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MSM columns – clueless about fact checking

Written By: - Date published: 5:33 pm, September 14th, 2008 - 29 comments
Categories: Media - Tags: , , , , , , ,

Lynn PrenticeThis week the election was announced and the third question to the PM (asked by Colin Espiner) was about whether The Standard possibly knew the date (Helen doesn’t tell us either). Colin thinks we’re being sensitive about the mainstream media’s attitudes to The Standard as shown in a comment he made on his own blog post (scroll to somewhere near the bottom) (1).

There is a reason for our sensitivity – journalistic competence. There have been a series of comments by ‘professional’ columnists and journalists who have never bothered to check their story details. Now I’d consider that as them being slack and slipshod rather than professional.

My name and contact details have been available for this site since its inception because it is a requirement by InternetNZ that a real person or organization and correct contact details are listed for every domain. Any journalist or columnist could have checked the details of a story about The Standard. To do so would have required that they use our Contact Us or used a standard whois to find out who to talk to to check ‘facts’.

I have never been contacted by any media about the site and (as far as I’m aware) neither has Clinton Smith, even after his details got added to the contacts section. Instead the professionals seem to prefer listening to the technically incompetent making unsupported assertions as repeated by ‘independent’ commentators and opposition politicians without bothering to actually ask anyone at The Standard.

We get supposedly competent columnists like :-

IrishBill has called the Press Gallery to task in his post You dicks about getting bogged down in trivia. Colin clarified in the comment:-

I’m disappointed, too – disappointed you’d resort to infantile language like calling the press gallery – and me in particular – “dicks” because I asked a question about whether the Standard had advance knowledge of the election date. For the record, I asked the question because radio were already reporting the rumour. I asked about 12 questions at the press conference. That was only one of them. All sorts of questions are flung around press conferences. If you want to play at being a journalist, why don’t you get parliamentary accreditation and come down and see for yourself?

Normally we’d welcome the hits. But when an election is being announced…. Please! It simply sounds like the radio talkback was doing its usual inanities. Possibly someone was short of a headline.

Also there is a reason we don’t hang around the press gallery – we’re busy. Read our About on the section Why don’t you post more often/more regularly etc?. This is all done in our spare time and in my case out of my own pocket. Personally I’d like to get more time coding rather than wasting it in a media pack of programming illiterates. Besides Vernon Small makes his attitude plain and I’d tend to agree with him. Bloggers probably do more good by being outside the media pack and filling in their little deficiencies.

1. It is pretty weird that few of the MSM blogs seem to permalink their comments sections. Come on – it isn’t very hard to so, and it’d make it possible to cross-link to a dissenting comment about fact in the original post.

2. It is unfortunate that the blog name The Irascible Curmudgeon has been taken. Bill Ralston fits the phrase perfectly. What other style of journalist would describe Whale’s grasp on technical matters as “good cyber-detective work” – you really have to be out of touch!

Update: It appears that while I’ve been writing this blog that my talented niece Rochelle has been dealing with the same problem of insufficient fact checking on another topic. Looks like I should expend some more time on a post on that topic. In the meantime I’ll change the post title.


29 comments on “MSM columns – clueless about fact checking”

  1. randal 1

    why let a few little facts spoila good story. the msm has become fat, bloated, sensitive about their privileges and just downright lazy not to say bought and paid for. some of them them have even become senile drooling dinosaurs. just look at their efforts. there was not one picture of winnie last week that did not include the gibbering squibber in the background liek a screaming skull. they are playing cutesie and sooner or later the owners are going to remove thm wholesale and replace them with another lot as soon as they figure out how to report all news in New Zealand from India or somewhere.

