Political interference at APN

Written By: - Date published: 11:39 pm, March 6th, 2008 - 36 comments
Categories: john key, Media - Tags: ,

Last night we published a tip-off saying the New Zealand Herald planned to report that its APN stable-mate the Bay Report would be correcting its story where John Key said ‘we would love to see wages drop.’

That story was published by the Herald this morning, hours before the Bay Report had even gone to print, and served only to confirm our suspicion that some serious political and/or proprietorial pressure has been brought to bear on APN’s newspapers and editorial staff.

Here we have APN’s senior management, seemingly out of the blue and without cause, forcing one of its papers to back away from a story that was politically inconvenient for the National Party.

APN has so far offered no explanation as to why the company has made such a drastic turnaround (the journalist, the editor, the publisher and the transcript all backed the story), nor do we have an explanation as to why it took two and a half months from when the story was first published to issue a correction.

This chain of events suggests some serious pressure has been brought to bear by APN, and possibly the National Party, and it’s not helped by the Dominion Post’s revelation that John Key has been ‘in communication’ with APN chief executive Martin Simons about the issue or the fact the story was broken not by APN but by Bill English in Parliament.

Furthermore, our sources inside APN tell us the decision to kill the story was not made locally, and nor was it even made by editorial staff – this one came straight from APN’s senior management. We also understand that APN has gagged its editorial staff at the Bay Report from speaking to the media.

This is simply rotten. In the interests of media freedom APN must remove the gagging order on its staff, tell the public exactly what communication has taken place between company management and the National Party, and explain why management felt it necessary to intervene in the editorial affairs of its newspapers.

This is no longer simply a story about what Key did or didn’t mean when he made that quote; it is now a serious matter of media freedom that should concern every New Zealander who has an interest in our democracy. I suspect this is not the last we’ll hear of it.

36 comments on “Political interference at APN”

  1. I’ve gotta say in my time in the game (and further back than that) this level of political interference is unprecedented. The fact that a manager with no journalist experience has dictated an editorial line is dumbfounding. I’ve seen and heard of commercial interference in my time but I have never seen a stated position retracted at the behest of business management like this, especially at the directive of a political party. Ever. This is some serious shit.

  2. illuminatedtiger 2

    And the public will never find out about any of it because it will never go mainstream. Catch 22 situation really isn’t it.

  3. out of bed 3

    I’m not so sure about that IT
    I would imagine there are some very pissed off journos

  4. illuminatedtiger 4

    Absolutely, but they’re not the gatekeepers. They merely report. The editor decides.

  5. r0b 5

    Freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, are cornerstones of democracy. Last year there was a lot of talk about these issues from the Right (in the context of the EFB).

    Well, now we seem to have a real case of the freedom of the press being suppressed. The Left is speaking up about it. Each and every one of the Right should be speaking up about it too. With the same energy and anger as they spoke up last year…

  6. Rexel 6

    This National leadership is so out of touch with reality.

    How did they honestly think the public would respond to these bullyboy tactics. What kind of game are they playing. Political suicide.

    This story will now dominate the election race.

    They are history and the result in November will show them that their lieing tongues and out of touch with reality poicies are not wanted in this great country.

  7. Camryn 7

    See comment #2 from insider on the “Some Questions” thread and higherstandard’s comment on Mar 6th, 2008 at 9:36 am

    I think this whole thing in Standard’s “Faux Outrage Du Jour”. No-one else is buying it.

  8. “Faux Outrage Du Jour’

    Funny, Camryn – that’s exactly what lefties said to right-wing squawking about the EFA.

  9. James Kearney 9

    No-one else is buying it.

    The story is coming up before 8 on Morning Report.

  10. higherstandard 10

    Tane are you accusing Tony Verdon of lying ?

    rOb agree Key should have ingnored the issue and laughed it off as the obvious gaff that it was, your continued intimation that their has been an abuse of political power from National I find laughable in relation to the EFA.

    What both the left and right in relation to these kind of issues (not yourself to be fair) fail to see is that the election won’t be decided on this kind of cak it’s more likely to be Mr and Mrs Joe average who can no longer countenance the price of butter, cheese, milk and petrol in combination wi their mortgage rate going up.

  11. Anyone read Audrey Young’s blog?

    http://blogs.nzherald.co.nz/blog/audrey-young/2008/3/6/corrections-retractions-and-rubbish/

    “There is a certain amount of rubbish being pedalled by the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union about the Herald’s involvement in the saga over whether or not John Key told the Bay Report in Northland he wanted wages to drop.

    National secretary Andrew Little is entitled to ask questions but they should be based on facts.

    Amid many questions in a press statement today headed “Has National muzzled the press?” he asks why the Herald is publishing a “correction” ahead of a Bay Report “correction” on the story.

    That is false.”

    Gee, the EPMU telling porkies? Slippery Andrew? Hmmmmmmm…….

  12. out of bed 12

    Yes but in this case you can’t quote any journalist at the the NZ Herald can you ? Because they have not exactly shown fair and balanced journalilsm in the last few months have they?

  13. higherstandard 13

    Thanks Inventory

    I think the most sensible thing I’ve read was from another blogger who commented that if you put all the medias pro left/anti right articles in one pile and all the pro right/anti left articles in another pile you’d probably have to equally sized piles of cak

  14. It seems a bit odd that Audrey would get worked up about such a small matter. I read the EPMU release and that was a tiny part of the story. Why would she not address the real issue?

  15. TomS 15

    The biggest impact this may have is it’ll put the brakes on the media gang’s love-in with John Key and National. The one thing any gang hates is having someone challenge them on their patch.

    And if the worm turns and “slippery John” becomes entrenched in the narrative of a vengeful press corps, then get the pop corn and get ready for a fun ride.

  16. r0b 16

    No-one else is buying it.

    Funny, Camryn – that’s exactly what all the Righties said when the original “we’d love to see wages drop” story broke too. And here we are.

    If Key had simply ignored it, that story would probably have faded away. Instead he seems to have thrown his weight around, and got APN management to gag it’s own reporters. That’s pretty much the worst thing he could have done (amateur stuff) – because it turns this into a real issue of the abuse of political power, and freedom of speech.

    The coverup is always worse than the crime.

  17. Wayne 17

    Audrey sounds rattled. If you hear something swirling it’s probably the sound of her credibility going down the drain.

  18. And that fact that Helen got stuck into the media last week about giving Key an easy run wouldn’t have anything to do with that would it TomS? And you guys accuse National of manipulating the media! How very Hollow of you!!

  19. Daveo 19

    And you guys accuse National of manipulating the media! How very Hollow of you!!

    Inventory2- you don’t seem to understand the issues here so I suggest you stop embarrassing yourself. I’m also baffled by your irrational hatred of the EPMU.

  20. out of bed 20

    And that fact that Helen got stuck into the media last week about giving Key an easy run wouldn’t have anything to do with that would it TomS?

    Quite patently no

  21. I don’t hate the EPMU – I was actually part of a group which brought the EPMU in to a non-unionised workplace several years ago, and was a card-carrying EPMU member until I left to take up a self-employment alternative. As the Mental Health adverts say Daveo, know me before you judge me!

  22. Daveo 22

    Happy to take your word mate- I just find it strange you devote so much time to bashing them and in this case greeted Audrey Young’s outburst so uncritically.

  23. Matthew Pilott 23

    Inventory2 – Clark was very open in her comments criticising the media. She also phrased it very gently (I had the image of the kid gloves being on) if you think about it. The Herald’s spiteful and fallacious “Democracy Under Attack” being describes as mischievous mayhem or something? Come on! I bet there were a few choice adjectives she wished to use.

    That aside, before you compare it to Key’s manipulation of APN and the Bay Report, can you tell me exactly what has happened, what it was that forced the Bay Report to say the impression given was wrong, without saying what impression it was meant to give! Why did the Herald publish it as fact, after Bill English merely mentioned they would be doing it, unless they already knew?

  24. Daveo – I think unions have a critical role to play in workplace rerlations, but I don’t necessarily agree with everything they do, or the manner in which they do it – in much the same way as I haven’t always agreed with the workplace practices of past (and even present!) employers, which makes working for oneself somewhat challenging!!

    I also have a good deal of respect for Andrew Little and agree with other posters that he will be an asset to Labour at some future time.

  25. Paul 25

    Wow just read the Audrey Young blog rant. Boy has she got her back up, and it’s not a good look for a journalist. You can excuse egotistical Politicians getting their back up, but not a good look for the journalist community.

    This line is interesting.

    “There wouldn’t be a journalist or news outlet in the country that has not been lobbied by politicians about a story they have taken exception to. Labour does it too.”

    So they have been at The Herald?

    And I love the way she’s turned it around to making it look like a Herald scoop.

    Then another gem;
    “The problem with this Key wages story from the start is that the transcript of what Key said appears to be contradictory.”

    She’s right there, the transcript clearly shows he said that, and the only contradiction has emanated from Key’s mouth.

    I congratulate The Standard for all of the work they are doing over this issue.

