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Herald editing letters to make them pro-Nat

Written By: - Date published: 10:57 am, January 10th, 2011 - 35 comments
Categories: election 2011, newspapers - Tags:

I just had an edited letter published in the Herald. They printed this:

I see that if National is not reelected to power then John Key may resign from Parliament.

He should give serious consideration to becoming a list only MP. This way if National is not returned a costly by election will be avoided.

He should consider this in any event. I suspect that the inhabitants of Hellensville rarely see him personally. And the job of being Prime Minister is that important that he should be focused on national rather than electorate issues.

Sounds like a bit of supportive advice doesn’t it.

They cut out the last paragraph which said this:

If freed of his electorate duties he could then focus on the many vital issues facing our country, the looming economic recession, the need to create jobs and the oncoming rush of peak oil. His one and only trumpeted policy, the creation of a national cycleway, will have a beneficial effect on each of these problems but only an exceedingly small one.

I was well within the 200 word limit. Why did they do this?

Guest post ends

– – – – – – – – – –

Shades of Stuff editing the questions to Key during his online interview last year to make them softer.

It goes beyond reporting the news and providing a forum for public opinion to trying to shape political opinion towards their favoured party.

In 2008, the Herald campaigned for National incessantly (losing 46,000 readers in the process). Now, they’re stooping as low as editing letters and anti-Labour smears. It’s clear the editorial position is to campaign for National again in 2011.

Eddie

35 comments on “Herald editing letters to make them pro-Nat ”

  1. logie97 1

    my experience with getting letters published is to remove anything that has an element of emotive language or sarcasm – they probably didn’t like the word “trumpeted”. And whilst they stipulate a maximum of 200 words, they prefer under 100.

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      No emotive language? No sarcasm? Yeah, if Shakespeare wrote in I suppose they’d censor him without blinking. Not that Shakespeare had anything relevant to write about politics 🙄

  2. Akldnut 2

    In 2008, the Herald campaigned for National incessantly (losing 46,000 readers in the process).

    That would be why they offered 12 months free hearald delivery to households of High schools students last year – my daughters teacher at told me that I had to sign the acceptance form or she would fail because she would be tested on political articles in the Herald. Needless to say I told her that neither was going to happen!

    They were going to take a hit in order to build up readership and sell their meme to the next generation of voters. (my theory)

    • lprent 2.1

      They’re all on the web.

    • Lanthanide 2.2

      If the school was going to test your child on political articles from the Herald (what does that even mean, in practice?) surely they should distribute the articles in class for that purpose.

      • Vicky32 2.2.1

        Exactly! That reminds me of a primary teacher insisting that I get a TV set when my son was young, because she wanted to build lessons around TV shows! How lazy of her…
        Happen she thought I was mad not to let my son stay up and watch whatever she dictated that her class watch!
        Deb

        • logie97 2.2.1.1

          @Vicky32
          Just might have been an innovative primary teacher trying to develop critical thinking…

          • Vicky32 2.2.1.1.1

            Possible, but she was being a tad unrealistic… I tried to keep the child away from TV until he was old enough to be more discerning, as my parents had done with us.. Sadly, I had other evidence that she wasn’t very bright..
            Deb

        • Lanthanide 2.2.1.2

          None of my teachers ever proscribed resources outside of the classroom that weren’t also made available in the classroom – I’m discounting the occasional social studies tasks that were more like “read 3 newspaper articles about subject x” but there would only have been a handful of them.

    • “My daughters teacher at told me that I had to sign the acceptance form or she would fail because she would be tested on political articles in the Herald. Needless to say I told her that neither was going to happen!”

      I hope the teacher included articles from Pravda to ensure it was reasonably balanced.

  3. Nick K 3

    This is almost as bad as the former editor-in-chief of the Aucklander undertaking a Labour-led campaign against the Super City reforms and at the same time supporting Len Brown for Mayor. That former editor is now the editor of the Sunday Star Times which now produces and publishes ridiculous polls from shoddy polling companies to show Winston Peters on almost 9%!

  4. Bazar 4

    “I was well within the 200 word limit. Why did they do this?”

    If i had to guess, i’d say its because it reads consideribly better without the missing paragraph. The missing paragraph is of little value, and of a high level of complexity to read (making it a lot more effort then just casual reading).

    You can make it sound like its naferious work in action, but to me, the reality is its been edited for the viewer, in much the same ways movies get edited. Sure some content of value has been lost, but the main point of the letter is sharper and clearer as a result.

