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

  • Where are Labour’s billboards?
    On Sunday, I drove from Gisborne to Katikati, through Opotiki, Te Puke and Tauranga. Yesterday afternoon/evening, I made the return journey. One thing I noticed is that National Party billboards popped up regularly, mixtures of individual candidates’ billboards (simply stating...
    Occasionally erudite | 30-07
  • “Improving”
    End-of-Year process positive for Novopay, Steven Joyce, 17 January 2014:Minister Responsible for Novopay Steven Joyce says a 100 per cent completion rate for schools involved in the End-of-Year process and an accompanying low error rate are tributes to the hard...
    No Right Turn | 30-07
  • Farmers don’t set out to pollute our rivers
    It can be easy to vilify farmers. But no farmer sets out to create pollution, and the evidence suggests that many farmers are either already acting responsibly or that they are lifting their game. In particular, dairy farmers are acting....
    Gareth’s World | 30-07
  • Guide to economic evaluation part 3: What is agglomeration?
    Debates over major transport investments often get caught up in arguments over benefit-cost ratios, or BCRs. In recent years, projects such as the Transmission Gully and Puhoi to Warkworth motorways and the City Rail Link have been criticised for their...
    Transport Blog | 30-07
  • Where to now for Colin and the Conservatives?
    It’s (almost*) official – there’s no deal for Colin Craig in East Coast Bays. Murray McCully will not be knifed, thrown under a bus or given concrete shoes to go swimming in. Given that Mr Craig had already accepted he...
    Occasionally erudite | 29-07
  • Real men say sorry
    There are a couple of universal truths that all men should be aware of. Firstly, it takes a bigger man to walk away. Of course men can be accused of being weak if they don't confront their problems with violence,...
    The Jackal | 29-07
  • Why my children took part in a playful protest against LEGO’s partner...
    Jessica Edberg is a mother of two. Her daughter, Lily, aged 7, took part in a playful protest yesterday against LEGO's partnership with Shell. 50 kids in total protested by building three giant LEGO Arctic animals outside of Shell's HQ...
    Greenpeace NZ blog | 29-07
  • Race to the Bottom or a Fairer Society?
    In a season when some small parties are indulging in competitive racism it is important to remind ourselves of the great gift of living in our country, a Pacific nation with a Treaty that affirms a peaceful negotiation. The Orewa...
    frogblog | 29-07
  • 3 reasons to vote this election
    Here are three Bills before Parliament that have not passed their third and final vote. The next Parliament will decide if these three Bills become law or not. If you want to have your...
    Tertiary Education Union | 29-07
  • Poll of Polls update – 30 July 2014
    So the latest One News Colmar Brunton poll came out on Sunday. I was up in Tauranga, preparing for a trial, which meant no blogging (plus, it’s remarkably difficult to update a Poll of Polls and then blog about it,...
    Occasionally erudite | 29-07
  • TSB Today: Broken English
    In my post at The Daily Blog today — Broken English, broken government, broken climate — I take a look Bill English’s unguarded comments on climate change. Apparently, it’s a non-issue. As you might expect, I am somewhat less than...
    Hot Topic | 29-07
  • The truth about women
    Marianne Elliott is a former employee of the Human Rights Commission here, and the author of Zen Under Fire, about her time working for human rights in Afghanistan. Here's the remarkable and must-read guest post she has put up about...
    The Hand Mirror | 29-07
  • When the mainstream media go feral: the descent into sheer farce, according...
    . . It had to happen, I guess… The media pack-campaign against Labour Leader David Cunliffe has managed to  plumb new depths of absurdity. On TV3, on 24 July,  TV3/Tova O’Brien ran this report on their 6PM News bulletin, about...
    Frankly Speaking | 29-07
  • When the mainstream media go feral: the descent into sheer farce, according...
    . . It had to happen, I guess… The media pack-campaign against Labour Leader David Cunliffe has managed to  plumb new depths of absurdity. On TV3, on 24 July,  TV3/Tova O’Brien ran this report on their 6PM News bulletin, about...
    Frankly Speaking | 29-07
  • $212 million in spending on roads with few benefits
    A couple of days ago I received a bunch of documents from an OIA request to the NZTA on the $212 million in regional road spending announced recently. I haven’t been able to look at them yet seeing as I’m away however...
    Transport Blog | 29-07
  • State Department cuts through the acid political environment on oceans and ...
    Secretary Kerry hosted a remarkable conference in June called simply Our Ocean. It enlisted international policy makers, scientists, and the private sector to take action to ensure a healthy ocean for the future. The conference laid out the science, impacts, and...
    Skeptical Science | 29-07
  • Vote Choice: Winston Peters – the Conservative
    Vote Choice: Winston Peters – the (well, a) Conservative This week’s featured politician is Winston Peters. According to Peters life begins at conception because…the royal baby (?!). We know this because, again, Bob McCroskie from Family First did the hard work for us...
    ALRANZ | 29-07
  • National Makes Jokes About Domestic Violence, and Now Unemployment
    How far we have fallen in NZ that our current Government spends much of it’s time in Parliament making jokes about domestic violence, and today – unemployment. Key and some of his dishonest thieving Ministers have in the past few...
    An average kiwi | 29-07
  • Guest post at the Standard: Walking through the wrong door is the least of ...
    I have a guest post over at the Standard right now – Walking through the wrong door is the least of Gerry’s problems. Jump over there and read it in full! What we need in Christchurch is more houses, now....
