and decline in support for National registered by the Newshub Reid-Research poll is folly.

It was hardly a surge for Labour – it was a notable but one off change from their last poll (ignoring any other polls) nearly a year ago. And it was barely a decline for National in the current political context of being in opposition and taking into account margins of error.

Likewise the preferred prime minister ratings. That Collins has overhauled Bridges was used to reinforce the notion that Collins is now a viable candidate for the leadership — and that Bridges is not.

In part media are making the Collins conflict – they have been boosting her as an alternative by giving her exposure with every poor poll for Bridges. They have also effectively chosen her over all other National MPs.

Once you are deemed to be a loser by the media, that becomes a mindset which is near impossible to erase.
The loser falls victim to a feeding frenzy – and there can only be one outcome from that.

So the media end up getting their scalp and headlines – for a short while, before looking for the next victim.

The biggest and most serious threat to journalism?

What is the most serious threat to journalism? Big company ownership? The blurring of journalist lines? Woke journalism?

Or us, the consumers?

There have been criticisms and arguments about the ‘right wing’ ownership of media, and also left leaning journalists. Here is a new slant to it.

New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is getting attention fresh new force in US politics, or as a naive left leaning numpty.

If you want to read more on the issue of monopolies, anti-trust, corruption, and ways to address it, I recommend checking out . She literally wrote the book on it.

Another opinion on it in response:

But Assange/Wikileaks have a lot to answer for their interference in democracy with leaks targeting one presidential candidate. They have denied being deliberate or at lest effectgively agents of Russian in their attempts to disrupt  democracies. And they also got involved in Kim Dotcom’s fizzer of a ‘big reveal’, in an attempt to change the political landscape in New Zealand.

Wikileaks seemed to morph from whistleblowers into revolutionary activists.

There is also an issue with the blurring and crossing of lines between journalism and selective promotion of politicians and parties. Sometimes this may be a deliberate lack of balance, but in other cases it may closer to emotion and celebrity type infatuation – Jacinda Ardern has been ‘absolutely phenomenal’ in Europe, generating ‘huge’ media interest see from1 News (not just the effort of Joy Reid, her over the top praise was allowed and prmnoted by her editors).

What is also effectively activism via media is a problem.

There are real risks when journalism comes of second best to the unbalanced and emotive promotion of politicians or causes.

What can be done about it? We have a lot of choice now with media.

All of those media have serious flaws, but they also still do some serious journalism, without which democracies would suffer badly.

I think that one of the biggest problems is when people select which media suits their leaning and opinions, and they shun media that differs, or that challenges their beliefs.

I try to remain sceptical, especially of single sources, and I deliberately look for news and opinions from across the spectrum (generally avoiding the extremes). This is why I have delved into New Zealand political blogs across the spectrum – you can learn more from those who challenge your way of thinking.

But I think it is far more common for people to gravitate to towards what they want to hear.

There are problems with large media ownership, and activist journalism (including woke journalists), and the trivialising of news, the infatuation with ‘celebrity’, and the wolf crying (yesterday I saw weather predictions promoted as ‘breaking news’).

But consumers of news and opinion are a big part of this, especially with the growing use of click bait headlines and selection of trivia that displaces or overwhelms serious news.

Perhaps we the people are the problem here. We have far more news choices than ever, but we dictate more than we understand with the immediate counting of clicks, and our influence on algorithms.

The direction of journalism and news media may be a force of natural selection by the masses.

There is little we can do it but make our own selections, whether that moves with or against the tide of change or not.

Hooton: “the real corruption in the New Zealand media”

Matthew Hooton gets good coverage in media, but he is quite critical of the hand that feeds him publicity in ‘I’m completely squeaky clean’: an interview with Matthew Hooton (The Spinoff):

“I think the real corruption in the New Zealand media comes from so-called academics frankly and Labour Party operatives embedded in the media.

“If I look at the people in PR who commentate and the people who work for unions I don’t think they represent any threat to the integrity of the New Zealand media compared with people who are basically political activists posing as journalists.

“…in New Zealand – and it’s a worldwide problem – commentary has moved into reporting. It’s terrible. When I started doing political commentary 30 years ago the basic facts of what might have occurred were established by reporters and reported in quite a bland almost boring manner. And then there were the commentators.

“One of the big risks, one of the problems that’s occurred, and Fox News is the most notorious, is the merging of reporting and commentating. That’s a far greater issue than some PR person or union boss popping up and saying what they think.”

