web analytics
The Standard

Ng on fact-free politics

Written By: - Date published: 1:02 pm, April 2nd, 2008 - 14 comments
Categories: activism, blogs, Media, national - Tags: , , ,

Keith Ng of Public Address has a long-standing commitment to improving the quality of journalism in this country. Now, he is proposing a non-partisan wiki-style forum for fact-checking politicians’ statements. It seems like a great idea. We constantly see politicians making statements that are not backed by the facts but have time to only cover a portion of them.

Too often, political statements are reported at face-value without any fact checking. It’s not the journalists’ fault; it’s the fault of the media companies who have slashed staff to cut costs and now expect too much copy from journos. The result is rote repetition of straight out lies, and ‘ping-pong’ reporting. Just yesterday, NZPA ran an article based on a press release that claimed DoC was training rats to look for rare frogs. If NZPA had done some fact checking they would have learnt it was an obvious April Fool’s joke.

Under the title “Brownlee: Now 93.5% fact-free“, Ng relates a more serious example what happens when fact-checking is not done:

[Gerry] Brownlee said in a press release:
‘Labour’s emergency stand-by power generator at Whirinaki is running flat out burning up to one million litres of diesel every 24 hours.” [Claiming New Zealand was on the brink of black-outs.]

NZPA, the NewsTalkZB wires, and (I think) Radio New Zealand [each ran stories] pulled straight off the press release, and none of them had comment from Contact Energy (or anyone else, for that matter). According to Contact Energy, operators of the Whirinaki power plant, it was running at 6.5% of its maximum output in February. In January, it ran at 2.3%.

When questioned about his claim, Brownlee said:
‘I think you’ll find, when you see the figures, that it’s running at something like 16 hours a day at full speed.”

So “16 hours a day” means “16 hours every day”? Not the way Brownlee is using it. The figures show that it ran for 16 hours on a day – on one single day, that is – and only at full speed for 11 hours.

When presented with the figures, Brownlee backed down further. Kinda.
‘With all due respect we can terminate this interview if you want but you’ve got to sharpen up a bit here. These people are trying to put a bit of gloss on a very big turd. The deal here is that yes, across a month, it might have only run for 3% of that month. But there were days, there were hours, and there were other batches of time during that month where it had to run otherwise the lights would go out. It’s an emergency plant. It doesn’t run unless we’re deeply in the shit. I can’t put it more clearly to you than that.”

According to Kieran Devine, General Manager of System Operations at Transpower, Whirinaki kicked in because the hyrdo generators were trying to conserve water for winter and power plants were taken down for maintenance. That’s to say, if the demand for power went up further than it did, or if Whirinaki didn’t run, the hydros would have kicked in again. The lights would not have gone out.

Brownlee’s lie should have been exposed by the media before it ever got into a story. In fact, the story should have been Brownlee’s lying to score political points. The media needs to lift its game, and Ng is to be applauded for trying to make that happen.

14 comments on “Ng on fact-free politics”

  1. higherstandard 1

    SP

    Too often, political statements are reported at face-value without any fact checking.

    Bit like the Standard harping on about John Key’s wages comment ?

  2. Tane 2

    Agreed Steve. Same happened today when NZPA ran this story repeating Bill English’s false allegations of illegal behaviour by the CTU without even checking the facts.

    They had to wait for the CTU to issue a press release in response before copying and pasting that and turning it into a follow-up story.

    And people wonder why the Nats’ fact-free attack lines get such a free run in the media…

  3. Steve Pierson 3

    Higherstandard. We did fact check, we contacted several people close to the story to confirm the account, and to get hold of the transcript. We then wrote to MPs, including Mr Key, asking for their responses.

    When we heard Key and APN management were forcing the journalists into ‘clarifing the story’ we investigated that too – and it is on the basis of our fact-checking that we stand by the story.

    John Key did say “we would love to see wages drop” and he was referring to New Zealand wages.

  4. insider 4

    I don’t think it is just employers’ fault. Journalists have primary responsibility for the content of their stories and not taking facts from potentailly partisan sources at face value. Google and Wiki can be incredibly helpful.

    I am entirely in agreement that fact checking is an issue in NZ and have posted a number of times that it is poor journalism to claim a story is balanced because you have he said/she said. What is more important is for a bit of editorial judgement as whether what he said had any validity at all before you actually write the story. A key part of that is checking the claimed facts. Then there would be far more interesting stories and a few embarassments like Brownlee’s would remove a lot of the crap masquerading as news from the media.

    Radio is one of the worst due to their demand for updates – just this week with the Nats announcement on victim compensation it quickly moved to Labour is criticising… well no s**t sherlock. That’s their job, it;s hardly revealing. Govt announcements get the same lazy treatment.

  5. Tane 5

    insider, agreed to an extent, but I think it’s hard to blame journos when commercial pressures mean they’re filing a dozen stories a day. IrishBill had a good piece on this a while back: http://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=971

    Y’see, nearly every newsroom in New Zealand has had the guts ripped out of it by its owners. Back in the day a newspaper reporter might spend a day doing one story and the newsroom would be full. Nowadays you can give one journo an internet connection and a phone and expect them to churn out ten stories a day (I’ve heard stories of ZB journos doing up to 20!) and that’s nine other journos you don’t have to employ. And that means profits. APN, who owns the Herald currently makes about 13% profit on capital annually – their target is 20% and they regularly post annual profits around the $100m mark from their NZ operations alone. Fairfax generally makes twice as much or more.

    Of course the news suffers a lot when you cut frontline staff. Nothing can be investigated in depth and there’s very little time to gather balanced comment. If you’re a journo tasked with 10 stories a day and someone such as Coca Cola or a Ministry (or the National Party) offers to provide you with the “research’ and quotes you need to make one, what do you do? The answer is you use what they give you and move onto the next story ‘cos fuck it, you’re on close to minimum wage once you count your unpaid overtime anyway.

  6. Scribe 6

    Wow, this doesn’t happen very often. The Standard and DPF agree on something: http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2008/03/fact_checking.html

  7. MikeE 7

    You mean like where politicians on both sides of the spectrum refered to BZP continually as Cattle Drench and wormer (even though it was never EVER used in that way), and we now have a risk of idiot kids drinking the stuff that BZP is off the shelves.

    That sort of fact checking?

  8. MikeE 8

    Or where the police spent taxpayer money bringing over a Hawaian “drug expert” to give lectures on strawberry flavored P… a well known urban legend.

  9. Steve Pierson 9

    yup, MikeE, that kind of stuff.

  10. Uroskin 10

    P isn’t strawberry flavoured? I trust it’s available in chocolate instead then. Act’s party pill lines should offer different flavours too. Would make the Rogergnome policies go down better.

  11. Dean 11

    Steve:

    “Too often, political statements are reported at face-value without any fact checking.”

    I quite agree. I’d invite you to check your own facts on one of your own posts, specifically http://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=1331

    This is where you made the statement “At 30%, the corporate tax is lower than or equal to most developed countries’, when clearly, according to the chart you yourself posted, it is not.

  12. randal 12

    well tonight I saw jessica milch in tv one news call lockwood smith and nick smith labour mp’s and after the clip simon callow just smirked

  13. Pascal's bookie 13

    And Duncan Garner last night saying that the money NZFirst is paying to charities is taxpayers money.

    It’s not, as much as I think he should stop being a clever dick he’s not legally obliged to pay it back, and the money isn’t taxpayers, it’s NZFirst’s.

    The GST that the Tories redirected to charity wasn’t taxpayers either. It was the National party’s, and they owed it to TVNZ.

  14. AncientGeek 14

    Sounds like an excellent idea. Amongst other things it would probably allow more timely analysis.

    Now I’m off to read the link.

Links to post

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Hospital food plan hits another snag
    The Government has been left with egg on its face with Hawke’s Bay District Health Board today giving a plan to outsource hospital food services the thumbs down, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “Doing away with local kitchens by… ...
    3 hours ago
  • Hospital food plan hits another sang
    The Government has been left with egg on its face with Hawke’s Bay District Health Board today giving a plan to outsource hospital food services the thumbs down, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “Doing away with local kitchens by… ...
    4 hours ago
  • Wilkinson appointment wrong in principle
    The appointment of former Conservation Minister Hon Kate Wilkinson as an Environment Commissioner is wrong in principle, says Labour’s Shadow Attorney-General David Parker. “The doctrine of separation of powers requires judicial processes to remain separate and independent from the legislature… ...
    5 hours ago
  • McCully doesn’t deny bribe in Saudi sheep scandal
    “In Parliament today I asked Murray McCully directly: Why is he the first Minister in history to back a multi-million dollar facilitation arrangement which in other jurisdictions is called a bribe? says Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson David Parker.… ...
    5 hours ago
  • National must back our future doctors
    National must support our future doctors and agree to the calls from the Medical Students’ Association and the Young Nats to lift the arbitrary 7 year cap on student loans for medical and dental students, Labour’s Tertiary Education Spokesperson David… ...
    5 hours ago
  • Taxpayer the loser after Government folds
    Steven Joyce today admitted the main exhibition hall at the New Zealand International Convention Centre is 19 per cent smaller than what was described at the time other bidders were edged out of the process, Labour’s Economic Development spokesperson David… ...
    6 hours ago
  • Govt’s lack of ambition for women
    Yesterday, the Government put out a media release entitled “Number of women leaders continues to grow”. It was to inform us that the percentage of women on state-appointed boards has increased to 41.7%, up from 41.1% in 2013. Well, woo-hoo… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    8 hours ago
  • Auditor-General exposes Key’s scapegoating of Council
    The National Government's blaming of Auckland Council for the city’s housing crisis has been exposed as scapegoating in the Office of the Auditor-General’s latest report, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “The Auditor-General says Auckland Council’s part in fixing the… ...
    10 hours ago
  • Reform – not money – needed for meat sector
    The National Government continues to throw good money after bad at the meat industry instead of addressing the fundamental problem of its dysfunctional structure, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “The latest Primary Growth Partnership grant to the venison… ...
    10 hours ago
  • Government cuts corners on school bus funding
    The safety of children – not cost cutting – should be the main objective behind the Government’s funding of school buses, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “Buried in the detail of this year’s Budget are $19 million of funding… ...
    10 hours ago
  • Women the losers under National’s cuts
    National’s poor performance in appointing women to state sector boards is set to get worse with funding cuts to the nomination service provided by the Ministry for Women, Labour’s Woman’s Affairs spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “Minister for Women Louise Upston… ...
    10 hours ago
  • Help sought by agencies now asked to help
    The organisation Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has tasked with setting up an emergency hotline for stranded Relationships Aotearoa clients has just lost a bid for a government contract to launch a new national helpline, Labour’s Acting Social Development spokesperson… ...
    10 hours ago
  • Wellington got loud again on climate
    On Monday night, in Wellington, I attended the last of the Government’s climate target consultation meetings. It was quite well attended with maybe 150 people, not bad for a second meeting with very little notice and, as far as I… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    12 hours ago
  • Final nail in coffin for Solid Energy workers
    Today’s confirmation of job losses at Solid Energy’s Stockton and Spring Creek mines shows the urgent need for new economic opportunities on the West Coast, Labour’s MP for West Coast-Tasman Damien O’Connor says. “Our economy can no longer rely on… ...
    1 day ago
  • Ramadi proves Iraq deployment high risk, low benefit
    The fall of Ramadi and the collapse of the Iraqi Army proves Labour was right to be concerned about the deployment of our troops to Iraq, Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff says. “The fall of Ramadi brings IS fighters within… ...
    1 day ago
  • English admits new taxes on the cards
    Eight months after pledging “no new taxes” at the election Bill English today admitted he would bring in more sneaky taxes along the lines of the border tax, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Not only did National bring in… ...
    1 day ago
  • What the Dickens is going on at SDHB?
    Problems at the financially-strapped Southern District Health Board appear to stretch to its HR department with information obtained by Labour showing it still records staff leave entitlements using manual book-keeping methods. “The Board’s draft 10-year plan document forecasts a cumulative… ...
