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

  • Bennett’s legacy a test for Tolley
    Former Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has been thrown under the bus by her successor after its been suggested that Ms Bennett gave the green light to an ‘unethical’ observational study of high-risk children, Labour Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.… ...
    33 mins ago
  • Submission to Greater Christchurch Earthquake Recovery: Transition to Rege...
    Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Draft Transition Recovery Plan on behalf of the New Zealand Labour Party.  It is important that the citizens of Canterbury have a voice in the governance of the next step of… ...
    4 hours ago
  • Troubled school wanted $25,000 dollars to fence farm
    The troubled Whangaruru charter school asked Hekia Parata for $25,000 to fence the school farm at the expense of spending on teaching, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “This unbelievable revelation comes hard on the heels of Hekia Parata’s decision to… ...
    22 hours ago
  • Troubled school wanted $25,000 dollars to fence farm
    The troubled Whangaruru charter school asked Hekia Parata for $25,000 to fence the school farm at the expense of spending on teaching, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “This unbelievable revelation comes hard on the heels of Hekia Parata’s decision to… ...
    22 hours ago
  • Government report on sexual & family violence a good first step
    Yesterday the Government released the cabinet paper on progress on the work programme of the Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence. Along with the Human Rights Commissioner and Women’s Refuge, I really welcome the report. I’m relieved that… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    22 hours ago
  • Government report on sexual & family violence a good first step
    Yesterday the Government released the cabinet paper on progress on the work programme of the Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence. Along with the Human Rights Commissioner and Women’s Refuge, I really welcome the report. I’m relieved that… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    22 hours ago
  • Prisoner voting disqualification and the Bill of Rights Act
    In 2010, National rammed the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill through Parliament. Paul Quinn’s Member’s Bill existed because Paul Quinn thought anyone who’d been imprisoned was a serious offender, and serious offenders had ‘forfeited’ their right to vote.… ...
    GreensBy David Clendon MP
    1 day ago
  • Mainfreight ‘appalled’ by Government’s rail madness
    The Government has been given a serve by New Zealand-based international trucking and logistics firm Mainfreight which says it lacks a national transport strategy, and has treated rail badly, Labour's Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford says. The company has told shareholders it… ...
    2 days ago
  • National’s Health and Safety Reform Bill: less safety and fewer rights at...
    The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions is embarking on a campaign to fight the changes that weaken the Health and Safety Reform bill. As part of the campaign the CTU has organised vigils with the display of 291 crosses… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    2 days ago
  • All options need to be put on meat sector table
    Farmers must be given every assurance that all potential risks have been considered before Silver Fern Farms opens its door to foreign equity, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “The ongoing saga involving the meat sector and amalgamation has… ...
    2 days ago
  • Flag the referendum if 50% or more don’t vote
    Labour has moved to have the second flag referendum canned if the first attracts fewer than half the eligible number of voters, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “John Key has already wasted more than $8 million on his vanity project… ...
    2 days ago
  • 90,000 cars reclassified in botched ACC ratings
    New figures obtained by Labour show the ACC Minister’s botched motor vehicle levy system has resulted in 90,000 vehicles having to be reclassified so far – at a cost of $6 million, Labour’s ACC spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “Nikki Kaye’s… ...
    2 days ago
  • Brutal health cuts confirmed, crucial services suffer
    Chronic under-funding by National has seen the health budget slashed by $1.7 billion in just five years, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. A report by Infometrics, commissioned by Labour, shows health funding has been cut in four of the… ...
    3 days ago
  • Meth ring under Serco’s nose
    The news that two Serco inmates have been arrested for helping to run a methamphetamine ring from prison should be the final straw and see their contract cancelled, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “National has stood by Serco despite… ...
    3 days ago
  • Ministers failing women and their own targets
    New figures showing just five Ministers have met the Government’s own reduced targets for appointing women to state sector boards is evidence National is failing Kiwi women, Labour’s Women’s Affairs spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “The Ministry for Women’s 2015 Gender… ...
    3 days ago
  • Charges up for some as funding up for grabs
    A proposal being considered by the Government would see some people having to pay more for health care and district health boards forced to fight amongst themselves to fund regional health services, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says “Information leaked… ...
