Herald cans fact-checking, opts for dogwhistles

Written By: - Date published: 11:35 am, March 17th, 2010 - 57 comments
Categories: articles - Tags: , , , , , ,

The New Zealand Herald has never been shy of attacking blogs for their lack of journalistic standards and editorial rigour, but given some of the paper’s recent work you’ve got to wonder who they think they’re kidding.

Take today’s piece by Dita De Boni pontificating about Charles Chauvel and those screaming kids on his plane.

The piece is simply woeful. De Boni can’t even get the identity of the main protaganist right, referring to the blogger in question as “Clint Heine”. Just amateurish. Clint is the owner of the blog, the guy who made the attacks on Chauvel is Wellington orthopaedic surgeon and ACT Party activist Fred Phillips*.

It gets worse. De Boni’s intro to the piece declares: “Sometimes child-free adults need to have some sympathy for parents of noisy and fractious children on planes”, obviously making the assumption that because Chauvel is gay he doesn’t understand what it’s like to have kids.

It’s no wonder she got this impression from the news coverage. Fred Phillips and his wife Stephanie have been pushing the homophobic dogwhistle for all it’s worth, telling TVNZ “the pre-schoolers were well-behaved and Charles Chauvel just is not used to kids.”

But of course, Charles does have a kid. As Zet put it last night:

Gotta love that ACT woman saying Chauvel wouldn’t know what it’s like to have a young family. A variation of the line the Right used to use on Clark. In fact, Chauvel has a four year old son. I know! A gay with a kid! Carter and Hague have children too. What a world!

De Boni, like many journalists, simply hasn’t done her research. She’s picked up on yet another a right-wing smear campaign aimed at targeting a gay Labour MP for his sexuality and has repeated the story with framing intact. No fact-checking, no critical analysis. In fact, not once does she mention that an ACT Party activist might have a political interest in embellishing the story or even lying to make Chauvel look bad.

The fault isn’t entirely hers though. She’s sloppy, but she’s hardly the first columnist to be guilty of that. The real fault lies with the Herald’s failure to fact check her or require some basic research and critical analysis from its writers. It’s a basic failure of editorial standards.

As I said yesterday, this is what happens when the right’s smear machine meets an increasingly tabloid news media. There’s more of this dirty personal smearing to come, and I’d suggest Labour gets a strategy in place soon to counter it. Using Charles’ excellent front-footing of this issue as a case study would be a good place to start.

[The Standard was informed of Fred Phillips’ identity yesterday afternoon but chose not to publish it in the interests of his privacy. Now that the name has been published in the Dominion Post it is in the public realm.]

57 comments on “Herald cans fact-checking, opts for dogwhistles”

  1. Lew 1

    The real fault lies with the Herald’s failure to fact check her or require some basic research and critical analysis from its writers. It’s a basic failure of editorial standards.

    This is the only failure I can see. De Boni is the Herald’s mummy-blogger, she writes in the style pages. She’s not an actual journalist, or at least, is not expected to be one in this role — and the piece simply isn’t a news story in form, structure or content.

    So the problem is with publishing her musings as actual news, rather than as … musings.

    L

  2. yup, journalism R.I.P 2

    i read it, then read a few of her other pieces and then went to the shed and headbutted the wall a few thousand times. Then went back and read it again. It didn’t help, but the headache and all the pretty lights in front of my eyes made the silly words dance so it wasnt a complete waste of time

    • Bored 2.1

      Look here, the only “piece” in the article is De Boni…I seem to have caught some gutter press virus and need some political correction. My brain hurts too.

  3. A Nonny Moose 3

    “De Boni’s intro to the piece declares: “Sometimes child-free adults need to have some sympathy for parents of noisy and fractious children on planes’, ”

    Ha! It doesn’t declare that now. It’s been edited out now that they’ve been sprung.

  4. gobsmacked 4

    The smear has backfired, because most people (not just the usual suspects on the poli-blogs, but the general public) don’t know or care about an MP they’ve never heard of, but do have an opinion about passengers/kids on planes. It’s a story people relate to, and Chauvel has come across as an ordinary, reasonable person. Generally, people can at least see his point of view.