    As for the herald loosing numbers due to “the Herald campaigned for National incessantly”. I really have to laugh. they lost about 9% of their subscribers. Well considering that most newspapers lost between 12-3% of subscribers that year, thats only slightly worse then average.
    If indeed it was the year after a free subscription deal, thats actually to be expected.

    • Ari 4.1

      1) Newspaper consumers are readers, not viewers.

      2) We don’t need to dumb down politics for voters, and these were incredibly simple shout-outs to failures of the current National government.

      • Bazar 4.1.1

        1) Viewer or reader, its a semantic point. But i’ll add i’m NZ Herald consumer and i only view it online.

        2) YOU don’t want it dumbed down, or to be more specific, i suspect you want as much flack on the goverment to be published as possible.
        Eitherway, you don’t speak for everyone on this matter. Reading the change made, i can safely say i appreciate the edit, as do others.

        Another point of interest.
        Run what you please through this tool: http://www.addedbytes.com/code/readability-score/
        It goes to show that its readibility is signifinatly improved by the edit. Incase people can’t tell the differance in complexity.
        Keep in mind, they are not there to publish everything verbatim, only whats interesting, accurate, and relevant.

        Final point.
        Some things are just made better by simplifying, otherwise every discussion on the wikileak cables would first require a full publishing of the cable contents… Which if you’ve ever read, are increadibly drull to read except for a few interesting points.

        • prism 4.1.1.1

          The Herald and other big city newspapers allow only a limited space for letters for a large population. So they might require a more concise statement. The end paragraph is likely to be first to go so if you want to make a point, put it at the beginning. Argue it, round it out, and summarise, and then maybe add another point making an amusing or clever finish which they can include or not depending on space available and the calibre of other letters.

        • Colonial Viper 4.1.1.2

          i suspect you want as much flack on the goverment to be published as possible.

          We do not need political flak being fired first one way and then the next. We do not need simplistic point scoring and name calling.

          Would it hurt for the NZ Herald to facilitate some actual informed debate on issues. A cogent and thoughtful analysis of strengths and weaknesses of various policies would be a good start. Also an acknowledgement that both *ideology* and *values* play a central part in politics, and maybe the Herald could go so far as examine that.

          Or does the Herald think that meaningful journalism consists of “he said, she said, then he said”.

          Some things are just made better by simplifying

          You are correct – AS LONG as you follow the rule:

          “Things should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

          IMO taking meaning and intention out of a piece of writing breaks that rule in half.

          That website you gave rates the readability of something written. Now where is the one which rates relevance.

    • Lanthanide 4.2

      I agree. The final paragraph really is sort of a tack-on that can be removed easily without affecting the apparent message of the letter – John Key should become a list MP to avoid a costly by-election and because it’s not fair to his constituents him also being prime minister as he has little time for them.

      The last paragraph is really a jibe at a do-nothing PM and separate in content to the rest of the letter. You’d’ve been better off re-writing it to include those sentiments in the main message; although in that case it probably wouldn’t have been published at all.

      • Ari 4.2.1

        If you’re in the business of publishing letters, you shouldn’t be in the business of editing them for content, ever, that’s completely misrepresenting your readers.

        • logie97 4.2.1.1

          Actually Ari I think they reserve the right to edit letters full stop. Incidentally, one sure way of getting your letter noticed is to refer directly to a subject they have printed – that way you get to the top of the pile but it is still not a guarantee of publication.

          The Herald has its favourite letter writers. In the 90’s, there used to be a former teacher with an Epsom address who regularly got into print on issues of education.

          Given that the Herald is on the net, there is little need to buy it these days (unless you want to see if they have published a letter you have written).

        • The Baron 4.2.1.2

          So when you start your own paper, feel free to publish them the way you receive them.

          But to get your knickers all in a twist about chopping off a non-sensical paragraph and then claiming its all part of a vast conspiracy to deny Labour their right to govern is a bit over the top, which I think is the point that everyone is trying to make here.

          Still jumping at shadows rather than coming up with decent, electable policy huh Eddie. Fail.

          • lprent 4.2.1.2.1

            Still jumping at shadows rather than coming up with decent, electable policy huh Eddie. Fail.

            Baron… Are you trying to be a complete dork? You should know better.

            The authors here don’t come up with “decent, electable policy” because we’re not a political party trying to get votes. We don’t have any policies that aren’t already in the broad guidelines in the policy. Who we are is described in the about.

            One of the policies that I take a great deal of pleasure in enforcing is dealing with the trolling conspiracy fuckwits who try to build this site into anything more than it is. It looks like you have just joined them? Perhaps you’d like some time away from commenting to reflect on why that is not a good idea?