  2. Dan 2

    Spot on Lynn. I have despaired at the lack of a fourth estate for years. The current crop of journalists lack the humour and integrity of the Tom Scotts and Pat Booths of old. They toe the party line of the boss. They ignore the hard questions of light weight Key; they hunt as a cowardly pack on Winston; and they are no better than Jenny Shipley and the Nats generally with their putdowns of Clark.
    The journalists and bloggers on the right somehow think that pouring their unsubstantiated logic out on their keyboards, that somehow wish fulfilment is the reality. Sorry guys, I have the same wish fulfilment dreams each Lotto draw. As far as objective journalism goes, it is a joke.
    I can understand why the press gallery is worried about the Standard. Most of my friends ( including a number of the right) turn to the Standard first before reading the various permutations in the print media.
    Thank you Lynn, and Steve and the rest. The part-timers, who have real jobs, are setting the pace compared to the posers like Hooton.

  3. Julie 3

    I’m not that impressed with One News tonight, they’ve said the current poll is really bad for Labour, yet their own graphics, which accompanied Guyon Espiner saying this, showed that actually National and Labour were both pretty steady in their support from the last poll they had. Weird. If anyone has the skillz I lack, i.e. to pull the video and put it up, you’ll see what I mean. Sensationalising things for the sake of it isn’t serving our democracy v well imho.

  4. An 18 point gap needs no fuzzy graphics Julie. The autopsy in December will be littered with ifs.
    If only we had put Goff in a year ago.
    If only we had listened to the public on the anti smacking bill.
    If only we had cut Winstons throat.
    And a couple of hundred others.

  5. DS 5

    >>>An 18 point gap needs no fuzzy graphics Julie. The autopsy in December will be littered with ifs.<<<

    Colmar-Brunton’s last pre-election poll in 2005 was Nat 44 Lab 37. The actual result was Lab 41 Nat 39 – i.e, National support was overestimated by five, Labour support underestimated by four.

    If we “correct” the 53-35 gap using that, we end up with Nat 48 Lab 39. Which, after adding the Greens (who are now above the threshold again) and the Maori Party means that National, while still having the advantage, has little room for error.

    Poor old TVNZ, still utterly clueless on the realities of MMP.

  6. weka 6

    Speaking of technically challenged, why is policy.net using yellow text on white background for its policy links? Weird.

  7. randal 7

    media7 has a blog that is always out of date and does not allow comments?

  8. Julie 8

    Sigh, BB, my point was not the size of the gap, but the fact that their graphics showed it hadn’t changed much but their voiceover was talked about it opening up. Is that simpler for you to understand?

  9. Yes the extreme left wing media needs to check facts and ask questions that will lead to answers about ACTUAL policies, NOT the bs that TVNZ has done for the past few years. They have treated Helen with kid Gloves over the years, infact they do this to all politicians on all sides, except for Winston.

    But, hey THE WARRIORS WON!!!!!!!!!!!! So I’m happy, Manu for Prime Minister!!!!!!!

  10. Quoth the Raven 10

    I think one word perfectly describes Colin Espiner – Hack.

  11. lprent 11

    QTR: Actually I like most of his work, it is hard to point to errors in his work.

    Irish and myself just thought that asking a question like that when the PM announcing an election was just silly.

  12. mike 12

    “Poor old TVNZ, still utterly clueless on the realities of MMP.”

    DS – I think its clueless counting the MP in the left bloc of parties. AS helen said the other day its all about trends.

    …but she she also said it’s all about “trust” too so go figure that one out coming from her.

  13. lprent 13

    Julie: You’re correct. One News are being idiots for the headline.

    Stuff: Labour slips slightly in latest poll

    A One News poll tonight put National on 53 per cent support, up 2 points since its last poll a month ago. It puts Labour on 35 per cent, a drop of 2 points.

    National leader John Key’s popularity was also up from 36 per cent to 40 per cent, while Prime Minister Helen Clark’s dropped from 33 per cent to 31 per cent.

    The August data is here on Colmar-Brunton August 2008.

    Personally I’ve been undecided for a while if the Colmar-Brunton poll is the worst or second worst poll for accuracy.

    The poll of 1000 people, with a margin of error of 3.1 per cent was conducted between last Saturday and Thursday night a day before Miss Clark announced the election date of November 8.

    . I’d need to look at a number of other polls to see if there is a trend or if this is just the selection criteria for CB. I think that they actively select in North Shore and Fendalton.

