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The end is nigh for our 'balanced' media

James Robins | View Archive November 29, 2012, 9:56 am
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 10: A street vendor sells copies of the new tabloid sized New Zealand Herald on September 10, 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand. The New Zealand Herald today published it s new format tabloid and launched a re-designed website.

Simon Watts/Getty Images © Enlarge photo

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’.

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29 Comments

  1. Bruce12:53pm Tuesday 04th December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    Tectonic Taniwha Get some help dear!

    Reply
  2. david10:44am Tuesday 04th December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    w.t.f? clearly you have no idea what you are talking about

    Reply
  3. James08:17pm Monday 03rd December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    I dont think were are conformists ,I think we are apathetic and too lazy to protest when we are being led by the nose ,by our Political overlords.The days when Kiwis would stand up and be counted are long gone , and the politicians play us for fools ! Wake up kiwis !!!

    Reply
  4. Shh m the Queen of NZ03:48pm Monday 03rd December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    It’s about time media dropped their double standards and embrace the public good and educate voters about all the shady deals encompassed by politicians and the business elite. But I highly doubted it. Our journalists are a spineless coward lot and our Media has become a threat to our democracy.

    Reply
  5. James01:20pm Monday 03rd December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    I would think Phil Goff has got grounds for complaint ! Listen to IZB ,the Mike H show with the effeminate giggle ,anyone who has an opinion that differs from National, will get a lambasting ,including guest MP`s who are not with the Govt ., and I remember him rubbishing Phil Goff on a number of occasions ! The NZ Herald tends to be one eyed as well ! - This was also the case with other Politicians especially Winston Peters ,and the Greens ! However Banks got an easy ride at the elections - Not balanced ! If you are going to tear them apart -give them the right to reply!

    Reply
  6. Murray07:48pm Sunday 02nd December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    Ah Colin , having suffered some of your sneering and ill-informed comments in previous posts you are obviously a devotee of a certain person who once referred to people such as you as''useful fools'

    Reply
  7. Colin07:12pm Sunday 02nd December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    Murray - hilarious as usual. But tell me, how do you see your screen through all the spittle you must generate as you froth your way through your idiot rants?

    Reply
  8. Andrew02:41pm Sunday 02nd December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    We just like our print media to be apolitical, James. And whatever you do please don’t use the British press as an example of what we should aspire to. The media in Britain have huge problems with self-regulation and lack of checks and balances in any form, which is why they will soon be getting a Press Council just like ours – with teeth.

    Reply
  9. Tony06:57am Sunday 02nd December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    The NZ media is entertainment based rather than news based, in general. I’ll never forget the night Mark Sainsbury asked a marine biologist on live TV if the dolphin (I forget the dolphins name, years ago now) swimming in Auckland Harbour was likely to try and mate with swimmers/people. So much of our media is trashy and I find that frustrating. I’d rather listen to right or left bias than trash. I accept we all have a bias.

    Reply
  10. carmelita03:15pm Saturday 01st December 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    There is no real left wing in NZ. You have right wing and centrists but no real left, at least in Parliament. Greens are a gadfly and gay party, Maori are mixed race tribalistic wafflers.

    Reply

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