    1 day ago
  • Teachers turn backs on new professional body
      The fact that just 56 per cent of nominations for the Education Council came from registered teachers shows the profession has turned its back on Hekia Parata’s new professional body, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “Answers to written… ...
    1 day ago
  • No spade work done on big building plan
      Only a quarter of the 500 hectares of Crown land the Government wants to use for new homes is understood to be suitable for building on, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “This was National’s bold new idea to… ...
    1 day ago
  • National: Seven KiwiSaver cuts in seven years
    National’s campaign of KiwiSaver cuts has reached seven in seven years as it dismantles KiwiSaver block by block, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “KiwiSaver is critical to establishing a savings culture in New Zealand but National has taken a jenga-style… ...
    1 day ago
  • Tolley’s actions contradict reassurances
    Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has serious questions to answer following the forced closure of Relationships Aotearoa just days after her reassurances she was looking at ways to keep the service operating, Labour’s Acting Social Development spokesperson Annette King says.… ...
    1 day ago
  • SkyCity downsize another broken promise
    The downsized SkyCity Convention Centre does not deliver on the promised iconic world-class centre and shows the true extent of Steven Joyce’s incompetence, Labour Leader Andrew Little said today. “New Zealanders were promised an iconic world-class convention centre that would… ...
    1 day ago
  • Te Arawa partnership model a step closer
    Councils around New Zealand have an opportunity to improve their consultation with Iwi Māori by following Rotorua District Council’s Te Arawa Partnership Model, Labour’s Māori Development spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta says. “The Rotorua District Council will today decide whether to adopt… ...
    1 day ago
  • Labour mourns Dame Dorothy Fraser
    Labour Leader Andrew Little said the party is today mourning the loss of the youngest person to join the Labour Party, Dame Dorothy Fraser, who went on to be a stalwart of the Dunedin community and tireless worker for others.… ...
    2 days ago
  • The ultimate scapegoat: PM blames fruit fly for new tax
    The Prime Minister has found the ultimate scapegoat for breaking his promise not to introduce a new tax – the Queensland fruit fly, Labour’s Biosecurity spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “John Key’s first policy upon taking office and assigning himself the… ...
    2 days ago
  • How many victims missing out on protection?
    Hundreds of domestic abuse victims could be missing out on getting protection orders because they are unable to get legal aid, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.“In the last two years some 351 people who applied for legal aid for… ...
    4 days ago
  • Government kicks hardworking whanau
    A major incentive to help young Kiwis and people on low incomes to start saving has been kicked out from under them with the National-led Government ramming through short-sighted legislation under Urgency today, Labour’s Maori Development Spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta says.… ...
    4 days ago
  • Speculator tax political stunt gone wrong
    Bill English’s admission he doesn’t know whether National’s new speculator tax will have any effect shows last weekend’s announcement by the Prime Minister was a desperate political stunt, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. “This Government is so desperate to… ...
    4 days ago
  • The value of parenting
    This week, as part of the Budget, the government introduced a bill to address child poverty. This bill will require parents receiving income support to look for part-time work once their youngest child is three years of age rather than… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    4 days ago
  • Another new tax, another broken promise
    National has unveiled yet another new tax in this budget – a rural broadband levy that will almost certainly result in an immediate price hike for internet and telephone connections across New Zealand, Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran said “The… ...
    5 days ago
  • Anniversary of Sri Lankan Tamil Massacre
    This is not going to be a happy story but if the Green Party of Aotearoa doesn’t want to know who else will? May 18th marks the anniversary of what is known as the ‘Mullivaikal massacre’ of Tamils in 2009 at… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    5 days ago
  • Labour MPs join youth to take part in 40 hour famine
    A team of Labour MPs took part in the 2015 World Vision 40 hour famine and we were told by World Vision and the young people, that it was the first time MPs had joined them and how appreciative they… ...
    5 days ago
  • Rodeo: ‘Family entertainment’ or animal abuse?
    Recently  TVNZ ran a story with confronting footage showing rodeo animals being punched, repeatedly shocked with electronic prods and having their tails violently twisted over their backs. It was clear that significant force was being used behind the scenes to make… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    5 days ago
  • Budget puts the squeeze on police