I think he could have a solid point here – especially as the media has control of which PR person or union boss pops up and what is published, but at times seem out of control with their own involvement in commentating and influencing politics rather than just reporting. At times the lines between journalism and activism seemed badly blurred.

“Corruption” was the word he chose in August last year to describe TV3 political editor Tova O’Brien’s reporting on the Simon Bridges expenses story – which, of course, ended up mutating into the Jami-Lee Ross saga. His remarks at the time seemed – how to put it? – a bit hysterical.

“Oh, it’s a phrase,” he breezed. “They enjoyed that and ran it on the news. It was good for their ratings.”

‘Good for their ratings’ is a major factor in the evolution of political media. Most functional politics is quite boring and un-newsworthy, so there tends to be an overemphasis on the sensational and over-sensationalised.

“It’s hyperbole. That was taken from a talkback context and they put it on the news, right? It’s all fine. But that’s the biggest risk in the New Zealand media I think – where does reporting stop and where does commentating begin?”

One change has been more prominence given to the reporter over the report – media (mainly television) try to make celebrities out of reporters.

Another change is the way news is presented to us. Newspapers (the print versions) still tend to have news sections and opinion sections so you have a good idea what you are getting in each part of the paper, but online (on their own sites these articles are arranged by popularity and clickbaitability.

Or by Twitter or Facebook, who may not care about differentiation between news and opinion.

There is probably nothing we can do about this. Some of us may be discerning and able to differentiate between news, commentary, opinion and activism, but to most people it is mostly a big mash up and they see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear.

But this has diverted from a key claim made by Hooton – “the real corruption in the New Zealand media comes from so-called academics frankly and Labour Party operatives embedded in the media”.

However this angle was not explored in the interview. This deserves more attention.

It’s well known that many journalists get recruited in political PR departments – but ‘Labour Party operatives embedded in the media’, if true, is a serious accusation with no sign of evidence.

More journalists were killed, abused and subjected to violence in 2018

While murder murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudia Arabia in their Consulate in Turkey received a lot of media attention, attacks on journalists were quite widespread, with:

  • 80 killed
  • 3 missing
  • 60 held hostage
  • 348 detained

That’s alarming, and a record high.

Reporters Without Borders: WORLDWIDE ROUND-UP of journalists killed, detained, held hostage, or missing in 2018 

Although the number of journalists killed in 2017 was less than in previous years, 2018 saw the death toll of journalists rise to a shocking total of 80 journalists killed worldwide (including professional journalists, non-professional journalists and media workers). The number of professional journalists killed rose 15%, from 55 in 2017 to 63 in 2018.

The number of non-professional journalists also rose, from seven last year to 13 this year. Non-professional journalists play a fundamental role in the production of news and information in countries with oppressive regimes and countries at war, where it is hard for professional journalists to operate. In addition to these very alarming figures, there are ten other deaths that RSF is still investigating.

In all, 49 of these journalists (61% of the total) were deliberately targeted because their reporting threatened the interests of certain people in positions of political, economic, or religious power or organized crime. The cases of Ján Kuciak, a Slovak investigative reporter shot dead in his home on 21 February, and Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi columnist murdered in the Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul on 2 October, show how far some people will go to silence “troublesome” journalists.

Deadliest countries:

  • Afhaanistan 15
  • Syria 11
  • Mexico 9
  • Yemen 8
  • United States 6
  • India 6

The US features due to a single attack in Annapolis, Maryland when four journalists (and one other employee) were shot.

Two others were killed in an accident – a local TV anchor and cameraman, were killed by a falling tree while covering Subtropical Storm Alberto’s extreme weather in North Carolina in May.

Nearly half of the media fatalities were in countries not at war

The world’s five deadliest countries for journalists include three – India, Mexico, and for the first time the United States – where journalists were killed in cold blood although these countries were not at war or in conflict. Once again, Mexico was the deadliest of the countries not at war, with nine journalists murdered in 2018.

Journalism and media are essential components of a free and open society, so attacks on journalists are an attack on freedom.

CNN:  Journalists faced ‘unprecedented’ hostility this year, report says

The findings further highlight the volatility faced by journalists across the world over the past twelve months, a period which has seen high-profile murders and imprisonments as well as verbal attacks on the news media by key global figures, including US President Donald Trump.

“Violence against journalists has reached unprecedented levels this year, and the situation is now critical,” RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire said in a news release accompanying the report.

