Good journalism is still essential and we still have it

Media and journalists have a lot of critics, but they serve an essential purpose in an open democratic society.

Despite the fluff and click baiting there is still some good journalism going on, with Stuff and NZ Herald doing some very good investigative stories still.  And Newsroom has been a very good addition to the New Zealand media.

Newsroom:  ‘That’s why you need journalism’

Newsroom published a three-part investigation into environmental destruction on Malolo Island, Fiji, this week..Co-editor Tim Murphy discusses with journalist Melanie Reid the background to the story and why a stop being put on a big tourism resort matters.

Melanie Reid:

I make no secret, that when appropriate I do journalism as a protection of the land and people and I fight for the underdog. There was a lot of hassling up there and you need the best team around you. I had my long time friend and colleague Mark Jennings and Hayden Aull who Mark and I had both worked with for years at TV3. I don’t mind being pushed around to get to the heart of the matter and I work with resilient people.

The Prime Minister and government have moved pretty fast now, after nearly a year of inaction, it seems the development has been stopped. So the stories obviously prompted this?

True. And that’s why you need journalism.

Go read the whole article. Melanie and Newsroom deserve clicks and accolades.

Newsroom journalists detained by police in Fiji

Newsroom journalists detained in Fiji

Three Newsroom journalists were detained by police in Suva, Fiji, last night after trying to interview a controversial Chinese resort developer accused of environmental desecration of an island in the tourist jewel of the Mamanucas.

Newsroom co-editor Mark Jennings, investigations editor Melanie Reid and cameraman Hayden Aull were held overnight at the main Suva police station after developer Freesoul Real Estate accused them of criminal trespass.

The journalists had visited Freesoul’s Suva offices seeking an interview but been told to leave. Hours later, while they interviewed a lawyer acting for villagers of the damaged Malolo Island, Fijian police located their rental car and arrived and escorted them to the police station for questioning.

Reid said: “We walked into the Freesoul office in Suva with a camera and asked why they had been operating at Malolo with no permits. We asked to talk to Freesoul director Dickson Peng. We were told to leave and we did.”

Later, after Freesoul staff had been interviewed at the police station, officers told Reid, Jennings and Aull they would be held overnight.

“This is trumped up and ridiculous,” said Reid, a veteran current affairs journalist named reporter of the year at the national media awards last year.

“I’ve worked all over the world and never been taken into custody for asking questions in a public office – questions, I might add, that desperately needed to be asked.”

Without being sure of knowing the full story it’s difficult to judge the actions of the journalists, but taking them into custody for two days with charges pending does seem quite unusual, and potentially chilling.

The lawyer for the villagers, Ken Chambers, who was talking to the Newsroomteam when police located them, said last night the journalists could be held for up to 48 hours before being charged.

“They walked into a public office and could be charged with criminal trespass. It is sort of like a sledgehammer to crack a nut to put them through a 48-hour holding pattern and use the letter of the law to give the Chinese some payback.”

Chambers said the Malolo Island issue “has been really a focus on how the Chinese are interfacing in Fiji”.

There has been more focus on Chinese are interfacing in New Zealand after Jacinda Ardern’s trip to China.

Reuters: Don’t discriminate against our firms, China’s Xi tells New Zealand

President Xi Jinping called upon New Zealand on Monday not to discriminate against Chinese companies during a meeting with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose country has rejected a bid by Chinese telecom giant Huawei to build a 5G mobile network.

Ties with China have been tense under Ardern’s government which has openly raised concerns about Beijing’s growing influence in the South Pacific.

Meeting in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Xi told Ardern that China has always regarded New Zealand as “a sincere friend and partner”.

Both countries must deepen mutual trust and understanding, seek common ground while putting aside differences, and respect each other’s major concerns, Xi said, according to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry.

“China is willing to continue to support strong companies to invest in New Zealand, and New Zealand should provide a fair, just, non-discriminatory operating environment for Chinese companies,” it paraphrased Xi as saying.

The detaining of New Zealand journalists in Fiji over the actions of a Chinese company investing in a Fijian resort may add to the tensions.

More claims of women ‘crushed’ by Ross

Earlier in the week Jami-Lee Ross tried to claim some moral high ground and denied having harassed or treated women badly.