    On the other hand, you have the priceless expression on Stephanie Phillips’ face, when asked about the couple’s political motivation on Close-Up last night. Followed by the longest pause in the history of interviews. Hilarious! (The interview’s worth putting up here, IMHO).

  5. Julie 5

    I generally find De Boni OK, so this column is disappointing to me. I agree with Lew that most of the responsibility lies with the Herald for running an opinion column as high profile news, and for failing to fact check.

  6. Andrew 6

    “*The Standard was informed of Fred Phillips’ identity yesterday afternoon but chose not to publish it in the interests of his privacy. Now that the name has been published in the Dominion Post it is in the public realm”

    Eddie, sorry, but you are now banned from this site for stating that a computer program can be informed about something and then make a concious decision on that something. Please read the policy, I have copied the relevant section below:

    “attributing a mind to a machine (ie talking about The Standard as if it had an opinion) is not allowed”

    [Eddie: The Standard has policies and guidelines. This was one of them. Don’t be a troll.]

    • IrishBill 6.1

      That’s hilarious. You’re a real funny guy. Now have you got anything to say about the topic of the post, funny guy?

      • Andrew 6.1.1

        don’t be a dick, and yes i am a funny guy and i was being rather sarcastic. But I see people get picked up on this all the time. All i expect is a level playing field. If we can’t refer to “the standard” then i would also expect this to apply to the authors of post as well. if we have posters referring to “the standard” then we can expect commenter’s to do the same.

        back on topic … yes i agree that the piece is simply woeful and was not at all news worthy.

    • lprent 6.2

      Ah damn. I’d like to comment on this, but something is wrong on vodafones 3G data network at present. Not getting any traffic.

      This comes via the work system which has a lot of javascript restrictions…

      • poxywog 6.2.1

        well that would have to be as off topic as any comment I’ve seen result in a banning. Give yourself an uppercut and move to XT

      • lprent 6.2.2

        Back again….

        I’ll amend the post because I’m getting sick of that phrasing and the inevitable discussion that follows.

        • Eddie 6.2.2.1

          Lynn, I’d strongly prefer it if you didn’t change anything. I used the term “The Standard” deliberately. While it doesn’t have opinions, it can have editorial policies and guidelines such as respect for privacy. I discussed this with other authors yesterday when we were told Phillips’ identity.

          If the trolls can’t understand the difference between an editorial opinion and an editorial policy it’s their problem, not ours.

          • lprent 6.2.2.1.1

            Disagree. We cannot expect to get others to treat the site as being a coop of authors if we imply that there is editorial control.

            Each time this comes up it makes the comment stream diverge into that spurious argument (and I have to firefight it). Either we do have an editorial control and a explicit decision is made that way, OR we don’t – in which case don’t refer to it as in the collective sense.

            Until that decision is clearly made and the policy updated, then I will modify the posts to conform to the current policy.

            • Eddie 6.2.2.1.1.1

              Lynn, it’s a fine distinction but it’s an important one. Happy to continue the discussion over email rather than in public, but having a collective agreement to not breach someone’s preference for privacy is not the same as having a hive mind or central editorial control.

              Just because a few trolls can’t understand that fine distinction doesn’t mean we should change the way we do things.

              • lprent

                That wasn’t exactly my point either. Actually Andrew correctly brought up exactly my point. But this is better discussed on e-mail.

      • vto 6.2.3

        But lprent how on earth did you make that comment then? That is seriously unhinged logic and action going on …

        [lprent: I also have the work network. It has quite a strong firewall that hampers editing so I don’t usually use it. Who’d live in a system where the failure of one network would knock you off the net? ]

        • felix 6.2.3.1

          I’d like to register my confusion too, v, but unfortunately I’m not connected to the net either.

          • Rex Widerstrom 6.2.3.1.1

            That’s done it, felix. I’ll now forever imagine you, Tron-like, skating through my laptop’s CPU and leaving comments only I can see 😀

            Lynn: Don’t know if it was only me but I started out getting a 500 error earlier today (roughly 3pm your time), then a weird eefect whereby I’d click the bookmark, it’d say the site was loading in the status bar, but then nothing would happen… no 500, 404 or other error, just a blank tab. I assume the connection was being dropped entirely.