          • Blighty 4.2.1.2.2

            “So when you start your own paper, feel free to publish them the way you receive them”

            the old ‘don’t criticise unless you do it yourself angle? jesus that’s desperate.

            I take it you never criticise any politician’s actions because you’re not a politician.

          • Colonial Viper 4.2.1.2.3

            Actually The Baron is quite correct, the Left needs to own its own large scale mainstream media channel.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 4.3

      “thats only slightly worse than average” . Really , the Herald has more resources to pump up numbers than most others.
      The paid circulation is an elastic concept. Theres a a lot a fibs allowed. The city is flooded with freebies, sometimes they turn up in the letterbox- that must cost to deliver a giveway but as long as someone paid something for it counts for ABC purposes
      Its a bit like sausages, the casing is the most expensive part

  5. Jum 5

    Media must be held half responsible for the ensuing sell-off and betrayal of Kiwis this stateless, disloyal government has allowed to happen.

    Mainstream media are undemocratic and plainly are printing lies; that is what editing to achieve the opposite effect is – lying.

    Remember this from the so-called popular ruling party?

    Both Key then English, with help from then PR spinner Joyce, used this editing to change the meaning of a Helen Clark speech in 2000, ten years ago after coming into office, from a decade of slashing and burning by NAct.

    FROM: “Next time you hear a Tory talk about personal income tax cuts: ask the question, how can our nation go ahead without the public resources to make huge investments in our future potential?
    Tax cuts are a path to inequality and underdevelopment IN TODAY’S CIRCUMSTANCES. They are the promises of vision-less and intellectually bankrupt people.”

    TO: “Next time you hear a Tory talk about personal income tax cuts: ask the question, how can our nation go ahead without the public resources to make huge investments in our future potential?
    Tax cuts are a path to inequality and underdevelopment. They are the promises of (A) vision-less and intellectually bankrupt people.”

    They removed the time constraint and added in a small ‘a’ to infer Clark was calling New Zealanders vision-less and intellectually bankrupt.

    Key said it first and English said it again a few days before the 2008 election day. This duplicitous pair are a danger to our great country; they intend to betray us to neo-conservative agendas and greed both their personal greed and the greed of their backers here and abroad.

    Key and English are liars. They will betray Kiwis.

    • Drakula 5.1

      Well said Jum; the above letter completely reversed the context in which the author intended it; I think that it’s absolutely scandalous and the Herald should be made to apologise.

  6. Adrian 6

    A few months ago I heard a story going about a Wellington tertiary school about how a senior NZ Herald person admitted that they gave John Key free coverage in the last weeks of the election. ( I think I heard it as “advertising”, but can’t be sure). I have since found out that the persons name may have been Austin or Austen. Does this name ring a bell with anyone?

  7. jcuknz 7

    There is a line of thought that says only one topic should be covered in a LTTE and in this case there is a clear difference between the suggestion about JKs position in parliament and the final para.
    I don’t doubt that there could be political bias but it can be justified on the ‘no two topic’ rule.
    I have had it happen to me when I wrote LsTTE, frustrating, irritating, but there is nothing one can do about it, the editor’s word is final. Most writers burble on and space is limited so such editing is justified on that basis too.

  8. J Mex 8

    Agreed.

    The last paragraph is clunky and would have been edited out because it takeS a succinct idea and muddies it up. The ‘gist’ is clearer in it’s shortened form.

    As also mentioned “the no two topic” rule

    I just wish the Herald editors would apply these two concepts to their opinion writers…

    • Jum 8.1

      I just wish the media would remember that once upon a time you had an editorial to state a personal opinion and then reported fact or made it clear it was a person’s personal opinion in an interview in the rest of the paper.

      Now it is all faction, which is another word for misleading, or lying to, the readers.

      Journalists have sold themselves to the media owners by not being objective or investigative with the information given them.

  9. Jum 9

    captcha: creation

    speaks for itself!

    They say truth is stranger than fiction. Media would be much more entertaining, informative and ethical if they remembered that.

  10. Glee McPerkins 10

    Newspapers always edits letters, there is nothing sinster about it.

  11. Jum 11

    What is bad is that replies to a letter are not printed because they are too long, too complicated, etc. and the general reader then has no idea that anyone disagrees with the original letter writer. Has happened.

    Not printing those letters or at least printing an acknowledgement of the fors and against (as one newspaper does or did) means that those with the government policy jobs are misled about Kiwi opinion.

    Now there is a blogsite for the Herald for more replies e.g. but that’s controlled too. Who controls it? The National government as it did in 1951 with the Waterfront Lockout media blackout of non-government points of view?

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