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Op Ed: Press want to control political blogs?

Written By: - Date published: 3:02 pm, March 26th, 2014 - 41 comments
Categories: accountability, blogs, democratic participation, news, newspapers - Tags:

Blogs are about to be offered the possibility of being covered by Press Council rules and regulations.  I think it is totally wrongheaded.  Either the Press Council does not understand blogs, or they want to try to control them – at least to some extent.

media and democracy

John Drinnan on the move:

Blogs like WhaleOil and Kiwiblog may soon be subject to the same rules as newspapers under expansion at The Press Council.

The move is planned for May 1, but already the Council has set back the start date to late May, while it talks through changes with potential new blogger members.

[…]The good news is consumers will have a venue to complain about bloggers who join the Press Council – without resorting the costly process of legal action.

More at the link.

As someone who has severe misgivings about the state of our current mainstream media, I have no desire to be subjected to, or subjugated by, a council dominated by the mainstream media (MSM).

The positives for blogs, as stated by Drinnan:

*blogs would achieve legitimacy they currently lack (with whom?).  Drinnan seems to suggest blogs will then need to be explicit about whether they are being fed information by politicians;

*it may make it easier for blogs to make money out of the efforts of the bloggers.

The question of “balance” is raised in Drinnan’s article.  The problem is, while “balance” is expected of news reports, it isn’t expected of op eds.  And most political blog posts are more like op eds. Furthermore, balance is a contestable notion.  Generally it means deciding on a “centre” and providing at least 2 viewpoints on either side of the centre.    The problems with this can be seen on issues like climate change, where equal weight is given to climate skeptics and well researched evidence on climate change.  “Balance” should not trump accuracy and reliability of reports.  And the “centre” is a social construct that shifts over time.

The messages in the MSM can be skewed in may ways, especially these days when infotainment is rampant.  The headlines can be skewed towards one viewpoint, with the opposing viewpoint buried at the bottom of the page. Too often left wing views are buried on the back pages.  And entertainment and celebrity news gets way more attention than it deserves.

For me, a blog like The Standard has an important role in critiquing the MSM, and in providing viewpoints that rarely get much of a hearing.

Why would any of us want to be subjected to/subjugated by a body that represents a very imperfect system, dominated by media corporations, and commercial values?

A further concern, is to do with this point mentioned in Drinnan’s article.

Where an author’s link to a subject is deemed to be justified, the relationship of author to subject should be declared, “The Press Council declarations state.

This could work to undermine pseudonyms: a very important thing to protect in these days of invasive state surveillance.

Blogs are already subjected to laws like those of defamation and copyright.  I don’t see what the Press Council can offer left wing blogs.

The only bloggers that Drinnan mentions are WhaleOil, Kiwiblog and Peter Aranyi.

Drinnan says:

Kiwiblog and Whale Oil have indicated interest but the Press Council wants a sizeable number so that its newspaper members are not subsidising costs.

Press Council executive director Mary Major said the shape of the expanded body should be defined by the end of May after discussion with bloggers.

The Press Council already allowed robust opinion under its freedom of speech, but blogs created special issues. she said,

“How do expect whale Oil to meet requirements for balance?” Major asked .

Discussion has been held several months and moves follow a review of the Press Council by its main funder, the Newspaper Publishers’ Association.

Who has been involved in these discussions apart from the afore mentioned bloggers? I’ve not heard anything about it on most left wing blogs.

An alternative possibility is suggested in Drinnan’s piece:

Even among bloggers like Peter Aranyi there are concerns,

Some bloggers seeking legitimisation as ‘news media’through membership of the Press Council – should more properly be applying for membership of the Public Relations Institute, said Aranyi who has written a lot about a culture of attacks in some blogs.

Peter Aranyi has a post about the issue today, on The Paepae.  He says that in the Public Relations Institute,

members are required to be honest, ‘accurate and truthful’ in their endeavors on behalf of their clients [… “and in communicating with the public”].

To me, The standard is a well managed blog (h/t Lynn).  I don’t see how the Press Council would help to improve it.  This blog also works well, enabling a lot of discussion. Something the MSM generally doesn’t do as well, in my view.  In such a blog, commenters are quick to point out inaccuracies in posts.

Accuracy and good quality  evidence are important to me, but I don’t see the Press Council being the right body to administer standards in this area.

