Written By: - Date published: 10:47 am, November 22nd, 2013 - 29 comments
Categories: accountability, david cunliffe, democracy under attack, john key, labour, national/act government, news, newspapers, slippery, spin - Tags: nz herald, wayne hope
The NZ Herald is one NZ newspaper that has survived through changing times, and past editions take their place on Papers Past (a great historical resource available to all) , providing historical data and a variety of snapshots into the past. To many of us, the NZ Herald then and now is at the forefront of NZ right wing conservatism. However, in its journalistic and professional style, in the way its managers present it, and through some superficial elements, it misleadingly presents itself as “objective” and “fair”, and “balanced”.
Today it has just enough left wing or liberal columnists to beef up it’s credentials for balance. Too often these days, in both its on and offline versions, the positioning, order and structure of news items, along with the associated images, work to present a “balanced” story: while actually telling it from a right slanted position, even while presenting at least 2 sides to the story. Sometimes the bias is in the headline, indicating an emotively right wing attitude, while the facts, often buried at the bottom of the article, say something else.
Many people don’t read much beyond the front page, the headlines, and/or the first paragraph or two of an article. And thus mainstream attitudes are subtly influenced in just enough people. Other times the anonymous editorials take a political position: sometimes to the left, more often to the “democracy under attack” (from the left/Labour) blatant right wing positioning.
In response to the NZ Herald‘s 150 years celebration, Associate Professor Dr Wayne Hope has published an excellent post on The Daily Blog this week, reporting on his investigation into the history of the content of the paper: ‘150 years The New Zealand Herald didn’t want you to see‘. He begins by outline the context for his post, and giving credit to some of the more liberal journalists currently writing for the newspaper. On balance, Hope claims, the paper is the voice of the (conservative) establishment:
Evaluating a major newspaper is always difficult. High calibre journalists, columnists, reviewers and commentators operate beneath a powerful institutional voice. So it is with the New Zealand Herald. The likes of Simon Collins, Brian Rudman, Ann Gibson, Graham Reid, William Dart and Ann Gibson are terrific contributors to a masthead which symbolises the Auckland establishment alongside Remuera, Kings College, Smith and Caugheys, Bell Gully and the Northern Club.
Against this background the NZ Herald`s institutional voice centres around the editorial, the business pages, the senior political journalist and the wording of major headlines. This was the voice which announced its 150th birthday on November 13. That evening it was the Auckland establishment, old and new, which attended an exclusive cocktail party at the Auckland Art Gallery.
Not a paper boy in sight.
Hope reviews the Herald‘s position on some key events in NZ’s history, showing that the paper was always on the side of the (usually white, male, Pakeha/British/European, middle class) establishment.
Back in the days of the land wars, the NZ Herald promoted the British “civilising mission” and derided Maori activists fighting for their homelands. NZ Herald editorial 30 Oct 1882 (cited by Wayne Hope):
`The natives are coming to understand that their prospects and even their existence must henceforward depend upon preparing themselves to share the progress of the European so as to be able in due course to take their place on the same boat`.
During the campaign for women’s suffrage, the NZ Herald was there opposing every forward step. Hope reports:
From 1870 the opposition Star newspaper actively campaigned for womens suffrage and hired women as typesetters, traditionally a male occupation. As Max Hastings points out in `Extra extra` (2013), the NZ Herald was resolutely opposed to womens rights on principle. They were born to be wives and mothers in partriarchal households. Eventually, of course, the NZ Herald came round to the womens suffrage idea, after a decent interval of time.
During the rise of the NZ Labour Party and Michael Savage’s great reforms, the NZ Herald was there, expressing strong disapproval. This, as told by Dr Hope:
In 1935 the incumbent Liberal-reform coalition government was supported by large run holders, banks and merchant financiers. Essentially, their priorities were those of British capital. The main centre daily press supported the old guard and railed against the Savage led Labour Party. The NZ Herald was chief among them. Before the election proprietor Sir Henry Horton donated 500 pounds to the government’s election expenses. Savage, the Labour Party, unions and the working class were constantly assailed by Gordon Minhinnick , the Herald`s resident cartoonist. The most spiteful anti-Savage cartoon, in July 1938, was entitled `The Spirit of His Ancestors`. The then Prime Minister is pictured on a comfortable chair next to a table handling a bottle with the label STATE CONTROL . Behind him are the unmistakeable figures of Stalin,Hitler and Mussolini. The cartoon can be found in Barry Gustafson`s biography of Michael Joseph Savage, `From the cradle to the grave`, opposite page 201 (1986).
The NZ Herald This Week
This week we see some of the little slants put on current political stories by the Herald. We have seen Audrey Young, shilling for Nick Smith at the time of his latest attacks on affordable state housing (removing right of tenure from state house residents). While too many low income people are in need of such affordable housing, young highlights one case of someone still in a state house, on a high income. bad12 makes some excellent points on this issue.
Today on the front page of the Herald online we see two stories in which the headlines slant to the right. These are political stories, so they are well down the page. These days the Herald follows the tabloid style of “neoliberal”, bread-and-circuses, ratings-driven, infotainment diversions from the most pressing issues.
Today we have the NZ Herald, along with a lot of National government/John Key cheerleaders and PR spinners in the MSM, building up Colin Craig’s so far minimal public following: this in order to help create a viable coalition partner to the National Party in next year’s election.
Yes, a whole anonymous editorial shamelessly providing positive PR for Craig in an article entitled: ‘Stars aligning for Craig and his untainted brand‘ . The MSM have consistently focused on this story, down-playing Paula Bennett’s faux “westie” allegiance, and the implications for Labour and the Greens of the changes to electoral boundaries.
Another Herald story today on MP’s pay rises (something not likely to be very popular with the public) the front page image is of David Cunliffe.
The article also has the same image of Cunliffe at the top, highlighting the change in his salary. The article mixes total sums with amounts of rises, making it difficult to compare like with like. Cunliffe’s rise is actually $5,800 per year – much less than Key’s rise of $9500 per year. The article focus’s on john key’s request for restraint on MP’s pay, but does not point out this, as was reported in the Dominion Post today:
Last month Key said he preferred no increase. “If it was my vote, it would be no pay increases, but I don’t get that vote.”
However, last night his office released his submission on the process, which showed he lobbied for pay increases at around the rate of inflation, making no mention of his preference for no increase.
Under this post, discuss these or other NZ Herald stories, current or historical, as a way of commemorating the contribution this paper has made to NZ politics.