“The hatred of journalists that is voiced, and sometimes very openly proclaimed, by unscrupulous politicians, religious leaders and businessmen has tragic consequences on the ground, and has been reflected in this disturbing increase in violations against journalists,” he added.

Politicians depend on journalists, but some act poorly when they receive media scrutiny.

Journalists and media are increasingly criticised – some of that criticism is justified, but generally attacks on media are self-interested attacks on a free and open society.

“The criticism of migration will be a criminal offense”

The European Parliament wants to extend the definition of ‘hate speech’ to include criticism of immigration, making it illegal. Media that publishes criticism of migration could be shut down.

From the video clip:

…one basic element of this new agreement is the extension of the definition of hate speech.

The agreement want to criminalise migration speech.

Criticism of migration will become a criminal offence, and media outlets…that give room to criticism of migration can be shut down.

The compacts for migration is legalisation of mass migration.

I can imagine that being quite controversial.

If it becomes law it would depend a lot on what the legal definition of “criticism of migration” is, but on the surface this is an alarming move towards legal limitation of speech.

 

The non-naming of the National MP raises media issues

The non-naming of the National MP alleged to have had a several year relationship with Jami-Lee Ross continues, despite probably anyone who wants to know knowing who it is.

It is odd to see the media refraining from naming her, still. Neither National nor Labour want this going public, and there may be some journalists worried about where naming one unfaithful person involved in politics may lead.

The Southland Times should have a special interest in this considering where the MP has her electorate. Today’s editorial: ‘Moving on’ is not acceptable

An editorial published on October 25 raised the point that another issue had arisen from the Jami-Lee Ross saga, in relation to the “You deserve to die” text, said to be from a colleague with whom he acknowledged he had been having an affair.

Was it possible this text could be a breach of the Harmful Digital Communication Act, and could the sender of the text really stay in her role as an MP?

So, on November 8, the following questions were put to the National Party

* The “deserve to die” text reportedly came from a married MP. While National has indicated it is doing a review of its culture, has a separate investigation been launched to speak to the MP who reportedly sent his text?

* What discussions has the party had with the MP who reportedly sent a text like that?

* Has that MP been censured, faced internal discipline, or been stood down from duties? If no action has been taken by the party, why not?

* Does the National Party believe that the text message sent breached the Harmful Digital Communication Act?

* Does the National Party still believe the MP, who reportedly sent the text, is still fit to be an MP and represent the National Party, given they reportedly sent a text saying someone deserved to die?

* Has the MP offered to stand down? Or, are they still carrying out their duties as normal?

And wait for it, here’s the no comment from National.

“The National Party has no comment on these matters. Jami-Lee Ross is no longer a National MP and the party is moving on.”

Moving on … we don’t think so.

National may be “moving on” as it puts it, but in its wake it is leaving a trail of distrust, arrogance, and a big finger to its own party values.

Don’t forget that front and centre of National’s core values for building a society are two important words. Personal Responsibility.

Surely by now the MP in question would front up and take personal responsibility.

Hypocrites.

So the Southland Times slams National and the MP – but doesn’t name the MP.  This is a very strange approach from media.

It’s not just media – both National and Labour seem to want this kept quiet. On the AM show yesterday:

Duncan Garner: I’m not going to name names, ok, because um i don’t really know if it’s true or not, but can you tell me this, we’ll keep it generic.

Was Jami-lee Ross having relationships or affairs with National MPs?

Judith Collins: Well I don’t know. What I do know is that clearly there was something going on, but I always try and keep out of other people’s personal business, and what I do know is that that’s one of the things that I’ve always taken, is a given that you never get involved in other people’s business.

Michael Wood: …look, the Prime Minister from the top down in our Government has said that we don’t want to get involved in this stuff. We’ve got our job to do, going down the personal track with this kind of thing is not a healthy route for our democracy and our politics.

So that’s a clear message that Labour don’t want to get involved in personal relationships.

Given how much the parties attack and criticise each other over all sorts of things this is a curious situation.

More so the media’s reluctance to reveal a name – lest it become names? Jami-lee Ross threatened to ‘lift the bed sheets’ on Parliament, and if that happened it would be likely to name and out more than just MPs.

Graham Adams at Noted has concerns about this apparent pact of silence – The Jami-Lee Ross saga: Questions around cover-ups continue

Cover-ups — or allegations of them — leave a lingering stench that no amount of air-freshener can disguise. Simon Bridges may have tried to clear the air this week by testily telling journalists that he is moving on from Jami-Lee Ross and doesn’t want to talk about him any more but that seems much more like wishful thinking than acknowledging political reality.