            • lprent 6.2.3.1.1.1

              Nope there is something odd happening at the server with very high CPU spiking outside of my virtual server. Each time it spikes, mySQL starts to crawl, the site backs up, and everyone starts getting errors or strange screens.

              I’ve dialled the site parameters back to ensure it stays operating. That includes disabling the search which is pretty intensive on the site.

              I’ve requested that support at the other end has a look at the problem. Hopefully I’ll get it resolved shortly.

              In the meantime it seems to be quieting down at the other side…

  7. Bored 7

    On a more serious note, Chauvel should have kept his lip buttoned, to the gutter media what he did was akin to a soldier lighting a fag and getting shot by the sniper. Bloody stupid.
    Chauvel might have been better to offer concerned assistance to the mother and helped out (or atleast offered) .mind you the jornos might then have labeled him a child molester. You can’t win but there is no need to become a target.

    • poxywog 7.1

      [Eddie: I’ve asked you to change your username already. This is clearly derivative of another commenter and is arguably racist. You won’t receive another warning.]

  8. randal 8

    get a life bored.
    Hats off to Charles Chauvel for asking for order.
    people like you bored are trying to squeeze the juice out public life without realising that the voters of new zealand ares standing up and cheering for Charles Chauvel for taking a stand.
    so go back to your tory masters and ask for fresh instructions.

    • Bored 8.1

      Erggg!!! That hurt Randall, have not been called a Tory before. Ouch, to the doctor for treatment.

      So for the record I once saw a similar scenario inflight, the business lady in front of the screaming child started kicking up an equal fuss, and bitched and moaned alarmingly. I offered her my seat, she refused, so I told her to shut up and stop whinging. Its what you do that counts, not what you complain about.

  9. Olwyn 9

    This whole story is just rubbish from beginning to end, and all it reveals is the by now built-in bias of our MSM. If a down-at-heel family had been on the same plane as a National MP, and the incident was identical, even to the point of involving a gay National MP, the story, if there was one, would have been about the problem of unruly children on planes, the danger to other passengers, what airline staff have to put up with, and so on.

  10. toad 10

    Note to ACC claimants: If ACC attempts to refer you to Fred Phillips for an assessment of whether you are still incapacitated by your injury, ask for another orthopaedic surgeon.

    • Georgie 10.1

      If he chopped off the wrong leg, would he get his Mrs to explain?

    • OTT don’t you think Toad? Out of all the comments made here, yours is the silliest. The Standard has actually (and I hate to say it) done a fair appraisal of this… apart from the political bias, as I know he’d write about any MP if it was done. So much that I have only written any feedback here and no other blog….

      But don’t be too worried, I don’t plan on polluting your blog much longer 🙂

  11. tc 11

    Ah let’s all wade ankle deep across the Herald’s journalistic talent pool…..she’s also a TVNZ hack as well so there’s no surprises the tabloid ethos is applied being ” don’t let truth get in the way of a good story/smear/whatever”

  12. richgraham 12

    Right on “Bored”. Mr Chauvel should have talked to the children whose behaviour he says offended him. That he didn’t sort of reinforces the “he’s gay so doesn’t know much about children” line. Children are people you know, amazing eh ? Instead of whingeing, instead of griping, instead of complaining, instead of rolling your eyes, instead of ‘suffering in silence”, TALK to the children.
    And that way, earn the Labour Pary some friends and so reduce the numbers of enemies.
    Score – Mr Chauvel – 0, Mr Philipps – 4.

    • gobsmacked 12.1

      Rich Graham, don’t be so stupid.

      ACT Blog latest: “Gay Labour MP approaches three year old on plane … He was a stranger, it was creepy says Mrs BoomtownPrat, a wholesome blonde heterosexual parent who loves her kids …”

      RichGraham, what do you think of the parents who said NOTHING to Chauvel on the plane, and then rushed home to blog about it? Clearly they were so annoyed they just … did and said nothing at the time. Funny, that.

      Chauvel was their target simply because he is Labour, and he exists. That is all.

      (If you doubt this, spend five minutes reading Fred Phillips’ views online. Not hard to find).