  14. How polling places are pretty accurate, I mean they aren’t like Gallap.

  15. the sprout 15

    true lynn.
    i thought “You Dicks” was a pithy and accurate headline, and an inevitable outcome for those who interview their keyboards in the name of professional journalism.
    as for Ralston… he is becoming Garth George more and more each day.

  16. lprent 16

    mike: Exactly. It is all about trends. You have to remember that each of these polls are done by different companies using different methodologies. Consequently they get different results from each other even when they do them in the same period.

    The best way of looking at polls is to look from the last poll from the same company to the next poll in the same company. Then you can see what is more likely to be a trend rather than just the jittering that is different polls by different methodologies.

    As Stuff correctly showed, this latest poll showed a minor change. Ignore the absolute values and look at this..

    Nat -3, -1, +2
    Lab +6, +2, -2

    Those are the change rates on the Colmar Brunton poll in July, August, and September. The poll is meant to have an error rate of 3.1% – so at best this shows pretty much a steady state with no major trends.

    I’m sure that is not what the Nats would like to see.

  17. IrishBill 17

    “QTR: Actually I like most of his work, it is hard to point to errors in his work.”

    Lynn, I agree and I like the fact he’s willing to get involved in his blog’s comments section and have a bit of a stoush. I was surprised to find out it was Colin that asked that question.

  18. gobsmacked 18

    Well, I was watching One News with hands over my eyes, like hiding from the Daleks as a kid. I thought it was going to be “Exterminate, Exterminate … Labour fall below 30%”. When the result came on it was a huge relief.

    This was the worst poll timing possible (Sun to Thurs of last week), and the least favourable polling organisation (e.g. the last three Colmar Brunton polls of the 2005 campaign all had National ahead). To have the Greens over the threshold and Labour hardly taking a hit is a very good starting point for the campaign. They will never be lower.

    National can keep these poll ratings as long as they spend the entire campaign saying nothing. I’m sure they’ll do their best but it’s going to be tricky hiding John Key and his lovable caucus from the voters for 8 weeks.

  19. Hi, how do you know, they will never be lower?

  20. gobsmacked 20

    Well, unless Owen Glenn is planning a return visit!

    Labour have reached the core vote. If people wanted to give up on Labour, after the last 3 years, and then the last few days worst of all, then they would have made up their minds to do so by now.

    Clark would have to eat a kakapo on live TV for Labour’s support to fall further.

  21. Lynn, I do hope the whale doesn’t set upon Rochelle!

  22. Sarah 22

    I’ll probably be banned for this but it has to be said — the individual who is named “lprent” comes across as the biggest hack in the history of left wing politics. This individual comes across as not only arrogant, but also condescending and confrontational. I have quite often heard on a few other left wing blogs that this person’s reputation is near trash, as even her own ideological allies do not hold her opinions in very high esteem.

    Although I do like many people who post on this website, “lprent” is not one of them. This person gives this website a bad name, as her ill-tempered and patronising attitude puts off many people from addressing the slanted points of which she puts forward. Moreover, the only people who I know to actually try and defend “lprent” are the other labour-party affiliates posting on this website, creating a closeted sect of the left wing in this blog which most reasonable constinuents hold a great deal of distaste for.

    Her bias in the points she makes is at times unbelievable, and although I do understand the idea of a partisan blog, I do believe that individuals should attempt some sort of free-thinking and balanced-view-making when they come to a judgement. However what I have seen in my time at “The Standard,” is that this individual seems to be unable to come up with any coherent points on her own, rather that she is forced to follow Labour-Party-line on almost all occasions.

    Like a predator, I have seen nothing as of yet which has slipped through this omnivient creature’s glare, as she has at all stages ferociously attempted to protect her red-frenzied hatchlings. I wait in trepidation, hoping, just hoping, for this green-eyed subordinate to realise the error of her ways and let go of those which she feels engrafted to protect.

  23. r0b 23

    What was this thread about again? That’s right – fact checking. Hey “sarah” – you should have done some fact checking. Your comment above is priceless.

  24. hahahah, oh dear, Sarah’s comment just made my night, please please don’t delete it!