But as the messy Jami-Lee Ross saga rolls on, accusations of cover-ups are not being levelled only at Bridges, Paula Bennett and the National Party. The news media — and particularly Parliament’s press gallery — have been accused of their own cover-up regarding the questions they are not asking in relation to the married National MP who apparently had a long-standing affair with Ross.

She was one of the four anonymous Newsroom complainants who made allegations about being bullied by Ross and she was later also reported to have sent Ross an abusive text that included the words, “You deserve to die.”

Richard Harman, who publishes the authoritative Politik newsletter, recently asked on the Kiwi Journalists Association Public Group Facebook page (which can be read by the public “in order to promote transparency, which as journalists we expect from others”) whether his fellow journalists thought he should publish her name.

Harman wrote: “Like most political journalists, I believe I know who that MP is… The inexorable pressure is now moving towards naming the MP. It’s a very difficult ethical issue. I certainly have emails from people on the left making the same allegation as Whaleoil — that the Press Gallery is party to a cover-up. But equally at what point does this simply become prurient gossip?”

There is certainly a difficult issue in how much personal relationship information should be made public. It would be bad if every little pash and bonk made the headlines. But there must be a line somewhere in between minor and major, rather than a comprehensive brick wall.

Although nearly all the opinions in response (including mine) were in favour of naming her, Harman concluded that he would be guided by the aphorism that “What the public is interested in is not necessarily in the public interest” and that she should remain anonymous.

Is ‘public interest’ the overriding factor here? Or is it self interest from media who fear what might come out?

In fact, there are very good reasons in the public interest to name her, and the Facebook discussion canvassed most of them. Obviously, there is the old-fashioned test of hypocrisy. If the married MP is indeed the one who has been widely named on social media, she represents a conservative electorate, is a social conservative herself, and publicly espouses family values. At the very least, you might think, voters might like to be told who she is so they could decide whether to continue supporting her.

It’s likely that many in her electorate will know who it is and may judge her accordingly at the next election, but that doesn’t excuse the media being some sort of moral guardian.

It’s not as if political journalists don’t know who the MP is either if they want to ask questions. All the news organisations to which the abusive text was leaked must know, including RNZ. And Heather du Plessis-Allan and others who work for Newstalk ZB must also know because in an interview with Ross he named her (which was bleeped out).

The hypocrisy test can also be used to judge the media alongside the MP. Certainly, the argument that it is not in the public interest to name her stands in stark contrast to the media feeding frenzy that erupted in 2013 when news of a sexual liaison between Auckland mayor Len Brown and a junior council adviser was made public on the Whale Oil blog.

Once the name is published it may open the floodgates, but not even Whale Oil has gone as far as naming her on this occasion – Slater has all but named her, but not ‘crossed the line’.

The fact that five years later the media is so coy about naming a married National MP who anonymously gave Newsroom highly personal details about her relationship with another married National MP inevitably raises uncomfortable questions — including whether there is one rule for Parliament which has a dedicated press gallery that operates in a symbiotic relationship with politicians and another for councils which don’t.

A casual observer might conclude that when you’re a woman like Chuang who is an ambitious nobody you’re fair game but when you’re a woman like the National MP who is an ambitious somebody the media will protect you.

And that’s hardly a good way to inspire trust in the media’s impartiality or its willingness to upset powerful people.

I suspect that some of the difference between Brown/Chuang and Ross/Dowie is national versus local politics. Local body politics is much more fragmented, both elected representatives and media.

Parliament is not just a grouping of MPs frequently in one place, it is also a media gallery of journalists who work alongside each other and alongside MPs a lot. It’s like some sort of club that has adhered to ‘what happens on tour stays on tour’.

I think that the media should name the MP who is at the centre of this issue, but if the do they should also look at the wider issue of relationships and sex amounts MPs, journalists and staff.

Journalists should disclose personal relationships if it relates to politicians they are reporting on and giving their opinions on. There are issues with journalists straying more and more into political activist roles, so the public has a right to know who may be influencing their opinions and their choice of stories and headlines.

The naming of the MP may be uncomfortable for parties and politicians, but they have long records of keeping things private and secret of they can get way with it.

It is up to journalists and media to investigate and to reveal pertinent political secrets. When they don’t want to go near the sex and relationship thing it suggests they could have secrets of their own they don’t want disclosed.

This is not a good situation for the supposedly without favour fearless fourth estate to be in.