    Rebuilding Christchurch | 29-07
  • Minor Party pre-campaign pontifications
    A look at the tracking polls for small parties helps explain what’s been happening over the last few days (larger interactive version here); The Conservatives are only slightly higher than they were last election suggesting they’ll get 2.6% max. Probably...
    DimPost | 29-07
  • Minor Party pre-campaign pontifications
    A look at the tracking polls for small parties helps explain what’s been happening over the last few days (larger interactive version here); The Conservatives are only slightly higher than they were last election suggesting they’ll get 2.6% max. Probably...
    DimPost | 29-07
  • An abhorrent innovation
    The Rt. Hon. Humphrey Horswell, QSM gives his opinion on the recently-released National Party list...
    Imperator Fish | 29-07
  • Stuart’s 100: #2 Whitcoulls Queen Street
    Urban designer Stuart Houghton has set himself a personal project of coming up with 100 ideas for improving Auckland at the rate of one a day. He is Tweeting them here: @HoughtonSd  Discussing this project with Stuart he said that “I see the city is...
    Transport Blog | 29-07
  • The OIA and the Statutes Amendment Bill
    Back in February the government introduced a Statutes Amendment Bill to make numerous "technical, short, and non-controversial" amendments to legislation. The bill included several amendments to the OIA and LGOIMA which I thought fell into that category. The bill was...
    No Right Turn | 29-07
  • How We Solve The Income Inequality Problem
    click here for some very good ideas from the New Economics Foundation...
    Closing the Gap | 29-07
  • How to make farmers clean up their act
    Order them to stop milking until they've fixed their effluent problems:A Thames farming company has been hit with a $47,000 fine and ordered to stop milking until it fixed the overflowing effluent system at its Kopu farm. The order came...
    No Right Turn | 29-07
  • The Truth About What Keeps People In Poverty From Those Who Live It
    Click here to read this report from the Family 100 Research Project July 2014...
    Closing the Gap | 29-07
  • Eye Candy, Window Dressing and Deep Pockets.
    I came back from six weeks abroad to see the beginning of the Internet Party’s “party party” launches. It leaves me with some questions. It seems that what the Internet Party has done is this. Using Kim Dotcom’s wallet as...
    Kiwipolitico | 29-07
  • Wealth, Income and Inequality in Australia.
    worth a read click here...
    Closing the Gap | 29-07
  • World News Brief, Tuesday July 29
    Top of the AgendaLull in Gaza as Pressure for Cease-Fire Mounts...
    Pundit | 29-07
  • National’s roads are pure pork
    Last month the government announced it would be spending $212 million on regional roads. Every single one of the priority projects (and eight of nine lower priority projects) is in a National-held electorate, which suggested immediately that this was pre-election...
    No Right Turn | 29-07
  • Another fluoridation whopper from Declan Waugh
    Declan Waugh is a self-proclaimed “scientist and fluoride researcher” who seems to spend all his time misrepresenting and distorting  scientific literature and health data to promote his anti-fluoride cause. Waugh has an avid following, among fellow anti-fluoride activists and propagandists. The...
    Open Parachute | 29-07
  • Whyte supremacy
    Emphatically, he says, an ACT party led by Whyte would not go to war on Treaty issues. “I’ve got no interest in Maori-bashing as a political game.” Dr Jamie Whyte back in January when he assumed leadership of ACT.  The...
    DimPost | 29-07
  • Whyte supremacy
    Emphatically, he says, an ACT party led by Whyte would not go to war on Treaty issues. “I’ve got no interest in Maori-bashing as a political game.” Dr Jamie Whyte back in January when he assumed leadership of ACT.  The...
    DimPost | 29-07
  • New Fisk
    It's not just radicalised Islamists - what about foreign fighters who flock to the other side?...
    No Right Turn | 29-07
  • How we should deal with rorting MPs
    Prosecute them for theft:Former parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper tried three times to have criminal charges thrown out of court following claims he misused his travel entitlements during several trips to some of the Canberra region's most prestigious wineries. But three...
    No Right Turn | 29-07
  • July 14 AT Board Meeting
    The Auckland Transport Board is meeting today and as usual I’ve had a look through the papers to see if there is anything interesting. Below is the collection of items or comments that caught my eye. The rest of this...
    Transport Blog | 29-07
  • Powerful and Cold-hearted
    click here to read this compelling article ...
    Closing the Gap | 29-07
  • Wilkinson and Picket Lectures in New Zealand
    Click here to get these lectures. Folks who missed the Douglas Robb lectures last month can view them here l...
    Closing the Gap | 29-07
  • The Changing Priorities Of Protest
    The Changing Face Of Protest: In marked contrast to the theologically- and ideologically-driven protest movements of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, contemporary protest, like this demonstration against the latest Israeli assault on Gaza, tends to be led by those whose stake in...
    Bowalley Road | 29-07
  • Why Voters Aren’t Angrier About Economic Inequality
    This is the USA but there are strong parallels here in New zealand ...
    Closing the Gap | 28-07
  • Goodbye Nick Smith
    On the back of recently trying to silence DOC over their concerns about the impact of the Ruataniwha irrigation project on water quality in central Hawke's Bay, Nick Smith is once again bullying a statuary body with threats that clearly...
    The Jackal | 28-07
  • Minister for Conservation of What?