Posts Tagged ‘news media’

Radio NZ gets US election news wrong

October 20, 2008

Yesterday Radio NZ News reported that:

“Democrat Barack Obama’s lead over Republican John McCain in the United States presidential race has dropped to 3 points. That’s according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll which says Senator Obama leads his rival by 48 to 45% among likely American voters, down 1 percentage point. The four-day tracking poll has a margin of error of 2.9 points.”

What’s wrong with that?

Well, for a start, reporting any single poll as though it is fact — “has dropped to 3 points” — is arrant nonsense. It’s an insult to the listeners’ intelligence. Report the averages of the polls, if you must.

Worse, not only is Zogby just one tracking poll out of seven currently publishing results in the US (not to mention all the other regular polls being reported at this point in the race), it has consistently shown Obama’s support as lower than the others:

See those black dots below all the others, Radio NZ? That’s the poll whose results you have chosen to highlight. Dumb.

Why cherry-pick the most unfavourable poll? This is exactly what Fox News and Drudge (here for details of Drudge’s bad spin) have been doing all week, in order to try to launch their “Comeback” narrative for McCain. But Radio NZ isn’t part of the Republican propaganda machine, is it?

No, it did this because it used a news service that, like the others, misuses polls to try to make elections more interesting. It was lazy and/or ignorant.

Reporting their daily tracking poll results (Obama 51% to McCain 46%) this morning, highly respected pollster Rasmussen notes:

“Obama’s support has ranged from 50% to 52% every day for twenty-four straight days while McCain’s total has been between 44% and 46% during those days. Prior to today, Obama had led by four or five points every day for the past week. The week before, the Democrat was up by five to eight points each day (see trends).”

Not nearly as interesting is it?

We taxpayers pay good money for a news service that is a cut above the commercial crowd, Radio New Zealand. You must do better than this.

The full picture

The full picture, courtesy

Update: Since posting yesterday, the RealClearPolitics poll average has increased Obama’s lead from 5.0% to 5.8%. And the Zogby poll? It now shows a 6% gap. And no mention of polls by Drudge for the first time in a week or more. Funny that.

Update2: Oops! Monday night’s Zogby poll has Obama 50.3%, McCain 42.4%. Nary a mention on Drudge or Faux News. Or Radio New Zealand.


Media white-out on powder man?

September 4, 2008

Funny thing. Seems like just last week the Sunday papers were tripping over themselves to reveal details of the Veitch assault charges and the events that gave rise to them and anything else they could dig up and never mind about the matter being before the courts.

Let’s see how our intrepid media go all out to tell us something about the man alleged to have caused the evacuation of the Beehive on 13 August. The Taranaki Daily News called by his farm at Purangi on Tuesday:

“Hancock, who was dressed in his work clothes with unkempt hair, did not want to speak to the Taranaki Daily News at his isolated Mangaoapa Rd farm yesterday.

“I’m busy feeding the calves,” he said.

Hancock would not say what the powder was, who it was sent to at Parliament or why he had sent it.

“I’ve got no comment to make at the moment. We’ll see how it pans out in court,” he said.”

And that’s it. Nothing at all today either, as far as I can see. Maybe they should try calling on him when he’s not feeding the calves…

The old media: worse than you thought

August 31, 2008

Girl, 12, rearrested over ‘attempted hanging’
Guardian, 3 June 2005

Lynching suspect ‘a renowned bully’
Evening Standard, 3 June 2005

What’s wrong with these headlines, and similar headlines in British newspapers in the days “after a five-year-old was “hanged” by a gang of children” as the Evening Standard put it, in early June 2005?

Well, as Nick Davies points out, there was no lynching. The critical information came from the testimony of the victim’s cousin who was reported as saying:

“I asked him, ‘What the hell happened?’ He said, ‘Some boys and girls tied a rope around my neck and tied me to a tree. They wouldn’t let me go’. “

Recall, the Evening Standard said “after a five-year-old was “hanged” by a gang of children.”

Davies is the author of the highly revealing inside look at the traditional news media, Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media. London : Chatto & Windus, 2008.

Davies “exposes falsehood, distortion and propaganda in the global media.”

“Finally I was forced to admit that I work in a corrupted profession.” When award-winning journalist Nick Davies decided to break Fleet Street’s unwritten rule by investigating his own colleagues, he found that the business of truth had been slowly subverted by the mass production of ignorance.

Kim Hill interviewed him yesterday and the interview is great stuff (he’s a real talker). (Audio here.)

This post is for Winston.

Veitch leaks: who dunnit?

August 25, 2008

Yesterday the Sunday papers were full of details about the Veitch affair, and the alleged assaults in particular (here and here). It’s got to the point where the carefully orchestrated media campaign by Veitch and the leaking of detials to the media — and their publication — is the more impotant story.

The police deny giving details to the media. Said Detective Inspector Scott Beard:

“The only people who have access to the police caption of summary are myself, the officer in charge of the case, the Crown and Mr Veitch and his team.” (Audio here.)

The Criminal Bar Association has criticised police for releasing information about the case. It points out that:

“any information that gives potential jurors one side of the case is prejudicial, and could lead to a judge dismissing it.”

Absolutely right, but it appears to have rushed to judgement here. Not only do the police say that they haven’t given the details to the media, why would they jeopardise their own case?

Veitch’s spin meister Glenda Hughes also denies leaking the information. She’s the one who was so forhtcoming to the news media the previous Sunday.

There should be an inquiry into these attempts to pervert the course of justice.

As for the news media… Shame, Granny, shame!

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that we have the old media going all out for the tabloid headlines with narry a thought for the wider implications of their actions, and the bloggers pondering the significance of the affair while avoiding anything that might be sub judice?

How can Granny actively undermine the integrity of the justice system possibly imagine that it has the moral authority to lecture us about the EFA? It doesn’t. It’s morally bankrupt.

Media can’t resist boobs

August 23, 2008

Yesterday my local newspaper came with the front-page banner headline “$35,000 boob battle”.

Presumably, I’m supposed to be shocked by this outrageous waste of ratepayers’ money, blah, blah. Well I’m not.

True, the court battle was always going to be “an exercise in futility” as Mayor Banks put it. But I am glad that my Council took the case, even though the chances of winning were slim and the victor is one of Auckland’s sleaziest citizens. Outside Mt Eden. Prison that is.

It wasn’t about freedom of expression in my view. People are quite free to go to the event that the boobs parade aimed to plublicise — despite the extraordinarily disingenuous denial of this in court — should they want to get their jollies oggling the pneumatic wonders of the porn stars on show. Not to mention the jelly wrestling.

It wasn’t even about what we might quaintly term “decency” for many of us, although the sad, tawdry spectacle taking place in our main thoroughfare was demeaning for the participants and by-standers, and arguably, the reputation of the city as well.

It was about the celebration of the exploitation of women as sex objects, something that we all should have got past long ago.

No, when it comes to waste I’m much more exercised by the Council’s plans to build an iconic lifting bridge down at the viaduct for $51.2 million (and rising). As Brian Rudman asks, is a toy like this really the best use of public funds? After all, we have a bridge there already. It is, as Rudman says, “a bridge too far.”

There are so many better things for which the Council could use $51.2m. Rates relief for one. Okay, you may not think that attempting to injunct a hard-core porn king’s sexploitation parade is one of them, but the unnecessary bridge is (currently) expected to cost roughly 1400 times more.

Yep, 1400 times more. You’d think that would be more newsworthy, but it seems that the news media can’t resist boobs.

Jane’s Slips

August 19, 2008

Jane Clifton ruminates in the Listener on the fast-changing nature of journalism (hat-tip: Russell Brown). Clifton is threatened. Indeed, she pines for a good, old-fashioned demarcation dispute:

“… political activists are doing journalists’ work for them by blogging and commentating as though they were professional journalists, and being taken increasingly seriously as such – including by professional journalists, who routinely cite them as authorities in news stories.”

True. Inexorably, we are following developments in the US. There Arianna Huffington’s website, for example, retails news, breaks news and carries blogs. Huffington herself is Clifton’s worst nightmare. She describes herself as, “one of the most widely-read, linked to, and frequently-cited media brands on the Internet.”

As I argued in response to Vernon Small’s confusion, the boundaries between blogging and journalism are blurred because of the false, value-laden, image of “journalism” and “news” to which journalists still cling in order to claim some legitimacy (and, in my experience, often to justify to themselves what it is that they do).

Once one dispenses with the fallacy that journalists are reporting objective news for some higher purpose, there is little to distinguish many bloggers from journalists and vice versa.

Take, for example, “professional journalist” Anthony Hubbard’s “profile” in Sunday’s SST of Tony Veitch’s PR person. Hubbard uncritically accepts the spin doctor’s picture of, “the honest PR agent, helping the client towards clarity, and their intelligent conversation with a well-meaning reporter who in turn conveys a complex truth to the world”, commenting, “It’s certainly a great picture.” In whose interests is this piece of puffery served up? If you’re unsure, read a “blogger’s” commentary. It’s clear which is the more honest.