    3 days ago
  • Stop experimenting on kids
    The trouble with the Charter school model is that it is a publicly funded experiment on children. The National Government has consistently put its desire to open charter schools ahead of the safety of the children in them, ignoring repeated… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    4 days ago
  • Bank puts the squeeze on mid Canterbury farmers
    News that an unnamed bank in Ashburton has put a receiver on notice over financially vulnerable farmers will send a chill through rural New Zealand, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The Government needs to work with  New Zealand’s banks… ...
    4 days ago
  • Key is trading away New Zealand land and homes
    John Key yesterday admitted what National dishonestly refused to confirm in Parliament last week – he is trading away New Zealand’s right to control who buys our homes and land, says Opposition leader Andrew Little. “The Prime Minister must now… ...
    4 days ago
  • Razor gang takes scalpel to health
    Plans by the Government to take a scalpel to democratically elected health boards are deceitful and underhand, coming just months after an election during which they were never signalled, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says “Leaked documents reveals a radical… ...
    4 days ago
  • Spin lines show a department in chaos
    Corrections Spin Doctors sending their place holder lines to journalists instead of responding to serious allegations shows the scale of chaos at the department over the Serco scandal, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “As more and more serious allegations… ...
    6 days ago
  • Court ruling shows law should never have been passed
    A High Court ruling that a law banning prisoners from voting is inconsistent with a properly functioning democracy should be a wake-up call for the Government, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. In an unprecedented ruling Justice Paul Heath has… ...
    7 days ago
  • Judicial Review Gamble Pays Off for Problem Gambling Foundation
    Congratulations are due to the Problem Gambling Foundation (PGFNZ) who have won their legal case around how the Ministry of Health decided to award their contracts for problem gambling services to another service provider. Congratulations are due not just for… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    7 days ago
  • Environmental Protection Agency appoints GE advocate as new CEO
    This week, the Environmental Protection Authority Amendment Bill passed its first reading in Parliament. The Bill puts protection of the environment into the core purpose of the Environmental Protection Authority. This month, Dr Allan Freeth, the former Chief Executive of… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    7 days ago
  • Charanpreet Dhaliwal death demands genuine health and safety reform
    The killing of a security guard on his first night on the job is exactly the kind of incident that National’s watered-down health and safety bill won’t prevent, says Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford. The coronial inquest into 22-year-old Charanpreet… ...
    7 days ago
  • Arbitrary sanctions hit children hardest
    Increasing numbers of single parents are being penalised under a regime that is overly focussed on sanctions rather than getting more people into work, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni says. “Figures, obtained through Parliamentary questions show 3000 more sanctions,… ...
    7 days ago
  • Hekia just won’t face the facts
    Hekia Parata’s decision to keep troubled Whangaruru Charter school open despite being presented with a catalogue of failure defies belief, goes against official advice and breaks a Government promise to close these schools if they were failing, says Labour’s Education… ...
    7 days ago
  • No more silent witnesses
    Yesterday I attended the launch of a new initiative developed by and for Asian, Middle eastern and African youth to support young people to name and get support if there is domestic violence at home. The impact on children of… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    1 week ago
  • Single Use Plastic Bags campaign – Some wins and some green-washing
    As we near the end of Plastic Free July I’m nearing the conclusion of my Say No To Plastic Bag tour when I will have completed all 30 of my public meetings. The campaign was designed to work with community… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Single Use Plastic Bags campaign – Some wins and some green-washing
    As we near the end of Plastic Free July I’m nearing the conclusion of my Say No To Plastic Bag tour when I will have completed all 30 of my public meetings. The campaign was designed to work with community… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Minister must take responsibility for problem gambling debacle
    The Government’s handling of the Problem Gambling Foundation’s axing in a cost-cutting exercise has been ham-fisted and harmful to some of the most vulnerable people in society, Associate Health Labour spokesperson David Clark says.“Today’s court ruling overturning the axing of… ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour will not support TPP if it undermines NZ sovereignty
    The Labour Party will not support the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement unless key protections for New Zealanders are met, Opposition leader Andrew Little says.“Labour supports free trade. However, we will not support a TPP agreement that undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty. ...
    1 week ago
  • Coleman can’t ignore latest warnings
    Resident doctors have advised that a severe staffing shortage at North Shore Hospital is putting patients’ lives at risk, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “They say a mismatch between staffing levels and patient workloads at North Shore has… ...
    1 week ago
  • ACC must remove barriers to appeals
    The Government must prioritise removing barriers to justice for ACC claimants following a damning report by Acclaim Otago, Labour’s ACC spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “ACC Minister Nikki Kaye must urgently scrap her flawed plan to remove claimant’s right to redress… ...