He also complained about claims and insinuations by Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett that there were many women not pleased with Ross’ behaviour. He said he had been threatened with up to 15 revelations, and promised to release a recording of Bridges ‘threatening’ him.

Newsroom responded with  Jami-Lee Ross: Four women speak out

Over the past year, Newsroom investigations editor Melanie Reid has been looking into the background and behaviour of former National MP Jami-Lee Ross. She has talked to a number of people who have given detailed accounts, recordings and documents of their close working and personal relationships with the controversial politician.

Some felt manipulated and intimidated by the way he goes about his politics and his social interactions. Others felt pressured not to speak out.

Today Newsroom presents, on the condition of anonymity, the stories of four women and the relationships which they now believe saw them variously groomed, used for access to information and power, and abused.

Each saw the MP speak out on Tuesday denying his leaders’ allegations of “harassment”, saying he was raised to respect all women.

A bright young graduate had her self-esteem and mental health crushed over a period of six months working for Jami-Lee Ross in what she says was “death by a thousand cuts”.

Another woman who worked for Ross said he bullied and belittled her, using a string of lies to discredit her work.

Yesterday Ross admitted poor behaviour as a husband (and admitted having two affairs). He also apologised to one one, who had gone public, Katrina Bungard – see National candidate speaks out over harassment by rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross

He also supplied the recording of Bridges talking of fifteen women.

Following that from Newsroom – Death by 1000 cuts: Working for Jami-Lee Ross

They were young women starting out in employment and in politics. They had the misfortune to work for an MP called Jami-Lee Ross.

Here two more of the women, interviewed by Newsroom’s Melanie Reid and Cass Mason in their investigation into the former National MP, outline their working hell – and ongoing fears.

Ross tonight apologised to his wife for his behaviour but stopped short of personally apologising to four women whose cases Newsroom reported yesterday.

These further two testimonies back those who have gone before.

They are among a growing list of women who have told their experiences to Newsroom.

So this is six women now. It appears that Bridges was right in talking of a ‘pattern of behaviour’.

Ross has threatened to dish out dirt on all and sundry in Parliament now his real nature has been laid bare – some call this a death by a 1000 cuts type politics.

But it is Ross’ political career that is dying by many cutting revelations.

Misuse of Harmful Digital Communications Act?

Is this a legitimate use of the Harmful Digital Communications Act? Or a businessman being held to account by media using it to punish journalism?

Newsroom: Avery targets Newsroom over ‘digital harm’

Former New Zealander of the Year Sir Ray Avery has laid a complaint against Newsroom.co.nz under the Harmful Digital Communications Act over a series of news reports on his background, products and promises.

Avery has told Netsafe, the legal agent for considering complaints under the Act, the reports have caused him serious emotional distress and amount to a form of digital harm – and wants Newsroom to consider removing them and to agree not to write further news stories about him.

“Ray believes these are written with the purpose of harassing him and contain false allegations,” Netsafe has told Newsroom.

It is one of the first times the Act has been used against a media company publishing news reports. Most instances envisaged by Parliament and which have been the subject of complaints have been online and social media harassment.

I thought that was the intent of the Act. Rich business people have other legal options.

The law aims to deter, prevent and lessen harmful digital communications. This includes cyber bullying, harassment and revenge porn posted online through emails, text, websites, applications or social media.

Netsafe executive director Martin Cocker said the Act did not exempt media coverage, although most complaints focused on individuals using digital media against other individuals. It was not up to his agency to determine if a breach of the Act had occurred but to try to resolve the dispute. It was for the complainant if he wanted to take the matter on to the district court.

Newsroom aren’t backing down

In his complaint, which Netsafe has referred to Newsroom for response, Avery cites five of the numerous stories this site has published on his planned public fundraiser of $4 million for LifePod incubators, his previous product promises, and the views of more than a dozen people who had worked with him in the past.

Newsroom found none of the three main products highlighted on his charity Medicine Mondiale’s website had gone into production, that the LifePod had not yet been granted international standards certification and clinical trials said to be underway in India could not be independently confirmed.

Exaggerated claims by media of his role at the Fred Hollows Foundation helping people regain their sight had been perpetuated over the years in coverage of his personal awards such as the 2010 New Zealander of the Year title.