41 comments on “Op Ed: Press want to control political blogs? ”

  1. bad12 1

    Kaorl, although unintended as humor, i was highly amused when having a read of the Herald,(National Party disinformation service),piece on this subject earlier on today,

    Apparently the Press Council rules also require ‘Balance’ in what is printed, of course the irony of reading that in the Herald of all places was palpable,

    If the Press Council consider what Armstrong, Trevett, and O’Sullivan to name just three of the offenders who regularly produce copy for the Herald that might just have easily been carbon copies of Emails sent to them from the Beehive’s 9th floor,is ‘Balanced’ in any way then i would suggest that the Press Council is of as much use as a spoon when all you need is a knife, or breasts appearing on a bull…

  2. Puckish Rogue 2

    Fact of life is that someone always wants to control someone else…especially those uppity bloggers

    • McFlock 2.1

      not everyone is as loathsome as you are.

      • Puckish Rogue 2.1.1

        and its generally the left that want the control

        • Tracey 2.1.1.1

          which doesnt quite explain the queue of right wing golfers waiting to get in the ear of the pm

        • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.2

          No, really it isn’t – it’s the right-wingers. Just look at how they’ve undermined democracy in this country since gaining the government benches in 2008.

        • lprent 2.1.1.3

          and its generally the left that want the control

          Or that the only two bloggers who appear to be interested in joining the press council are right wing bloggers. Indeed from the bloggers side they’re the only ones I know pushing for it.

          Perhaps you’re just too stupid to notice that it is usually the right who seem to want to control everything in reality?

    • fender 2.2

      It was easy for the rotten wood eating bug to get you wailing the same out of tune lines/lies. How does it feel to be controlled by that disaster……?

      Here’s a link

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    Considering the fact that the Press Council fails to hold the MSM to any sort of standard worth mentioning I can’t see it doing anything for blogs.

    • lprent 3.1

      Exactly. It is also as slow as a wet year. About the only good thing you can say about the press council or BSA is that they are in fact slightly faster than the courts.

      The fastest way to get content changed around here is to simply email me or Mike giving me a good argument about why it is incorrect – with some backing evidence. I’d do some checking and see if it is an issue with facts. With the various ones that have come through, I’ve found that the few degrees of separation in NZ allow me to find out what is what.

      Or give me a guest post like Josie Pagani did (still don’t know why she didn’t just put it up on Pundit), and other others have done over the years. Of course I’ve had to turn down a few of those over the years or provide limits where it involves actions already in front of the courts.

  4. lprent 4

    As far as I can see this particular instance is largely being driven by Slaters desperate need to find a fig leaf to prevent himself being sued and dragged into court. It interferes with getting his lazy arse into gear and figuring out how to make money out of blogging. God knows that he doesn’t have any other useful skills to make a living from.

    I’ve been watching this “progress” over several areas over the last few years towards a attempted governance of the blogs for a number of years now. Seems to have been driven only by the MSM, Farrar, and Cameron Slater as far as I can tell. In other words National’s media outlets.

    Never had anyone contacting me. Mike hasn’t told me about anyone contacting him. Haven’t heard of any of the other blogs on the left being contacted. It is a bit like who amongst the blogs gets sued or even threatened to be sued. So far the only ones I have seen have been “legal” threats made by morons who haven’t bothered to understand the actual law. Bit of a pain in the arse. I’ve been wanting to play with the leverage of discovery motions since I read up on them 6 years ago.

    The reality is that we regulate ourselves already well within the NZ legal bounds on a purely voluntary basis – because those rules are looser than any competent site owner would allow anyway. I can’t see the point of this bullshit either

    It is rather boring. I’ve seen this happen in different forms many times over the last 3 decades with everything from BBS’es, usenet, through to facebook and twitter. Basically it is only the incompetent providers of forums who need to do this. Anyone competent has both their systems, posts and their comments effectively managed so there are no particular advantages if you don’t want to try to make a living out of blogging.

    Similarly the media are going to have to learn to live with the diminishing costs of publishing that the net and better base education levels provide, and the lowered costs of advertising that searchable and directed adverts provide. Quite simply they aren’t protected by the capital requirements of providing a news service any more.

    My only interest in it has been the traditional sysop role of simply figuring out how to make it impossible to regulate what we’re doing with server and legal locations etc. Basically the site runs with cold and warm backups on on several jurisdictions. The worst that could currently be done inside NZ is to replace the .org.nz off the domain name.

    • Anne 4.1

      Never had anyone contacting me. Mike hasn’t told me about anyone contacting him. Haven’t heard of any of the other blogs on the left being contacted.

      My first reaction. I bet no left of centre blogsites have been contacted. It’s a put up job between Slime Oil plus Kiwi Penguin and the right wing MSM who also feel a bit threatened by the left blogsites? Who does the MSM always go to when looking for a ‘balanced’ opinion from the blogosphere? Slime Oil and Kiwi Penguin. That says it all!

    • karol 4.2

      So, basically, WO wants to be able to claim journalistic privilege to protect his sources.

      Having been publicly outed as a branch of the Nat Party, with the ear of John Key, he wants to be able to continue to use his “sources” to launch his smear campaigns against those he sees as his political opponents.

      Just like the MSM journos do – eg the white anting of David Cunliffe,among other things.

      And it’s all basically dishonest and manipulative.

    • john Drinnan 4.3

      Some journalists also have deep reservations about any attempt to merge journalism with blogs. Surprising that you have not been approached.

      • lprent 4.3.1

        I view actual journalism as being something completely different to blogging which is something I do for pleasure. The same way that I have been involved in various online forums since the early 80’s.

        Sure there will be people who make the transition from one to the other in both directions. But they are two quite different modes. I despise the type of talkback style “jonolism” that we see out of the TV3 news room which has nothing to do with any thought but is purely done for ratings.

        Personally I have no wish to be regarded as being a journalist because I want to write about my understanding of issues. I have no wish to be constrained by the responsibilities that come with being a journalist. I’m a computer programmer and really don’t have time to cross-check everything in the way that I would if I was writing code. Blogging for me is a hobby, not a profession.

        But I don’t need the limited legal protections given to journalists because I usually stay well within the legal bounds anyway. The times where I do not are quite deliberate and are pretty much designed to give the target an opportunity to give me access to discovery motions. Sadly no-one seems to want to give me access to them.

        Cameron Slater takes no responsibility and doesn’t constrain himself. But he would like to have the legal cover because he is a stupid dickhead who can’t restrain himself. I doubt that the press council can constrain him either – I’d suggest that they don’t bother trying.

  5. Tracey 5

    Peter Aranyi has a post about the issue today, on The Paepae.  He says that in the Public Relations Institute,

    members are required to be honest, ‘accurate and truthful’ in their endeavors on behalf of their clients [… “and in communicating with the public”].

    oh how I laughed and laughed and laughed.

    • Peter A 5.1

      @Tracey “oh how I laughed and laughed and laughed.”

      Haha, yeah, I know, right? 🙂 Possibly observed more in the breach by some practitioners!

      As I explained (in the post Karol kindly linked to above) the Public Relations Institute would perhaps be a more honest umbrella for some PR bloggers to picnic under, rather than the Press Council …
      But even there, members are required to be honest, ‘accurate and truthful’ in their endeavours on behalf of their clients.
      Sooo … some higher profile political bloggers — with a penchant for bending reality — may be seen as disqualified there too?

      • Peter

      PS If you found the PRINZ Code of Ethics funny, you’ll love the ‘Rules of conduct and client care for lawyers’:
      12. A lawyer must, when acting in a professional capacity, conduct dealings with others, including self-represented persons, with integrity, respect, and courtesy.

      And of course they do …

      • Tracey 5.1.1

        Ah yes, the code of conduct for lawyers and former lawyers. I know it well these days, as a former lawyer.

        It does seem to me that Slater is trying to use such registration to get him viewed as legitimately a journalist to assist his legal case.

        I am sure there are PR people with integrity, unfortunately they dont have the prominence of those with questionable integrity.

    • rhinocrates 5.2

      I bet that Hoots laughs and laughs and laughs too – though for different reasons.

      The sure sign of a liar? Trying to assure you that they’re telling the truth.

      • Tracey 5.2.1

        I don’t think you realise HootOn doesn’t lie, he makes jokes. See the difference?

  6. During WWII being caught with what the Germans called illegal and terrorist information leaflets was a sure death often not only for yourself but also of people around you. Those leaflets where a lifeline for many of the resistance and often the only “real” news people could get their hands on. Those people would turn in their graves if they saw the propaganda we are being fed by the 5 New corporations which have control over the “news”. They died so that people could get some real information and the resistance could fight the Germans.

    Now we might not be under military control of an invading force but any force which wants control over the free exchange of information should be considered suspect. Is whaleoil a nice guy? No he is a piece of shit masquerading as a fat hysterical Robin Hood. He has a vile mind and an even viler body but I think that he has the right to say what he does and what’s more if he wants to be used by even viler characters such as Crusher Collins and our bankster scumbag Prime Minister so be it.

    I prefer it above the NZH shite pieces we are fed everyday. At least you know where it comes from.

    By the way in the US they just shut down a youtube website about “the illuminati” with 5 million views because the information czar of Obama because he is trying to sell the idea that “conspiracy theories” are a contagious disease so shutting them up as a disease prevention measure is fully justified. Needless to say that the site is back open again because unlike docile NZ at least there people actually really do fight for the right to speak their mind!

