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The NBR and Editorial Independence

Written By: - Date published: 8:24 am, October 18th, 2013 - 21 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, Media - Tags: , , ,

Jock Anderson NBR

The first causalty of the Len Brown fiasco has occurred and he is a totally unexepected victim.  Senior Reporter at the NBR Jock Anderson has been fired.

The background is that he wrote and posted a pro Len Brown editorial, it was removed from the website shortly after it went live, and he was then a few hours later sacked essentially for not following the NBR code.  National Business Review publisher Todd Scott has said that “[w]e do not comment on internal employment issues but I can confirm Mr Jock Anderson was dismissed yesterday for failing to comply with specific instructions to treat coverage of the Len Brown affair in an impartial and unbiased manner.”

The editorial was still on the website but hidden until yesterday morning.  It may be coincidental but after I mentioned this the editorial page was deleted and there is now a 404 error where once there was an unpublished page.

Keeping Stock has posted a screenshot of the editorial and commented that he can’t see too much wrong with it and I agree.  Anderson said that Brown’s initial TV response was humble, measured, and as far as the circumstances would allow dignified.  He commented that Brown had a lot of unfinished business to guide through in the interests of Auckland and described super city as a “hospital pass”.  He asked for all political hues of Auckland Council to leave his pecadillo off the table and work to achieve what needs to be done to ensure the business of being Auckland pays dividends.

This is hardly revolutionary stuff.  And Anderson is hardly a strident lefty.

It is not as if NBR editorials could always be considered impartial and unbiased.  It has always maintained a pro business free market stance which is of itself a deeply political matter.  But it has traditionally operated in the free speech libertarian spectrum rather than the ban free speech you do not like tea party spectrum of the right.

It appears that the matter may be off to the employment court and I am sure that Matthew Hooton and others from the NBR will not want to debate the issue publicly.  But what I would like to know is what was the instruction and how did Anderson’s editorial breach this?  And if it did is such a managerial restriction on editorial independence appropriate or fair?

21 comments on “The NBR and Editorial Independence”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    “[w]e do not comment on internal employment issues but I’m going to comment on an internal employment issue anyway”

    Weird?

  2. Te Reo Putake 2

    I cribbed (and edited) this comment from a discussion on another forum. The writer is a lawyer with experience in the media.

    ‘For what it’s worth, if Anderson did breach a clear instruction as alleged (and an employer would be entitled to give such an instruction over an editorial, which normally purports to be the opinion of the paper, unlike a signed column) then he may have a problem. More facts needed.

    My approach would be:

    Was there an instruction? Was it clear and specific? What would a reasonable person have understood from the instruction?

    Was a clear instruction breached? If it was, was the culpability such that dismissal could be fair and reasonable in the circumstances?

    In relation to which, it is arguable that if an editor delegates the writing of an editorial to a subordinate then the editor has a duty to cast an eye over it before publication.’

    So that raises some issues. I’d add that the question of whether the editorial was ‘pro – Brown’ will come into it. Anderson could conceivably argue that he actually did take a neutral line by saying Brown should carry on regardless. ie is business as usual a neutral position?

  3. Sanctuary 3

    Everyone at the NBR believes in editorial independence, as long as it is an independence that suits them.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 3.1

      Dont get to tied up in the semantics- they didnt like what he wrote. fullstop.

      Kerry Packer, in his day, with print only, would pulp the material and fire the editor.

  4. greywarbler 4

    When I read earlier that this journalist had been sacked I thought that it was a piece of satire. Fancy that he was sacked for writing a piece of good journalism. And I stress the importance again of making clear it’s nature when writing satirical pieces, even in a line at the bottom – satire by J S.
    In these uneasy times we need to know whether we are reading facts, or a wry screwing of them, which can result in a clearer understanding from this different viewpoint.

  5. Tracey 5

    Have they written anything not impartial, other than Jock’s piece?

  6. Not a PS Staffer 6

    Jock Anderson wrote nasty shit most of the time.
    A few weeks ago he wrote a potentially libellous story on David Cunliffe.

    I suspect
    a) Todd Scott had already sensibly marked Anderson’s cards because of the risk he represented and
    b) Barry Colman, still a stakeholder of influence, was pissed that his old organ had not followed the Slater strategy.

    • mickysavage 6.1

      I agree with your categorisation of the Anderson article on Cunliffe. That is why I said that Anderson was hardly a strident lefty.

  7. Colonial Viper 7

    My bet is that what the NBR considered a “neutral” position is one lambasting Brown’s unprofessionalism and a line of “time will tell whether Len’s mayoralty survives revelations of his grevious personal misjudgment.”

    Seen in that light, Anderson’s piece is waaaay pro-Brown.

  8. Unicus 8

    Rigid editorial control by monopoly corporate ownership has long since demolished any notion that New Zealand’s print media is in any sense “free”

    Occasionally the whip hand of owner interest is exposed – how ironic that its happened at the mouth- piece of business to one of the scions of neo- liberal propaganda

  9. Ennui 9

    You really are taking the Mickey are you not MJ!

    We all understand the funding off, the readership and the political affiliations of the NBR. We don’t expect “independent” thought from them….so why expect impartiality and editorial independence? You don’t get it on Granny or the Dom…if Whale were allowed to write an editorial here I am sure the “proprietors” of TheStandard might exhibit some control over his editorial????

  10. captain hook 10

    the NBR has always been a repository for venal dweebs who think if they hang around then they will get the tips to make some fast money.
    In the end though its still just another right wing rag doing its best to beat down the real producers of wealth in this country.

  11. Sable 11

    No surprises there. The NBR like the Herald and the DomPost are Tory bird cage liners. Either tow the pro neo lib, pro right, pro capitalist stance these papers expect or watch out.

    Still nice to see a journalist with a little integrity. Maybe he could start a Guardian like newspaper here in NZ? Would be a welcome relief from the biased crap that passes as reporting from most of the mainstream media.

  12. The mere thought of you and I agreeing on something shows what a strange week this has been Micky :D

  13. lurgee 13

    Anderson is employed by the NBR to be stupid. I suppose he failed to be stupid, and they can’t be having that.

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