    But seriously, someone has to do the dirty work to keep this place clean, and unfortunately, as the owner that falls upon lprent. While the moderation policy may seem harsh, it keeps the quality of the blog up and provides a point of difference.

    Sarah, if your having trouble winning arguments without going way off topic, being abusive or telling lies, do you think that’s telling you something?

  25. lprent 25

    Ah yes. ‘Sarah’. As r0b says, perhaps you should check your facts before writing. A simple google-search on either my name or my pseudonym would give you all of the facts you need.

    Firstly I’m the sysop and I pay for the site. A site that has a sewer for a comments section is not that interesting to me.

    Secondly I’m a programmer as well as having a number of degrees in science, management, history and other topics. I’ve been in the army. I’ve worked for or setup private companies for all my working history. This makes it difficult for me to tolerate foolish people and reiteration of urban myths with any degree of equanimity. Usually I don’t refrain from expressing my opinion.

    Thirdly I’ve been involved in politics at the grassroots for a very long time. Certainly it has been for longer than most people – John Key for instance. I usually have very little idea about what NZLP policies are despite being a member. I’m a long-term centrist and probably more to the right than the left – but such terms are relatively meaningless. What I’m interested in is things that are likely to work long-term. Of course this usually puts me at odds with people like yourself who seem to live only in the present or on a theoretical level only.

    Fourthly I’ve been involved with computers since I was a teen. This includes almost all of the development time of the net in NZ. I was playing with computer comms in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I dialed into overseas BBS’es in the mid 80’s. Been on local BBS’es through the late 80’s and early 90’s. I was around and participating in usenet during both its rise and fall. I’ve written wide area programs for groups like managment students. Recently I’ve been helping run this blog site. Frankly, I’ve seen all of this many times before, including the many ways to make a system die. I’m dedicated to making sure that doesn’t happen and I’m quite willing to disrupt anyone who attempts to disrupt this site.

    Fifthly, and probably what caused r0b so much amusement is that I’m male. The type of misogynist comments you made in your last two paragraphs make me almost certain you’re the same. However in your case I’d expect that you’re probably a hell of lot less comfortable with intelligent, educated or successful women than I am. My family is full of them.

    Sixthly, I don’t post here often because I don’t have time. I do moderate a lot and occasionally join in the debates.

    Finally my primary role on this site is to primarily be a bastard sysop from hell. It means that ultimately I moderate the debate and as you note, I’m a arrogant bastard who really enjoys being one because that is part of the role, and I’m well trained in it.

    What I like is discussion that displays some intelligence. What I dislike is people who I could emulate with a relatively simple program (ie trolls) or who attack this site, its writers or other commentators without bothering to have a rational argument. People arguing here can and do expect to have their opinion challenged and are expected to defend their positions rationally.

    I don’t moderate people who debate constructively (but will sometimes argue with them). I’m really hard on those who cannot or won’t. I call it evolution in action, and by any measure it appears to work quite well. Along with the interesting posts we have the comments section that complements it.

    It means that the site is growing all of the time both in the number of people who view the posts, and the number of words in an intelligent comments section. It gets hard to argue with that kind of success because it means that we’re fulfilling a need. If you don’t like it, you’re always welcome to start your own blog and try to attrach people to your way of doing things.

    BTW: Fear not – while your comment was one of the more stupid I’ve seen for a while, it didn’t contain anything worth moderating or banning for. Of course that can change…

  26. Thanks for the links Lynn.

  27. lprent 27

    Bryan 🙂 Always willing to help even in the negative. How is the war against the immoderate going? It looked like it was dying down a bit in Chris’s comments last time I looked.


    Lynn, I do hope the whale doesn’t set upon Rochelle!

    I could wish. For anything serious, the perpetrators would have to deal with the whole family. In particular my sister tends to over-react a wee bit and prefers to get things quite finished.

  28. J Mex 28

    How is the fact checking on Lord Ashcroft’s plane coming along?

  29. “J Mex

    How is the fact checking on Lord Ashcroft’s plane coming along?”

    Have asked a contact at the airport, no news yet though sorry!

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