    • Populuxe1 6.1

      Wow, a Godwin, fat shaming AND an unironic reference to the Illuminati. Bravo.
      Now all you need is a to link John Key to the Seven Rich Jewish Bankers an the Builderberg
      and you’ll have the Quinella.

      • Tracey 6.1.1

        someone once said that sometimes it is legitimate to compare stuff to the nazis.

  7. A VOTER 7

    [deleted]

    [lprent: Fool. Banned for two weeks. Don’t advocate violence on our site and don’t try to start stupid flamewars. Read the policy. ]

  8. vto 8

    Go jump in the lake you silly Press Council.

    Sheesh.

  9. greywarbler 9

    This sounds as if someone thinks its a done deal. Surely you have to opt in if it is. Why would the newspapers etc through their Council want to have a say over the blogs? There are rules that provide a ceiling in general aren’t there – laws of defamation. And there are internal rules and safeguards to prevent anyone having legal recourse.

    No way should we be subjected to the trials that we have to put up with here going to the Head Prefect and saying we said nasty things about them. Called them ascargots even. Or something they don’t understand. And seeing there is so much they don’t understand they are likely to resort to lots of moaning unless they get the bum’s rush from the Council, as you would think would happen.

    The whole thing is ludicrous. If we can find out something that the public ought to know, good on us. We aren’t doing it for money that is one aspect and I don’t think there is any advantage to any of us if we hear some whispers, leaks, gossip. But for me, it would be less than the media content, they are the ones likely to blacken someone’s character over a misdemeanour, we are more likely to ridicule them and then scrutinise them to see if they are doing any good. And how can we find balance and where is that rare gem. Each person has a point of view. Are there to be holding pens, one for the ayes and one for the noes, and they to have the gates opened to be released one at a time from each pen. Baaah.

  10. tc 10

    Adding what little credibility being a member of this countrys MSM brings whilst hiding behind the old ‘source’ routine allows you to really go for the BS.

    This will make WO and KB even more useful tools now, just a few months for the sheeple may be enough.

    CT at work, bet they wish Oz was as easy.

  11. captain hook 11

    so if wail boil becomes a bonofeedy journalist then he can hide behind some sort of privilege when it comes to sources.
    so no.
    Wail boils rag is not news. Its just regurgitated pap and dried faesces.

  12. rhinocrates 12

    My God, if this was satire, I’d say “lame.”

    “‘Legitimacy’? We don’t need your stinking ‘legitimacy’!” (Substitution for ‘badges’/’badgers’)

    Thankfully, due to the nature of the Internet, it’s going to come to nothing.

    The pretentiousness is hilarious. Laugh at them, ignore them, refuse to take the bait and thereby expose it as the self-interested sham that it is.

    This phoney “legitimacy” is bait on a hook, and it isn’t attractive – it stinks.

  13. rhinocrates 13

    This could be a motto for The Standard: “NOT a branch of The Herald”.

  14. Tanz 14

    Free, unregulated speech on blogs forever. The MSM are incredibly biased, and /leftist. Utopia, Utopia…

  15. RedBaronCV 15

    Blogs must be hurting the MSM who only want to peddle their version of the truth. MSM must be looking at the truckload of negative comments that a lot of their articles attract and the negative comments deal with facts as much as anything.

    Still what happens if this is renamed “The standard knitting circle & romance novel discussion group” and we carry on as before with the odd Mills & Boon sideline thrown in.

    I hope this doesn’t get me banned

  16. Molly 16

    On reading the post re blogs and MSM and the quality thereof – been wondering how well a blog that simply allowed comments on Herald articles that are closed (or were never open) would do.

    Usually the most appallingly written articles seem to have no comments function. And some of my moderated (and moderate) comments never make it to print, eg. my response to Rodney Hide’s
    – A secret memo on secret trusts 9/3/2014

    “Memo to: Rodney Hide

    From: People who want to be (mildly) informed by opinion pieces

    As usual you say nothing, do nothing, think nothing. Well, not nothing literally, but very little unbiased consideration goes into your articles now does it?

    John Key? Fundraising dinners? Anonymous donations? Big business? US bagman?
    And you ignore them?

    How do you sleep straight in bed at night?

    No. Forget I even asked. I don’t want to know.

    Did you not notice passing laws stopping this carry-on? Can you not remember they were in part a result of the shenanigans undertaken by John Key and Don Brash detailed wonderfully in The Hollow Men?

    Of course you do. But you continue this one-sided feigned outrage regardless.

    You look sleazy. You look tricky. You look like a hypocrite.

