web analytics
The Standard
Advertising

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

Important links

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

1 2 3 7

  • Customs seeks big brother powers
    A proposal giving New Zealand Customs powers to compel anyone to provide passwords and encryption keys to their electronic devices is another step towards a surveillance society and should be strongly resisted, Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran said today.  “There… ...
    1 day ago
  • Playcentre Awareness Week – celebrating an icon!
    It’s not always easy being an icon and Playcentres tell me they are facing big challenges under the current economic and social circumstances. However this week Playcentres are celebrating their proud history and current contribution. Since 1941 the Playcentres have… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 day ago
  • Housing Accord not working – prices continue skyward
      The Government's Auckland Housing Accord isn't working as house prices continue to go through the roof, Labour's Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “The average Auckland house has gone up by $110,000 since the Accord came into effect 15 months… ...
    2 days ago
  • Justice for Teina Pora long overdue
    The Privy Council’s decision to quash Teina Pora’s convictions for the rape and murder of Susan Burdett could be the final chapter in a case that should have been closed years ago, Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. “Teina Pora… ...
    2 days ago
  • Ministers must answer questions on IRD blowout
    The current and previous Revenue Ministers must front up and explain how the child support system had a budget blowout from $30 million to $210 million in just four years, says Labour’s Revenue spokesperson Clayton Cosgrove. “Peter Dunne was Revenue… ...
    3 days ago
  • Curb stratospheric public CEO salaries
    A review of the way MPs’ pay is set should also look at ways to curb excessive rises in the salaries of public service chief executives, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “Some of these CEOs have had stratospheric pay increases… ...
    3 days ago
  • 50 cents? Makes no sense.
    The minimum wage rose by 50 cents this month from 14.25 to 14.75. While it’s a small step towards ensuring minimum workers get a fair share, it’s important to remember that real wages only rose 1.5% while productivity rose by… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    4 days ago
  • The Serco corrections circus
    It should seem obvious to employers, private or public, that it’s important to do what you can to retain your best, most experienced staff. They make life easier for you because they’re effective, attentive and often respected by those around… ...
    GreensBy David Clendon MP
    4 days ago
  • Time for NZ to prohibit the killing of great apes
    That ban was widely hailed, and spurred efforts in other countries to get similar bans. However, apes are still being exploited, abused and killed, both in captivity and in the wild. Examples of cruelty, neglect and abuse abound. Apes are… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    1 week ago
  • Auckland building consents: Tragic
    The only word to describe the latest building consent figures for Auckland is ‘tragic’, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “Whatever the Government is doing to address the Auckland housing crisis, it is clearly not working. ...
    1 week ago
  • A whiff of a new biosecurity scandal?
    A pest which could create havoc for New Zealand’s horticulture and agriculture sector must be as much a focus for the Government as hunting out fruit flies, Labour’s Biosecurity spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “While the Ministry for Primary Industries is… ...
    1 week ago
  • Government shrugs off health sector crisis
    Despite new evidence showing that cuts to health spending are costing lives the Government continues to deny the sector is struggling, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “Health services in New Zealand are in crisis. ...
    1 week ago
  • Parata lowered the bar for failing charter school
    When Hekia Parata became aware that the Whangaruru charter school was experiencing major problems her first action was to drop standards by reducing the number of qualified teachers they had to employ, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins has revealed. “Hekia… ...
    1 week ago
  • National not being straight about the economy
    John Key and Bill English need to be straight with New Zealanders about the damage their failure to diversify the economy is doing, after new figures show export growth plunged due to a collapse in dairy exports, says Grant Robertson.… ...
    1 week ago
  • Mind the Gap
    This week the International Monetary Fund released a report on the wider economic value in closing the gender pay gap. When even the bastions of free-market economics start to raise concerns about gender pay gaps, we have to realise how… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    1 week ago
  • Labour will hold National to parental leave promise
    Labour will hold National to its promise to increase the support given to new parents of premature, multiple birth and babies born with disabilities, Labour’s paid parental leave campaigner Sue Moroney says. "I am naturally disappointed that after battling for… ...
    1 week ago
  • It was all just pillar talk
    Steven Joyce’s confession that he can no longer guarantee a pillar-free design for the New Zealand International Convention Centre shows the Government has abandoned its dream of creating an ‘iconic’ ‘world-class’ structure, says Labour Economic Development spokesperson David Clark. “Steven… ...
    1 week ago
  • Australians move on offshore speculators
    John Key might want to have a quiet word with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott about Canberra's just-announced crack down on offshore speculators when he visits New Zealand this week, Labour's Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says."Tony Abbott's centre right government… ...
    1 week ago
  • Government at odds on overseas driver crashes
    National backbencher Jacqui Dean has spoken out about overseas driver crashes, putting herself at odds with Prime Minister John Key who is on record as saying it’s not a big issue, Labour’s Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “I’m not surprised… ...
    1 week ago
  • Human Rights and the Palestine Crisis
    Last week I heard two Palestinians speak at Wellington events about the ongoing crisis in their country. Samar Sabawi spoke to a full house about the history of Palestine and gave us a lucid and disturbing account of the situation… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • Time to take real care of our kids
    An Amnesty International report has once again criticised New Zealand’s track record on looking after our kids, Labour’s Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. The annual report, which looks at global human rights abuses highlights not only the fact that high… ...
    1 week ago
  • Manus Island and the New Zealand Government
    This week the Greens have participated in awareness activity about Manus Island, the refugee camp on an island in Papua New Guinea where Australia dumps asylum seekers. John Key says that he has every confidence in the Australian Government’s claim… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Election Inquiry – Getting accessible voting on the agenda
    James Shaw has been doing a series of blogs on the Election Inquiry into last year’s general election.  I thought this was a great opportunity to raise an issue very dear to me – accessible voting. Last year’s general election… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    2 weeks ago
  • RMA changes no solution to Christchurch housing
    Housing will continue to be a big issue in 2015. The latest Consumer Price Index, released last month, shows both good news and bad news on the housing front. After years of being the most expensive place to build a… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Saving kokako in South Auckland’s Hunua Ranges
    It is amazing that you can hear the song of the endangered North Island kokako in South Auckland’s Hunua Ranges, less than 50 kms from the central city. A heavy schedule of policy workshops at the Green Party’s Policy… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    3 weeks ago
  • Let’s not turn a blind eye to human rights
    The Cricket World Cup has just opened in New Zealand, and it’s an opportunity for us to shine on the world stage. International sport can be a chance for us to build relationships with other countries, and examine what it… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    3 weeks ago
  • Its Just Not Cricket
    This week it was my privilege to work with Sri Lankan Tamil communities in this country and host Australian journalist and human rights advocate Trevor Grant. I knew a bit about Trevor from his biography but I didn’t know just… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    3 weeks ago
  • Time for NZ to #BeCrueltyFree
    The Government is about to progress the final stages of the Animal Welfare Amendment bill. This will be our last opportunity to get changes made to improve the bill to ensure a better outcome for animals. I have put forwards… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    3 weeks ago
  • We want access!
    Access to buildings is a big issue for many New Zealanders. It looks like that, due to the hard work and persistence of people in the disability community, the Government may finally be starting to take access to buildings seriously.… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    3 weeks ago
  • Greens call on Super Fund to divest from fossil fuels
    The Green Party today called on the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (the Fund) to divest from fossil fuels, starting immediately with coal. The call was accompanied with a new report, Making money from a climate catastrophe: The case for divesting… ...
    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    3 weeks ago

Removed at the request of The Daily Blog.
Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere