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150 years: tell us your NZ Herald Story

Written By: - Date published: 10:47 am, November 22nd, 2013 - 29 comments
Categories: accountability, david cunliffe, democracy under attack, john key, labour, national/act government, news, newspapers, slippery, spin - Tags: ,

NZ Herald: Past and Present

The NZ Herald is one NZ newspaper that has survived through changing times, and past editions take their place on Papers Past (a great historical resource available to all) , providing historical data and a variety of snapshots into the past.  To many of us, the NZ Herald then and now is at the forefront of NZ right wing conservatism.  However, in its journalistic and professional style, in the way its managers present it, and through some superficial elements, it misleadingly presents itself as “objective” and “fair”, and “balanced”.

NZ Herald 21st Century

Today it has just enough left wing or liberal columnists to beef up it’s credentials for balance. Too often these days, in both its on and offline versions, the positioning, order and structure of news items, along with the associated images, work to present a “balanced” story: while actually telling it from a right slanted position, even while presenting at least 2 sides to the story.  Sometimes the bias is in the headline, indicating an emotively right wing attitude, while the facts, often buried at the bottom of the article, say something else.

Many people don’t read much beyond the front page, the headlines, and/or the first paragraph or two of an article.  And thus mainstream attitudes are subtly influenced in just enough people.  Other times the anonymous editorials take a political position: sometimes to the left, more often to the “democracy under attack” (from the left/Labour) blatant right wing positioning.

Dr Wayne Hope on NZ Herald‘s Past

In response to the NZ Herald‘s 150 years celebration, Associate Professor Dr Wayne Hope has published an excellent post on The Daily Blog this week, reporting on his investigation into the history of the content of the paper: ‘150 years The New Zealand Herald didn’t want you to see‘.  He begins by outline the context for his post, and giving credit to some of the more liberal journalists currently writing for the newspaper.  On balance, Hope claims, the paper is the voice of the (conservative) establishment:

Evaluating a major newspaper is always difficult. High calibre journalists, columnists, reviewers and commentators operate beneath a powerful institutional voice. So it is with the New Zealand Herald. The likes of Simon Collins, Brian Rudman, Ann Gibson, Graham Reid, William Dart and Ann Gibson are terrific contributors to a masthead which symbolises the Auckland establishment alongside Remuera, Kings College, Smith and Caugheys, Bell Gully and the Northern Club.

Against this background the NZ Herald`s institutional voice centres around the editorial, the business pages, the senior political journalist and the wording of major headlines. This was the voice which announced its 150th birthday on November 13. That evening it was the Auckland establishment, old and new, which attended an exclusive cocktail party at the Auckland Art Gallery.

Not a paper boy in sight.

Hope reviews the Herald‘s position on some key events in NZ’s history, showing that the paper was always on the side of the (usually white, male, Pakeha/British/European, middle class) establishment.

Back in the days of the land wars, the NZ Herald promoted the British “civilising mission” and derided Maori activists fighting for their homelands.  NZ Herald editorial 30 Oct 1882 (cited by Wayne Hope):

`The natives are coming to understand that their prospects and even their existence must henceforward depend upon preparing themselves to share the progress of the European so as to be able in due course to take their place on the same boat`.

New Zealand Herald, Volume LIII, Issue 16199, 8 April 1916, Page 5: Papers Past

Rua, ‘NZ Maori outlaw’ arrested and handcuffed. New Zealand Herald, Volume LIII, Issue 16199, 8 April 1916, Page 5: Papers Past

During the campaign for women’s suffrage, the NZ Herald was there opposing every forward step.  Hope reports:

From 1870 the opposition Star newspaper actively campaigned for womens suffrage and hired women as typesetters, traditionally a male occupation. As Max Hastings points out in `Extra extra` (2013), the NZ Herald was resolutely opposed to womens rights on principle. They were born to be wives and mothers in partriarchal households. Eventually, of course, the NZ Herald came round to the womens suffrage idea, after a decent interval of time.

NZ Herald Volume XLIII, Issue 13352, 5 December 1906, Page 9

‘Arrest of women suffragists’. NZ Herald Volume XLIII, Issue 13352, 5 December 1906, Page 9: Papers Past

During the rise of the NZ Labour Party and Michael Savage’s great reforms, the NZ Herald was there, expressing strong disapproval. This, as told by Dr Hope:

In 1935 the incumbent Liberal-reform coalition government was supported by large run holders, banks and merchant financiers. Essentially, their priorities were those of British capital. The main centre daily press supported the old guard and railed against the Savage led Labour Party. The NZ Herald was chief among them. Before the election proprietor Sir Henry Horton donated 500 pounds to the government’s election expenses. Savage, the Labour Party, unions and the working class were constantly assailed by Gordon Minhinnick , the Herald`s resident cartoonist. The most spiteful anti-Savage cartoon, in July 1938, was entitled `The Spirit of His Ancestors`. The then Prime Minister is pictured on a comfortable chair next to a table handling a bottle with the label STATE CONTROL . Behind him are the unmistakeable figures of Stalin,Hitler and Mussolini. The cartoon can be found in Barry Gustafson`s biography of Michael Joseph Savage, `From the cradle to the grave`, opposite page 201 (1986).

The NZ Herald This Week

This week we see some of the little slants put on current political stories by the Herald.  We have seen Audrey Young, shilling for Nick Smith at the time of his latest attacks on affordable state housing (removing right of tenure from state house residents).  While too many low income people are in need of such affordable housing, young highlights one case of someone still in  a state house, on a high income. bad12 makes some excellent points on this issue.

NickSmith forked tongue

Today on the front page of the Herald online we see two stories in which the headlines slant to the right.  These are political stories, so they are well down the page.  These days the Herald follows the tabloid style of “neoliberal”, bread-and-circuses, ratings-driven, infotainment diversions from the most pressing issues.

Today we have the NZ Herald, along with a lot of National government/John Key cheerleaders and PR spinners in the MSM, building up Colin Craig’s so far minimal public following: this in order to help create a viable coalition partner to the National Party in next year’s election.

NZ Herald talking up Colin Craig

Yes, a whole anonymous editorial shamelessly providing positive PR for Craig in an article entitled: ‘Stars aligning for Craig and his untainted brand‘ . The MSM have consistently focused on this story, down-playing Paula Bennett’s faux “westie” allegiance, and the implications for Labour and the Greens of the changes to electoral boundaries.

Paula Bennett proud to be a westie

Another Herald story today on MP’s pay rises (something not likely to be very popular with the public) the front page image is of David Cunliffe.

NZ Herald MPs get payrise Cunliffe

The article also has the same image of Cunliffe at the top, highlighting the change in his salary.  The article mixes total sums with amounts of rises, making it difficult to compare like with like.  Cunliffe’s rise is actually $5,800 per year – much less than Key’s rise of $9500 per year.  The article focus’s on john key’s request for restraint on MP’s pay, but does not point out this, as was reported in the Dominion Post today:

Last month Key said he preferred no increase. “If it was my vote, it would be no pay increases, but I don’t get that vote.”

However, last night his office released his submission on the process, which showed he lobbied for pay increases at around the rate of inflation, making no mention of his preference for no increase.

Tell us your NZ Herald stories

Under this post, discuss these or other NZ Herald stories, current or historical, as a way of commemorating the contribution this paper has made to NZ politics.



29 comments on “150 years: tell us your NZ Herald Story”

  1. TheContrarian 1

    Once I read The Herald and then had an awesome day.

    • karol 1.1

      And that’s all you have to say? Usually an when I read NZ Herald article it stimulates the desire to say something: eg. about how it slants a story, and what it doesn’t say (as I’ve indicated in my post).

      Like the state housing story, or the Colin Craig editorial…etc, etc.