    You should ask for names at those dinners. Or do your usual and speculate. Because John Key will never ‘fess up. He’s comfortable. He’s comfortable with incompetence, dodginess, lack of accountability. And when we call him a ‘man of the people’ – those at the dinner know that the unsaid addendum… “… the people who can pay”.

    You might think I’m harsh. This is nothing. Your obvious bias hurts you most.”

    Not one of my best but the only one saved on notepad because the comments section was playing up. And most of the personal comments on there are copied from the original article.

    At present Herald comments seem to be very negative towards the government. I know I would enjoy having an outlet for the frustration I feel when reading yet another badly written and biased article in the Herald – and then discovering that there is no comment section to counteract the spin. Am wondering if there is a large percentage of the Herald reading public that feels the same. I’m sure that there would be copyright infringement issues etc though and is unlikely to happen – but it is a thought that allows me to compose responses in my head regardless.

    (And no – not suggesting any of the Standardistas create one – just musing after reading this post)

  17. Tracey 17

    So why would th ePress Council want them? Is it because more and more journalists are running blogs themselves and want extra security, and their desire for protection will allow Slugslick to get in too?

  18. lefty 18

    Generally blogs do not report news, although occasionally they do break a new story or add some extra information to an existing one.

    Because they are not primarily news breakers bloggers are free to put a range of opinions about the news into the public arena.

    Bloggers are free to parade their bias and do not have to worry about protecting advertising revenue so are free to offend readers if they choose to.

    This is their strength.

    There is no role for any official body when it comes to regulating opinion or blogs.

    Having said that I get very annoyed the attitude of many who frequent blogs display towards mainstream reporting.

    Yes, much of the media is owned by capitalists who wish to promote capitalist values and ideas and are influenced by the power of big advertisers, but there is a greater plurality in this country than many of the left give them credit for.

    I have been a spokesperson, or the media worker, for a number of quite radical organisations and have found that any competent organisation or politician can have their voice heard, although sometimes not as widely as they would like.

    Too often left critics fail to understand that journalists are simply reflecting the attitudes and values of the society they live in and what is perceived as bias is quite simply accurate reporting in that context.

    Conservative publications like the NZ Herald have always been just that, and readers generally understand this. Such publications and broadcasters, and it includes most of the mainstream media, will always lag behind progressive opinion on an issue until it is widely accepted, then it will become the new norm that news on that issue is assessed against.

    There are many fine hardworking journalists doing a good job of trying to report what is going on in the world around us in the most accurate way they can. In recent weeks we have seen reports that show prominent politicians from most of the political parties in a bad light. Those politicians all respond to these reports with their particular brand of spin. The public choose to believe some and not others. That is not the fault of the reporter and people like Bomber get right up my nose when they put these journalist down.

    The Press Council provides a very useful watchdog for these journalist and they tend to take it very seriously.

    • karol 18.1

      lefty: I have been a spokesperson, or the media worker, for a number of quite radical organisations and have found that any competent organisation or politician can have their voice heard, although sometimes not as widely as they would like.

      Too often left critics fail to understand that journalists are simply reflecting the attitudes and values of the society they live in and what is perceived as bias is quite simply accurate reporting in that context.
      […]
      There are many fine hardworking journalists doing a good job of trying to report what is going on in the world around us in the most accurate way they can.

      My main complaint, as in the post above, is with the overall MO of the corporate media. It is very much ratings and/or advertising and sales diven – leads to sensationalism, drama, conflict, celebrity culture and personal politcs over in depth analysis of politcal issues.

      Thconservative political bias also has a lot to do with editorial policies and approaches eg my comments on headlines vs content and the positioning of less conservative views in articles or within publications.

      The journalists with more conservative leanings are more likely to get hired and promoted. Neverheless, I agree that, within this system, many journalists do their best to report accurately, while some others are just spin merchants, usually for the right wing paries..

  19. captain hook 19

    well the the best thing that the press council could do in respect of wailboil is to get him with a can of slug spray.

  20. Ecosse_Maidy 20

    If Whale Oil and Kiwi Blog fell under the expansion of the press council and came under the same rules..Do you not think that it would benefit The Standard to be included?I read that you perceive The Standard to already be fair and balanced however would it not give The Standard extra kudos?This showing it has no self interest to protect?

    [lprent: why would we need “kudos”? From whom would we get this ” kudos”. Why should we respect it?

    The Press Council is more notable for it’s failures to regulate the press than its lack of success at providing balance – read their pissant decisions. You pay them for absolution and partial immunity from legal responsibility. Which of course is why Cameron Slater and his minon like the idea.

    Read the about. ]

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