  26. gobsmacked 26

    From Radio NZ this morning:

    “A spokesperson for the National party would not reveal to Morning Report who had contacted APN, or who had been spoken to; saying there had been “enough said” on the matter.”

    Murkier and murkier.

  27. insider 27

    According to the Dom Post, Nats spoke to editorial and management staff, the clarification was drafted by the Bay News editor and agreed with the reporter and sub responsible for the original.

    On morining report Cullen said it was perfectly normal for political parties to talk to media about how stories are treated.

  28. Paul 28

    Boy are they in a tizz over at kiwiblog. You know you have their back up when the level of infantile abuse is proportional to Key’s guff.

    It’s really not for sensitive eyes.

    I didn’t know you folk were such bad people.

  29. out of bed 29

    I see Farrar at the “crapping kiwi” is using the Herald journalist Audrey Young’s Article to defend Nationals pressure on a compliant New Zealand Herald.
    This is a bit of a circular argument isn’t it
    I mean you wouldn’t expect the NZ Herald to investigate a story about
    interference in the NZ Herald by the APN would you ?

  30. gobsmacked 30

    Insider

    You misrepresent Cullen. Here’s the link:

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/latest/200803070859/3bcdf44

    There’s a very clear difference between complaining to journalists and complaining to their bosses, who then take over the journalists’ job.

  31. insider 31

    gobsmacked

    CUllen appears to have made an assumption not supported by the facts. I’m surprised you missed it as it was in the subsequent paragraph “Mr Simons also said regarding Thursday’s clarification, that it was edited by The Bay Report editor and agreed to by the journalist and subeditor involved in the original story.”

  32. insider 32

    Colin Espiner has this as the text of the clarification

    “Point of clarification.
    An article published by the Bay Report on 20 December may have left readers with the impression that National Party leader John Key wanted a drop in New Zealand wages.

    “From an examination of the transcript of the interview, and the context of the comments made by Mr Key in relation to the loss of skilled workers from New Zealand to Australia, The Bay Report now accepts that was not intended and that impression would be incorrect.

    “The newspaper acknowledges that its news report was based on part of a conversation between president of the local Kerikeri Business Association Carolyne Brooks-Quan and Mr Key.

    “Mr Key accepts the Bay Report reporter did not act with malice or intent.’

  33. Tane 33

    “it was edited by The Bay Report editor and agreed to by the journalist and subeditor involved in the original story.’

    That’s not true. Doesn’t it make you wonder, insider, the fact the Bay Report’s staff have been gagged by APN management?

    From the same story:

    Reporter Greg Robertson has been instructed not to talk about the issue and Mike Regan did not return calls by Radio New Zealand.

  34. gobsmacked 34

    Insider

    Let’s get real here. The timeline:

    1) National contacts editor – no action taken.

    2) National contacts editor’s boss (and now doesn’t want to talk about this – see my post above).

    3) Boss tells editor to take action.

    4) Editor now takes action.

    There’s a clear difference between an editorial decision reached independently, and a response to pressure from above.

    “Agreed to …” is weasel wording. Most of us “agree” to do what we’re told by the boss. Got no choice.

  35. insider 35

    Tane

    Gagging? Not really. Standard practice in any modern organisation is to have designated spokespeople on a controversial issue. Those are usually senior people not junior. Government is one of the major ‘gaggers’ in that sense. You and I may not like it but it is not exceptional behaviour. (as an aside I always find it ironic that the media demand answers of organisations and pillory them when they refuse to comply, yet often when same media come under the spotlight they often run for cover and refuse to engage. Who said life was fair?)

    gobsmacked

    No disagreement on 1, 2 & 4. The debate is over 3 and the motivation.

    I’ve always said Key made the statment concerned. I also believe it was an example of poor reporting because the context of the story left me as a reader confused as to what was being said, the reporter did not recognise the contradictions and follow them up, and did not show good news judgement in choosing his story angle. I think the editor was right to assert it was a true reflection of what was said but wrong to not recognise the inherent contradiction and question the way the story was written. I think the publishers were right to recognise those issues and discuss them with the editor, as it is about professional standards.

  36. Pablo 36

    “From an examination of the transcript of the interview, and the context of the comments made by Mr Key in relation to the loss of skilled workers from New Zealand to Australia, The Bay Report now accepts that was not intended and that impression would be incorrect.”

    Yeah, but the article merely quotes Key as having said those words, from memory it doesn’t make any analysis of them. It even goes further so you have the quote in context of the full para.

    Any “impression” has been created after the fact by politicians, journalists and bloggers. Readers make their own minds up. If he’d just put it to bed properly at the time this would have blown over as the kiwiblog righties here have been hoping for weeks.

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