Avery acknowledged in a taped interview with Newsroom that a key aspect of the LifePod fundraiser, that the products would help save one million babies, had been a ‘marketing’ number.

Last week, when the Netsafe complaint landed at Newsroom, we were ready to publish a further investigation – and did so – showing Avery emailed a University of Auckland researcher in 2015 trying to have a journal article on a trial of his Acuset IV drip product suppressed – telling the academic: “You really don’t want this from a career perspective”. Avery told Newsroom the university did not have his permission to publish the results of its research.

I obviously don’t know all the details, but on the surface I think this looks like an attempt to punish or coerce media coverage that Avery doesn’t like.

I don’t think this is what the Harmful Digital Communications Act was intended for.

(I may have been the first person taken to court over the Harmful Digital Communications Act, in 2015. The numpties tried it on a year before it came into effect, and an embarrassed judge quickly threw it out when this was pointed out. One of those numpties is still trying to blame their incompetence on the Court.)

“Attempts by some fringe Labour supporters to minimise these issues”

It is normal for political activists to over play attacks on opponents, and to make excuses and minimise issues that put their favoured parties and politicians in a bad light. This has been apparent over the sexual abuse claims at Young Labour’s summer camp.

This can go to the extreme of trying to shift blame to opponents, sometimes to a ridiculous degree. Like this from ‘Anne’ at The Standard:

I am becoming convinced that this Youth Camp incident is being used by Labour’s opponents to destroy General Secretary, Andrew Kirton. The MO is remarkably similar to that used on David Cunliffe… grab a piece of info. (eg. a letter he had received 12 yearspreviously) and create a false meme around it. Make sure your MSM acolytes keep it on the boil for as long as possible. They all know the truth will out eventually, but that doesn’t matter because by then the damage has already been done.

And Draco T Bastard:

I’m pretty sure the only reason it’s in the news is for the political point scoring done by the RWNJs.

No other case of sexual abuse gets this sort of attention from the MSM.

Anne again:

Warning! Right wing concern troll calling him/herself John Selway has been sent to TS. Wonder who his/her masters are… and what his/her previous mission was?

Now there’s a real conspiracy theory for the deniers to dig their fangs into.

Ironic that she mentioned conspiracy theory.

Tim Murphy at Newsroom (where the story broke) writes How bad is bad enough?

By common consent the Labour Party has handled the sexual assaults against four young supporters at a political summer camp badly. Labour’s top two names certainly think so. Among their statements on Wednesday were

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

“This sexual abuse took place.”

“The event was not undertaken in a safe and responsible way.”

“Things went very, very wrong.”

 

Labour Party President Nigel Haworth:

“We have failed in our duty of care since the event.”

Their acceptance of failure and distress on behalf of the victims was unmissable. No gilding of the lily at the top level.

But among their supporters there were those determined not to take their leaders’ lead and accept that Labour did not do right by these victims.

On social media some have claimed the disclosure of these sexual assaults was somehow a political attack on Labour; that National did not get intense media scrutiny over John Key’s ponytail pulling or Todd Barclay and Bill English’s behaviour over the taping of a staff member; that Newsroom, in breaking this news showed no concern for the four victims.

They have been shooting the messenger. They have been minimising.

Shooting the messenger is common on political forums, but more problematic is the minimising of what Ardern and Haworth have admitted are serious problems that include sexual assault.

They are wrong, wrong and wrong. Key was confronted with the starkest and most intense coverage of his bizarre and indefensible fetish, Barclay was forced to resign after weeks of media scrutiny.

Whataboutism has been rife – including here at YourNZ. That’s a common diversionary tactic.

But with the clear acceptance at the top that so much went wrong – for the victims, and *after* the camp – the ongoing confidence in Kirton and the attempts by some fringe Labour supporters to minimise these issues are more than a little troubling.

In effect they are minimising what could amount to multiple serious assaults. That is troubling – and also troubling is that nonsense claims on this are allowed to stand unsubstantiated at The Standard.

There are also many troubling comments on this issue at Kiwiblog, but that’s another story.

Also another story, from NZH – Witness: People were vomiting in the toilets and bushes from too much boozing at Young Labour summer camp

An eyewitness at the Young Labour party during the Waihi summer camp says it was a “recipe for disaster”, describing it as an unsupervised party where people were throwing up in toilets and in the bushes from excessive boozing.