  2. Tiger Mountain 2

    150th NZ Herald anniversary seems almost elevated to some vague Kiwiana status we should be pleased about, whereas the papers track record indicates otherwise. “The most freedom of the press belongs to those that own one” as a saying goes.

    The ‘dirty filthy Herald’ with the anonymous editorials has usually been viewed with suspicion by many unionists/activists with numbers present at actions consistently stated by ‘Granny’ as a low count compared to organisers/independent estimates, as recently as the 50,000 strong No Mining march in Queen St. The worst possible file photos were chosen of people from Norm Kirk to Helen Clark and Jim Knox.

    Pre internet The Herald was only bought by many of my colleagues to see what “the other team”–employers and US imperialism–was up to. It remains a ruling class organ albeit in changed format in a changed world. Production standards are better even if subbing is outsourced etc etc, the journalists generally should hang their heads, cartoonists the small saving grace of the paper imo.

    • karol 2.1

      Agree, TM.

      There are one or two columnists that do a consistently good job, focusing on issues like the struggles of those in poverty e.g. Simon Collins.

      But even Bryce Edwards seems to be succumbing to the Herald’s dominant brief – eg focusing a lot on Colin Craig.

      These days the Herald also uses the infotainment front to seduce those not paying close attention into neolib values – plus also giving it a semblance of liberalism.

  3. Arfamo 3

    I’ve only ever read The Herald online. I’ve learned to regard it with considerable derision as a right wing-biased and generally dodgy source of information and propaganda.

  4. blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 4

    What is with the ‘editorials’ that have no stated author?

    I had the misfortune to read one recently. It gets an ‘air of authority’ by being in print, however the writer can’t even ‘own’ the work.

    The one I read contained horrible spin* about the then Labour leadership challenge. [*spin: presented as ‘objective’ yet infiltrated with unsubstantiated memes]

    This seems to be a new thing – that of writing up something and not stating the author. I believe that if the author is too ashamed to ‘sign’ it, then it is not worthy to print.

    • lprent 4.1

      Nope it is as traditional as the use of pseudonyms like “Staff Reporter” or the use of column pseudonyms. Personally I’ve always enjoyed Ben Franklin’s selection Names like.. Silence Dogood, Harry Meanwell, Alice Addertongue, Richard Saunders, Timothy Turnstone, Busy Body, Anthony Afterwit, Poor Richard, and Benevolus.

      Then, as now, the conservative bullywots in society tended to concentrate on trying to punish the person rather than the ideas and have an obsession about “politeness” rather than doing any actual thinking.

      The newspaper editorial is essentially an outgrowth of that 18th century tradition where opinion was typically written anonymously or under pseudonym. It was only in the early part of the 20th century that “journalists” became more concerned with their own egos than actually reporting current affairs – so they started putting their names in. The more cynical amongst us dare to suggest that it was largely to do with so many journalists wanting to jump to TV and other personality dominated media. The continually trivialisation of news (aka jonolism) has continued since then.

      Effectively this was all funded from advertising… But we know what happened to that… Look at newspaper advertising revenue in the US

      Much the same is now happening to TV and even radio.

      • blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 4.1.1

        lolz that is an entirely different ‘take’ on the phenomenon than I had in mind, thanks lprent!

        There is a difference, however, from having a ‘pseudonym’ than being entirely anonymous, (as you have so astutely pointed out in the past). As it stands, I didn’t even know they used to use pseudonyms, so that is really new information for me, thanks!

      • Naturesong 4.1.2

        Hi Lprent, can commenters display images via html tags?
        Or is that reserved for folk with special privileges?

        I’ve tried using the “img src” tag without success.

        • Draco T Bastard

          It’s reserved. Too many images in a blog column can really screw up the flow of the conversation.

  5. wtl 5

    Not to do with politics, but a sandwich board advertising the Herald the other day had a picture of a crocodile attacking an elephant and the headline “Elephant vs crocodile: What happens next?” .

    Enough said.

  6. tc 6

    From important source of news to fish wrap and fire starters in the printed form and just another MSM neo-lib spin outlet online.

    As relevant as any senile old relative, loved for what they were not what they are today. Hasn’t everyone got a garth george/John Armstrong in the family

  7. Saarbo 7

    Great post Karol. No doubt that The Herald has far too much sway over the general public with its conservative/right wing bent, it would be interesting to know how many of National’s 46%ish support is because of the NZ Herald. I suspect with Labour pushing Capital Gains Tax, we are going to see more anti Labour stories like we have never seen before. Capital Gains accounts for a huge amount of NZ “conservatives” wealth, they wont let it be introduced without a fight.

  8. The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 8

    From your perspective, karol, everyone is right wing.

    • karol 8.1

      Ah, yes: usual unsubstantiated rightie online denial.

      Can you support your argument with reference to evidence presented by Wayne Hope and in my post?

      • tinfoilhat 8.1.1

        I’ve found Herald articles to be right wing apart from those which are left wing.

        • karol

          As I and Wayne Hope have said, there are both right and left wing articles on the Herald. It’s all about the dominant voices, positioning within the Herald and other factors.

          So you really haven’t said anything useful.

  9. Rogue Trooper 9

    Takes about 30 minutes to read information of benefit (entire articles) online.
    However, I appreciate some of it’s content, and attempts at ‘balancing’ the fertilizer.
    I find this chap Bryan Gould worth reading.

    btw, has mickeysavage reformed 🙂

  10. Paul 10

    The Herald is a sad rag.

  11. Ake ake ake 11

    Appreciate your piece, karol.

    The use of Cunliffe’s photo to go with MPs pay rises is just plain mischievous.

    I had and still have high hopes of the Cunliffe Labour leadership.

    But, and I say, BUT what exactly did Cunliffe say when the matter of MPs’ impending pay rise came up in the news? Sure, that was about the time soon after he became leader of the party but what message did he put out that was reported on that was new, different and thoughtful? I must admit I was a bit disappointed by his response.

    You can google for yourselves but you can look it up here:



    Gordon Campbell puts it strongly here (would have been nice to have heard something sharp from Cunliffe at the time):


    • karol 11.1

      You make some good points, ake ake ake.

      Cunliffe did leave a bit of a vacuum. Mind you, if he said something, it needed to be more than just a token, “not what we want”.

      Gordon Campbell, excellent as ever. How Key wrote to the Remuneration Authority, when it’s meant to be independent and not subject to political influence.

      NZ MPs’ pay compared with that of reps in the US – shocking. Obama gets only slightly more than Key; NZ Cabinet ministers get more than the equivalent roles in the US, etc.

  12. Huginn 12

    The Herald’s also interesting for what it doesn’t think we need to know.

    In the run up to one of the local body elections during the 1990’s I remember reading the Dominion’s report of what was going on in the Auckland courts to find out about a prominent right wing local body politician’s financial incompetence.

  13. Lindsey J Rea 13

    I remember when Garth George published a letter to the Editor from some right wing nut job which called for actual physical violence to be done to a Labour MP. He then abused people like myself who rang up to complain saying that it was us who had a problem. Eventually -after a flood of complaints, The Herald apologised and GG was put out to pasture.

  14. Malcolm 14

    With the centennial of World War I coming up it’s probably appropriate to remember this guy who was editor from 1913 to 1917. He established the National League of New Zealand in 1906 advocating universal compulsory military training which was enacted in the 1909 Defence Act.


    After the Act was passed –

    “Lane continued to write in favour of compulsory military training and warn of the imminent danger of Asia, as well as urging the formation of a local navy. As an advocate of eugenics, he opposed breeding by the ‘unfit’. He attacked the New Zealand Federation of Labour, describing its members as ‘designing agitators, largely foreign and wholly incapable’. In October 1913 he became editor of the New Zealand Herald.”

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