    1 week ago
  • Six months’ paid parental leave back on the agenda
    Six months’ paid parental leave is back on the agenda and a step closer to reality for Kiwi parents after Labour’s new Member’s Bill was pulled from today’s ballot, the Bill’s sponsor and Labour MP Sue Moroney says. “My Bill… ...
    1 week ago
  • Sole parents at risk of having no income
    New requirements for sole parents to undertake a reapplication process after a year is likely to mean a large number will face benefit cancellations, but not because they have obtained work, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni says. “Increasing numbers… ...
    1 week ago
  • Juking the Welfare Stats Again
    Last week the government’s major initiative to combat child poverty (a paltry $25 increase) was exposed for what it is, a lie. The Government, through the Budget this year, claims to be engaging in the child poverty debate, but instead,… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    1 week ago
  • OCR rate cut a result of flagging economy
    The Reserve Bank's decision to cut the Official Cash Rate to 3 per cent shows there is no encore for the so-called 'rock star' economy, says Labour's Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.   "Today's interest rate cut comes off the back… ...
    1 week ago
  • Reboot to an innovation economy, an Internet economy and a clean economy
    In my short 33 years on this planet we’ve seen phenomenal technological, economic and social change, and it’s realistic to expect the next 33 will see even more, even faster change. You can see it in the non-descript warehouse near… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    1 week ago
  • Bill that puts the environment into the EPA passes first hurdle
    A Bill that puts the environment squarely into legislation governing the Environmental Protection Authority passed its first reading today, says Meka Whaitiri.  “I introduced this member’s bill as the current law doesn’t actually make protecting the environment a goal of… ...
    1 week ago
  • Key’s KiwiSaver deception exposed
    KiwiSaver statistics released today expose John Key's claim that the cutting of the kickstart payment "will not make a blind bit of difference to the number of people who join KiwiSaver” to be duplicitous, says Labour Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.  “Official… ...
    1 week ago
  • Minimum Wage Amendment Bill to protect contractors
    All New Zealanders should be treated fairly at work. Currently, the law allows non-employment relationships to be used to get around the minimum wage. This is unfair, says Labour MP David Parker. “The Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill, a… ...
    1 week ago
  • Bill raises bar to protect Kiwi farmland
    The Government’s rubber-stamping of every one of the nearly 400 applications from overseas investors to buy New Zealand farm land over the last three years proves tougher laws are needed, Labour MP Phil Goff says. “In the last term of… ...
    1 week ago
  • Costly flag referendum should be dumped
    John Key must ditch the flag referendum before any more taxpayer money is wasted, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “Millions of dollars could be saved if the Prime Minister called a halt to this hugely expensive, and highly unpopular, vanity… ...
    1 week ago
  • Nats letting Serco off scot free
    Government members have prevented Parliament’s Law and Order select committee from getting answers out of a senior Serco director about the fight clubs being run at Mt Eden prisons, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “At today’s Law and Order… ...
    1 week ago
  • Charter school experiment turns into shambles
    The National Government’s charter school experiment has descended into chaos and it’s time for Hekia Parata to stop trying to cover up the full extent of the problems, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “The Education Minister must release all… ...
    1 week ago
  • Disconnect between rates and income must be fixed
    Local Government New Zealand’s 10 Point Plan is a chance to stop the widening chasm between the rates some households are charged and their ability to pay, Labour’s Local Government spokesperson Su’a William Sio says. “There is a huge disconnect… ...
    1 week ago
  • Parole and ‘surviving the first year’
    “Intensive psychological treatment and early release to parole is far more effective at reducing reoffending among high risk prisoners than serving out the full prison sentence.” That’s reportedly the finding of Surviving the First Year, a recently-released study into Corrections’… ...
    GreensBy David Clendon MP
    1 week ago
  • Parole and ‘surviving the first year’
    “Intensive psychological treatment and early release to parole is far more effective at reducing reoffending among high risk prisoners than serving out the full prison sentence.” That’s reportedly the finding of Surviving the First Year, a recently-released study into Corrections’… ...
    GreensBy David Clendon MP
    1 week ago
  • If it’s good enough for Lake Taupō…
    Nick Smith supports helping farmers transition away from dairying and agrees we must set nitrogen caps that limit the number of animals on farms. He says this strategy is “world leading”. However we need action and pressure from him, on to… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago

Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere