Former Labour leader Phil Goff has grounds to make a complaint that he wasn’t treated ‘fairly’ during the run-up to the last election.
There are even – Gasp! Shock! Horror! – allegations of a bias media in this country.
Heavens above, what next? Political backstabbing, racial profiling, more sexy women in advertising?
Of course the New Zealand media is biased! We’re biased in what stories we write, how we write them, how we frame them, and how we publish them. The key for readers and consumers is to understand that this process exists, and to make their own decisions based on the information put in front of them.
It’s been a public presumption, ever since Fox News adopted the ridiculous ‘fair and balanced’ slogan, but is it necessary?
A completely unbiased, indifferent media serves little purpose, and yet we cling to this ideal in an age where information, true or not, is at our fingertips.
For all the wonders of the internet, there is a lot of codswallop online, and it requires a critical mind to sift through the bull in search of something reliable. It’s this same critical faculty that is needed when reading British newspapers, for example.
They are the goal, the simmering oasis, the shining idol in the distance - minus the phone hacking. From across the political spectrum, we can find a paper for all views: from the Telegraph on the Right, to the Guardian on the left.
Each paper takes a strong stand, most importantly when these stances challenge popular conception, and authority in general.
I read both The Guardian and The Telegraph daily. I don’t have to believe the partisan screeds within their pages, but I trust that their solid reporting, replete with signature slant, is honest and thoughtful.
If all else fails, I read Private Eye.
But as a writer, there’s nothing worse than reading cold, clammy political analysis stuck within the rut of formula, desperately trying to grab both sides of a non-argument.
As a journalist, seeing brilliant minds go to waste chasing a ridiculous faux-impartiality simply pains me no end, and I long for open separatism within New Zealand’s press and media.
They are in a position of authority, responsibility, and trust, and exist as a moral compass for both the height of success and depth of glum failure. So a newspaper, each to their own, absolutely must take a stance on each issue that is spilled across their pages.
In many ways, Robert Fisk would be the mold for effective journalism. He’s been in the Middle East for eons, reporting on conflict after conflict, each bullet fired around him hardening his cynicism and critical eye. In almost every report on a rebellion, or a crackdown, or an out-and-out war, he castigates both sides for their violence. He knows that there is nothing hopeful, heroic, or sacred about martyrdom, and he tells us exactly that.
At the end of the day, this is print - a formula and format slowly asphyxiating under the weight of the online revolution. But it still spawned and supported solid, biased, passionate investigative reporting.
It is this quality that we ought to protect – not a reporter’s right to ‘get both sides’.