      • Clint Heine 12.1.1

        My co-blogger is neither racist nor homophobic. I *do* have a number of authors on my blog and some do have leanings that do verge on homophobia. I have spoken to those who do make these remarks on my blog. Funnily enough, the worse two I ever had was a Nat and a Labour supporter…both horrifically anti gay – and booted out after one post.

        It wasn’t an attack on Labour, but I know you won’t believe that. I know him well and he is a parent and a professional first – politics is a distant third. If it was any other MP he would have said the same.

        • Marty G 12.1.1.1

          You’re a homophobe who posts porn on your website. And a coward who removes it because you’re scared of the media seeing it.

          • Clint Heine 12.1.1.1.1

            Marty G… dude, where have I *ever* written anything homophobic? Seriously. I have never made comments about that, I’m as liberal as you can get. Get it right!

            I may be a lot of things, but that is well wrong.

            • Marty G 12.1.1.1.1.1

              you play host to homophobs, who you let write on your blog. I don’t see any substantive difference.

              and you’re a pornographer without the courage to keep your work on display when it comes to public attention. Bit like Slater.

              • I can’t regulate who comments on the blog. One of my contributors isn’t as liberal as me and I have spoken to him about this. That does not make me homophobic. That only shows you as ignorant.

                My work is on display. I just removed one link to it. It’s still there and easily found. Surprisingly, you seem upset that you can’t click on it quickly enough… which is a little creepy considering you apparently “object”to it.

              • Pascal's bookie

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                The Specials

    • lprent 12.2

      rg, you’re completely inaccurate. Mind you, you’re probably as accurate as this dipshit ‘journo’

      The Prat overheard a private conversation between Charles and the person next to him. Even his own account states that amongst all of the other probable inaccuracies that are in it.

      That is what the fuss is about. You appear to be trying to make a mountian out of a molehill. It says more about your level of stupidity than it does about anything else.

      • Bored 12.2.1

        RG may be innacurate with what happened (who really knows, its all conjecture, hearsay and journalistic license / beat up) but I think what he says about talking to children or other problem people is a good message. And pertinently Jonkey would not have missed the phot op!

    • toad 12.3

      Seems Mr Phillips is not always that polite himself:

      BoomTownPrat
      17 December 2007 at 12:38 am

      I think this is your problem

      “r0b, I think he was asking about whether the newly selected Labour candidates will support the Electoral Finance Bill, which struck me as kind of stupid considering it’ll be law in a matter of days.’

      unfortunately many new zealanders have good memories, you arrogant fuck.

      If he talks to his children the way he blogs, I’m not surprised they are badly behaved.

    • Bored 12.4

      RG We agree at last, much as I dont like admitting it I think Jonkey would have taken the photo shot opportunity and done just that….headlines “Key rescues distressed parents in flight”.

      I do however think Chauvel has been misrepresented and hung out to dry over nothing much. He needs to be more alert to the upside opportunities. As for the jornos its a crap cheap story.

  13. freedom 13

    on a side note to the above editorial comments, please refrain from using actual names as those of us who try to respect the T&C’s feel a bit four legs good two legs better

  14. The herald set a precedent with the Bailey Kurariki smear so look forward to more…

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10629000

    2 journos corroborating each others story can now make serious sexual assault claims against a named person, with no history or previous record for these types of charges, in the media, while remaining anonymous themselves and prior to the charges being investigated through the appropriate channels. As long as they cry victim and go for name supression their arse is covered !
    The herald now knows they can hide behind the veil of journalistic truth and chuck shit because even if the shit doesn’t stick, the smell lingers so now I’m wondering if that was the De Boni womans handiwork as well.

    Lucky for them Bailey’s just a fucked up kid but would they have done the same to a “person of greater worth” with a high priced lawyer and could they still get away with being anonymous journalists working for a frontline mainstream newspaper ?…i wouldn’t have thought so but now i’d say yeah, if it fits the political leanings of their overlords.

    Place bets on who’s next on the smear list ? I’d wager whoever’s running against rodders in epsom ?

  15. BLiP 15

    Not only has the New Zealand Fox News Herald printed the factless musings of its resident Mummy, it has also linked Chauvel’s alleged comments with Ivana Trump’s “air rage” incident last year.

    Tabloid heaven: homosexuals, children, crime, and celebrities all in the one story.