And there was a giant walk-in fridge where anyone, including people as young as 15, could just walk in and grab any booze they wanted.

The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the public deserved to know the true nature of the event, during which a 20-year-old is alleged to have sexually assaulted four people aged between 16 and 18.

“On the Saturday night, even before dinner, people were playing goon bag roulette with the clothes line, hanging a bag of cask wine and sitting underneath it and spinning the clothes line,” the man said.

The use and abuse of alcohol is one of the problems accepted by Ardern and will be included in their inquiry into what went wrong.

Balanced politics, and unbalanced Stuff

On the eve of the election Stuff has a very unbalanced political page, favouring Winston Peters, Labour and Greens.

StuffElectionEve2017

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics

And that is negative for National and TOP.

The Herald is more general and more balanced:

NZHElectionEve2017

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/headlines.cfm?c_id=280

Very balanced at RNZ:

RNZElectionEve2017

Very good to see information for voters prominent at Newshub:

NewshubElectionEve2017

http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/election.html

The two large parties dominate at 1 News:

1NewsElectionEve2017

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/election

The Spinoff features the last pre-election poll from Newshub (asimilar result to Colmar Brunton) plus general election information.

TheSpinoffElectionEve2017

https://thespinoff.co.nz/category/politics/

Newsroom focuses on Maori (not positively), Labour and the Greens.

Overall today’s election coverage looks very balanced, apart from Stuff in particular and also Newsroom.

 

The Jian Yang story

I have serious concerns about the the ‘revelations’ about National MP and list candidate Jian Yang published 10 days before election day – advance voting has already begun opened.

Newsroom published this story. They also broke and drove the Todd Barclay story.

The timing is very questionable, especially with the Jian Yang story, as are implications made.

Why now? And why target one immigrant MP?

Attempts by media to influence elections seem to be growing in frequency and intent.

This isn’t isolated – yet another election targeting Brian Bruce documentary which also targeted China, was publicly funded by NZ on Air, was years in the making, and was broadcast just before the election.

Our democracy is at threat from media abusing their power for political purposes.

 

Balance in the Newsroom?

Newsroom have been praised for their investigative journalism after a series of revelations and articles on the Todd Barclay issue.

Questions have also been raised over their possible collusion with a dirty politics campaign, seemingly not just designed on damaging Todd Barclay.

After he has lost his political career over it the attention turned to Bill English, who was placed a very difficult position by drip fed Newsroom revelations. English was strongly criticised for not being open about things, but there was a confidential employment agreement involved, and also a secret recording that it would have been illegal to reveal existed let alone the contents.

There was the potential to bring down English, bring down the Government, and swing the election (that could still be a consequence).

It is very important that media holds power to account, and holds elected people and Governments to account. But media have power of their own, and that also needs to be held to account.

Newsroom are an Auckland based media organisation. They must have put considerable resources into a story about as far from Auckland as you can get, in Clutha-Southland.

There is a big contrast between their handling of the southern story and the other big political story of the past couple of weeks where it was important to hold another bunch of politicians to account – the Labour Party Fellowship/intern story. This is very much an Auckland story.

Newsroom is new and relatively small, so can’t be expected to cover every story in depth, but some balance should be expected.

Integrity and truthfulness of leading politicians were involved in both the Barclay and intern stories.

How did their coverage of the two stories compare?

On the National/Barclay Story:

  • Politicians, police, and the payout
  • Todd Barclay’s file of denial 19 June
  • Barclay payout raises questions over leader’s fund 19 June
  • Setbacks derail National’s election plan 23 June
  • Todd Barclay responds: ‘I did nothing wrong’
  • Barclay sorry for ‘misleading’ comments
  • Police to review Todd Barclay case
  • Privacy Commissioner may probe Barclay claims
  • Allegations Barclay invented complaints
  • Fall from grace for Baby of the House
  • How Barclay’s career went up in smoke
  • PM accused of cover-up
  • Hughes stonewalls Dickson questions
  • Barclay affair: What the board knew
  • English: Barclay offered to play rec
  • Officials knew details of Barclay tapes

On the Labour/intern story

  • Labour under fire over volunteer ‘hypocrisy’

No investigations on their own turf, no investigation about funding of the scheme, no questions about Andrew Little’s  integrity and truthfulness. Little slammed English’s morals while claiming the high ground over the interns, but media has barely touched on his lack of openness and on his varying and vague explanations.

Perhaps Newsroom are doing an in depth investigation and will publish soon.

Perhaps the Auckland Labour Party and the New Zealand Labour Party will still be held to account.

Todd Barclay – strike 4

Newsroom have another blow for Todd Barclay this morning: Allegations Barclay invented complaints

Todd Barclay has been caught giving another false statement, this time to the media about complaints against a former staffer

Accusations of falsehoods continue to surface about embattled National MP Todd Barclay.

Further details of Barclay’s behaviour can now be revealed, which could lead to a defamation case against the young MP.

After the allegations broke in the media, Barclay has repeatedly dodged questions, citing confidentiality around employment disputes.

But earlier this year the NZ Herald published a story based on the redacted version of the police investigation file into whether Barclay had breached a section of the Crimes Act around “use of interception devices”.

In a statement provided to the media organisation, Barclay said there had been complaints about the staff member (Dickson), who had been reprimanded.

“I had received complaints about the conduct of a staff member from members of the public and I referred the matter to Parliamentary Services.

“As the legal employer of support staff, they acted as they deemed appropriate and embarked on a disciplinary process.”

But in a letter from the Parliamentary Service to Dickson, seen by Newsroom, general manager David Stevenson said no complaints existed.

“…Parliamentary Service has neither received any complaint about you nor has it carried out any employment investigation or taken any disciplinary action against you (Dickson).”

It was infuriating to hear that Barclay had issued such a dishonest statement in public, she said.

“I’m very angry, very upset, and to use somebody and discredit them for your own promotion is not something that I admire at all.”

Dickson also said she was upset with Barclay repeatedly saying he could not comment on the matter of the recording because it was an employment issue.

“I think it’s rubbish, it’s not an employment issue, and it’s really just trying to cover up what really went on.”

Yesterday things looked dire for Barclay.

I’m not sure whether now things are direr or direst.

 

 

How good was Newsroom’s journalism?

There is no doubt that Newsroom journalist Melanie Reid extensively investigated the Todd Barclay story that hit the headlines all through yesterday. It has been hailed by many as great journalism, and to an extent that is fair praise.

But I want to raise questions about how the story was published that other media probably won’t say anything about.

The publishing of the story – actually multiple stories – looks like a carefully orchestrated hit.

It will have taken some time to investigate and write up.

It was likely to that they deliberate broke the story on a Tuesday morning, the first day of the week that Parliament sits. Fair enough, they have to decide some time to publish, and that’s when MPs are usually readily available for responses.

They didn’t just publish the whole story. They published the first hit at about 8 am. They held back more details until later in the day. Why? Good journalism? To maximise publicity and website hits? I guess that’s part of the media game these days.

They published two follow up stories late in the afternoon. Why hold those back?

They have promised another story today.  Last night Tim Murphy at Newsroom promised more via Twitter: “There’s at least one more lie to come in the morning.  “.

Is the drip feeding of a story good journalism, or is it trying to catch MPs out in not telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

I’ve seen activists describe these tactics for political hit jobs – hold back details in the hope that their targets will compromise themselves.

It is often said (and I saw it yesterday) that it’s not the political ‘crime’ that does the damage, it’s the way it is dealt with by the targets. (Update: Andrew Little was just quoted on RNZ saying this).

The aim is to stir things up with a story and then hope that the target compromises themselves further by lying or reacting badly to try and cover up or minimise their exposure.

Is it good journalism to play this game?

Or, once they have done their good journalistic investigating shouldn’t they just come out with everything they have?

I may have it wrong, but I got the feeling yesterday that Newsroom were not just reporting what they had discovered, they were trying to maximise the impact on the targets of their story.

I got the feeling that they had a dagger blow, but were stabbing for maximum political blood, not just reporting.

The lines can be very blurred between political activism and media.

Most journalists and opponents of the Government will applaud yesterday’s stories as a well researched, well planned and well executed hit.

The media  can be very powerful. They can influence major political outcomes (like US presidential elections and referendums on major changes to the European Union).

Newsroom’s stories will make some difference in our election this year. They could quite feasibly be a significant factor in changing our Government.

Should we just accept that media are as much a part of the political game playing as anyone?