Inevitably, then, Clifton gets it wrong:

“And, as we’ve found with Dead Fish-gate, some activists are even turning unwary journalists into political activists by selectively leaking them choice tidbits of covertly taped conversations. Unable to resist, journalists are effectively running party spin holus-bolus.”

Apart from the fact that she can’t know who dunnit, and therefore whether it was “party spin”, journalists have been using covertly leaked material — for whatever purposes — for a long time. Most recently, generations of journalists have been inspired by the example of Woodward and Bernstein.

“We’re in a new era where what’s generally taken as journalism has been democratised by the internet, and as with old-fashioned radio talkback, it’s hard to tell whether the information providers are accurate, biased or simply malicious.”

Is Clifton really unaware of the rise of “opinion news” in the US? Perhaps when she watches the most-viewed cable “news” service in the US, Faux News, she thinks that it’s accurate, unbiased and not designed to promote any particular party?

“I can’t even decide whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, this job-poaching. First up, best dressed, let the market decide, and all that. But morally and practically, it’s now the Wild West out there, because we can no longer easily tell where journalism ends and politics begins. We used to be separate species, but now we’re hybridising.”

And a good thing too, if it brings into the open the bias that has always been there. Those venturing onto the internet in search of information must know — confronted as they are by the enormous range of views — that everything they read is biased in some way. This was not the case when, not so long ago, we (in Auckland) depended on Granny for our daily news, and most people believed that it was serving up unbiased, objective fact.

That Clifton apparently still believes this the case is the biggest surprise.

Blurry lines lead to turf wars

August 8, 2008

Vernon Small airs some thoughts on the blogging vs journalism issue, and he’s confused. “The advent of blogging, websites and online newsletters, has blurred the line to the point where I can barely see it at times.”

The immediate trigger for Small’s ruminations was the presence at National’s weekend conference of David Farrar — NZ’s best read blogger and organically a key part of National’s media machine, though not a paid part — “sharing the scoff and liquid largesse put on by the party for the media in the room set aside for us.”

We know that Farrar enjoyed the press hospitality, because he blogged about it. The Standard’s Clinton Smith a.k.a. Steve Pierce, on the other hand, was refused press accreditation.

For Small, the key issue seems to be subjectivity (though he avoids this word) and partisanship:

“… several reporters have told me they are uncomfortable having someone so closely aligned with the party – or with any party – seamlessly incorporated into the media, sitting alongside them, and potentially hearing conversations between frontline reporters and their news editors and the like.

“So where should the lines be drawn?

“Is “biased” blogging any different from left or right wing reporting?”

Delightfully naive. One doesn’t have to have taken a course in the politics of the media to know that (1) “objectivity is bullshit” (as Ruth Butterworth put it when I did one such course) and (2) the “mainstream media” props up the capitalist system and the existing power structures every hour of the day, every day of the week.

If you rule bloggers out because they take a partisan stance, then you’d have to refuse press accreditation to Radio America and Faux News, most British papers (tabloid and broadsheet) and … it’s not getting any better. The mainstream media are increasingly mixing opinion with their news, if you haven’t noticed.

Perhaps mindful of this, Small allows that while he finds it “hard to envisage a situation where I would in his role as chair of the press gallery give the nod to [an application for accreditation from a blogger] under our existing rules… that’s not to say there would never be a justified case.”

So, if we jetison the quaint fiction that our news media are unbiased reporters of objective facts, can we distinguish between bloggers and journos?

Some would argue that bloggers just rant. Well, that line’s easily disposed of. Anyone read Granny’s deputy political editor Fran O’Salivatin’ recently?

Oh, you say, the news media hunt out original facts, bloggers just repeat and add some commentary. Hell, let me introduce you to the “wire services”. And remind you of how many journos have been laid off in recent months. It’s not as though some blogs don’t break stories anyway.

So, let a thousand bloggers bloom. Out with the stuffy old-school pretence of professionalism and objectivity and in with transparency and colour. Let the market rule!

Hat-tip:The Hive who tackles this question, but is singularly unconvincing. It seems that capacity to tolerate the grinding vapidity of party conferences is the key feature distinguishing journos from bloggers. I doubt this, and QB provides no evidence that the journos assigned to party conferences enjoy them in any degree.

Update: A good solution to Small’s conundrum from Homepaddock, who writes that, “My answer is some journalists are bloggers, some are not; some blogging is journalism, some is not.” Now, we just need to define when blogging is journalism. I’d say, when something that is “news” is gathered and/or disseminated by the blogger. Now, we just need to define what we mean by “news”…