  16. Draco T Bastard 16

    The real fault lies with the Herald’s failure to fact check her or require some basic research and critical analysis from its writers. It’s a basic failure of editorial standards.

    The NZHerald isn’t a newspaper any more – it’s an opinion piece and the opinions are almost invariably wrong as they’re not based in reality.

  17. Hi Guys

    Sorry that what I thought was a pretty innocuous piece on CC was so offensive to y’all.

    Firstly, I did get the Clint Heine bit wrong, and that WAS sloppy. I agree. I sent through a correction earlier on but it hasn’t appeared yet.

    Secondly, I don’t know much about CC, I didn’t realise he had a child, true. But what I was meaning to convey was that he didn’t have a child on the flight and was therefore “child free”, ie, without child. To suggest it has anything to do with his sexual orientation is really daft. In fact, the most judgemental of parents, I have found, are other parents, regardless of what they get up to in the bedroom.

    Thirdly, yes I was a TVNZ “hack”. I was also a NZ “Herald “hack”, but unfortunately being on strike with your fellow work mates for almost three weeks doesn’t endear one to management much. Luckily for me, but obviously not for you guys, Herald Online had me back as a blogger many years later.

    Again, just want to reiterate I have nothing against Labour party members, gay people, Bailey Kurariki (well, hang on a sec…) or even people who call me a “dipshit”. Hey, you’re entitled to your opinion like the next person.

    regards
    Dita

    • MikeG 17.1

      “But what I was meaning to convey was that he didn’t have a child on the flight…”

      Tui billboard anyone?!!

    • Lew 17.2

      Dita, the article wasn’t nearly as offensive as the fact it was treated as front-page news. That’s not your fault, though.

      L

    • Try getting me to explain that I don’t have any children in New Zealand Dita. That was an interesting one to front up to when I woke up yesterday morning.

      Eddie – I take my hat off (honestly) for not revealing the name until it was public. Thank you.

      What bugs me, is that my blog has been deemed as homophobic and racist. I can get the homophobic stuff, as a few readers are blatantly nasty gay-haters – but the racist bit is baffling. The MSM have been in my opinion, a disgrace. This is not journalism. Man got offended by a comment made by an MP on a flight, he got home and vented it out on my blog, end of story.

  18. Lindsey 18

    So hard to do real journalism, so easy to interview your word processor and jump on the populist bandwagon with no thought as to the origons of the beat up “story” from the ACToid blogger.
    Professional – not!

  19. Richard 19

    It takes a brave (or foolish) soul to read the feedback comments on a Herald blog, but I did in this case. And, surprise surprise, most were sympathetic to Chauvel’s actions as the parents did nothing to calm the kids, therefore showed contempt for their fellow passengers. Chauvel’s comments were obviously aimed at the parents, not the kids.
    Most comments were of the line that kids will be kids, and if the parents are doing all they can, then so be it, they sympathise with the parents and can put up with it. But if the parents don’t give a shit that their darling toerags are making life hell for the other passengers, then they sympathise with the actions of Chauvel.

  20. SPC 20

    It’s up to the Herald to check the facts in their blogs (off line columns) – especially if they want to be taken seriously as a media standing by the quality of their product – being a critic of blogs for lacking journalism standards.

    Being a media, means being accountable for one’s own brand.

    People write blogs to share commentary, sometimes they do so to inform and that’s where their research would come in.

    People who blog and those who comment on blogs often are influenced by media into accepting a false understanding of a situation – and I doubt many will deny that is true of them – particularly when doing a commentary of recent event.

    Lew had the rights of this earlier, the Herald made the blog into a news story without checking the facts and the error is on their part – probably because it was mislead by other media which simply broadcast a women so out of touch with the real world she presumes gay people don’t have children. The wider dog whistle is about Labour, having MP’s without children, not understanding parents – WFF must really hurt when ACT wants the money to give the few and not the many an even larger tax cut.

  21. Bob 21

    Most of my fellow medicos regard orthopods as being, ahem, ‘intellectually challenged’ – “strong as oxen and twice as clever” as the old saw goes. Go easy on him, his reasoning capacity is severely limited, as evidenced by the content of his blog posts. Boomtown seems to be superfluous.

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