    The Government has cut funding to the New Zealand police force in the latest Budget, says Labour’s Police spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “The reduction is a whopping $15.3 million that could put front line officers at risk. ...
    5 days ago
  • Crucial social services take another hit
    The Government looks set to slash half a million dollars of funding for critical social services, including Women’s Refuge and Barnados, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni “Taking $500,000 from organisations aimed at improving the lives of vulnerable families… ...
    5 days ago
  • Saying it Loud on Climate in Christchurch
    The Government’s Christchurch consultation meeting on New Zealand’s emission targets was inspiring – not for what was in the Ministry for the Environment’s (MFE’s) defeatist video about the obstacles to changing to a low carbon future, but for what the… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    5 days ago
  • Budget silent on small business
    The Government has completely ignored one of the most important sectors of the economy – small and medium-sized enterprises – in Budget 2015, Labour’s Small Business spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. "A stunning 41 per cent of jobs were created by… ...
    5 days ago
  • Thank you John, it’s been bloody marvellous
    The departure of John Campbell is a blow to current affairs investigative journalism, Labour’s Broadcasting Spokesperson Clare Curran says. “Campbell Live stood out in its field. Its axing comes as local broadcasting in New Zealand remains in a state of… ...
    5 days ago
  • KiwiSaver cut shows no long-term plan
    National’s cutting of the KiwiSaver kickstart is incredibly short-term thinking, typical of a Budget that is woefully short on ideas to generate wealth and opportunity, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. “New Zealand’s savings rate is far too low. KiwiSaver… ...
    5 days ago
  • National hits the panic button for its 7th Budget
    National has hit the panic button for its 7th Budget in a desperate attempt to look like they’re taking action to reduce our shameful child poverty rates, but they are giving with one hand and taking with the other, Opposition… ...
    6 days ago
  • Panic and back-flips can’t hide twin deficits
    National’s token measures to fight fires they have left burning for seven long years can’t hide a Budget that is long on broken promises, short on vision and fails to reach surplus, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “After being… ...
    6 days ago
  • Auckland land measure seven years too late
    National are so desperate to look like they are doing something about the Auckland housing crisis they have dusted off Labour’s 2008 inventory of government land available for housing and re-announced it, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. “Despite National… ...
    7 days ago
  • Access to gender reassignment surgery essential
    I was frankly disgusted to hear the Minister for Health say that funding gender reassignment surgeries is a “nutty idea”. A recent study found that in New Zealand 1% of young people identified themselves as transgender, and 3% were unsure… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    1 week ago
  • Global milk prices now lowest in 6 years
    The latest fall in the global dairy price has brought it to the lowest level in six years and shows there must be meaningful action in tomorrow’s Budget to diversify the economy, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Dairy prices… ...
    1 week ago
  • Big risks as CYF checks stopped
    Revelations that Child, Youth and Family is no longer assisting home-based early childhood educators by vetting potential employees should set alarm bells ringing, Labour Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. “Doing away with an extra mechanism for checking potential new employees… ...
    1 week ago
  • Housing crisis about real people not numbers
    The Government’s continued failure to tackle the housing crisis is seeing thousands of vulnerable Kiwis being kept off social housing waiting lists, while others, who are on the list, are being forced to live in cars and garages, says Labour’s… ...
    1 week ago
  • Housing crisis about real people not numbers
    The Government’s continued failure to tackle the housing crisis is seeing thousands of vulnerable Kiwis being kept off social housing waiting lists, while others, who are on the list, are being forced to live in cars and garages, says Labour’s… ...
    1 week ago
  • State of origin
    Kiwis are increasingly concerned about the food they give their families. New Zealand consumers have the right to know where their food has come from, particularly when it involves animals, and should be able to expect our Government to label… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    1 week ago
  • Relationships Aotearoa
    It is disturbing that Relationships Aotearoa, a voluntary organisation set up in 1949 to help couples struggling with their relationships following the upheavals of World War II, may be forced to close, says Acting Spokesperson for the Voluntary and Community… ...
    1 week ago
  • An economy that is just working for some is an economy that is not working
    The National Party presents itself as a great manager of the economy, but if the economy is only working for some we really need to question that assertion. Alongside the perpetually elusive surplus, the levels of risk in our economy are… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    1 week ago

Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere