Racial bias in RNZ world reportage, or just giving people what they want?

Written By: - Date published: 10:37 am, August 14th, 2018 - 64 comments
Categories: accountability, broadcasting, disaster, International, journalism, Media, radio, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: , , ,

 

A Guest Post from regular contributor Adrian Thornton:

After listening to this Sunday’s excellent Mediawatch piece ‘Stormy Daniels vs Yemen: No contest’ I was moved to send the crew at Radio NZ’s Sunday Morning show a few excepts from an email exchange I had with RNZ producer Kim Griggs earlier in the year on this same subject.

I had sent a pretty inflammatory email addressed to, I think, the producers of Morning Report, questioning their almost non-existent coverage of the 2017 South Asian floods  but at the very same time extensive coverage of the floods taking place in Texas. This, in my view, displayed a clear race bias.

I promptly had a reply from Griggs (the exchange is reproduced below in its entirety) which ends with Griggs telling me “more people care about Paris over Kenya, Houston over Bangladesh. It may be a sad fact for you but it’s true.”

Now my issue is this; if some tragedy occurs in the US, like the floods mentioned above or the Florida high school shootings, as a RNZ listener you will have, firstly, huge amounts of airtime dedicated to this item.

Secondly, the victims (or at least some of them) will be humanised, so not only will we know the tragedy in every detail we will also have real life humans with names that we can relate to in the story. So this report, and these people, will have entered your conscience as something worth knowing and people worth caring about. This must be important, our subconscious will be telling us, or why else would so much precious RNZ  coverage be dedicated to them?

Now let’s cut to a school shooting tragedy in a Brown/Black/Yellow part of the world like the 2014 Peshawar school massacre. Did we get to know any of the victims, or even the name of one single person involved?

Of course not, and it goes without saying the airtime would be considerably less.

So what in effect is being reinforced into the subconscious of the listeners of RNZ by this racial bias is that the lives of (mostly) white children have more value than the lives of foreign coloured children.

It is as simple as that.

Now, I am not saying that Radio NZ can or should be everything to everyone, and of course there are plenty of good things one can point too on RNZ – John Campbell’s show for instance – but I am saying that I think they seriously need to do better, a lot better.

Surely New Zealand citizens deserve a more balanced world view?

 

Unaltered mails to and from Adrian Thornton and RNZ (Kim Griggs) 31-8-2017 with all my spelling and grammar mistakes intact:

Adrian Thornton:

Is RNZ as racist as it seems to be, or am I missing some nuance in your white bias?  You do realize there is another flood effecting over 41 million people that is not is America? Maybe your internet isn’t working that well, so here is a link to help you… http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/india-floods-bangladesh-nepal-millions-affected-says-un-a7920721.html   Come on, what the hell is going on over there, this type of racist bias is probably very offensive to the 200,000 Indians living in NZ, not to mention the NZ citizens from Bangladesh and Nepal and is frankly embarrassing to listen to.

Please address this issue asap

Kim Griggs:

Adrian, actually we are planning to talk to a local community leader here from Bangladesh. And no, we’re not racist but there are differences in news values about deaths during annual monsoons, difficult as these are, versus unexpected and catastrophic flooding of a large city not used to flooding. There are also issues about news production from one area versus the other which is part and parcel of being part of the Western news media.   I could go on – I did an MA in this stuff – but suffice to say that we do think about the balance of the news each and every day. To be honest I think it’s a cheap shot to just sling that off to a team of people who are working hard each and every day to bring a wide and varied range of stories to the New Zealand community.

AT: Thanks for your reply, however Huston has had major floods over the last three years, so this is not a completely unusual event there of late, where as the floods in India, Bangladesh and Nepal are the worst in 30 years, so are in fact an unusual event. The short piece Susie did with the Mehedi Chowdury felt ad hoc at best, but better than nothing I guess.  

I of course understand your (RNZ) dilemma with being a ‘western’ media source, however RNZ is the one place where this seemingly natural news bias should be at it’s lest obvious, which I have to say it is often not. Lastly I don’t think it is at all a cheap shot, these floods have hardly been mentioned in RNZ’s main hourly news roundups over the last few days, where as the floods in the US have constant updates, we get to know the names and hear the stories of many of the participants, thereby humanizing them and their disaster etc, but the same humanizing coverage is not afforded those in India etc…. you have done the MA so you know where I am going with this.  

Thanks again for your reply, and thank you and your team for all your hard work, but I maintain that RNZ has to be far more vigilant on this vital issue, as surely the overall project is helping in raising people’s consciences through even, fair and unbiased well informed reporting?

KG: Adrian, we’ll have to agree to disagree on this.  Thirty years of experience in news tells me most people don’t care about Bangladesh, more people care about Houston. Right or wrong, it’s happened like that for years. For instance If you can, without googling, name the ship involved in the deadliest peacetime maritime disaster in history (and a hint – it’s not the Titanic), I’ll listen to your arguments harder.

AT: I can’t remember it’s name off the top of my head, but I know that a German troop ship carrying civilians sunk at the end of WW2 by a Russian submarine is often cited as having the worst causality rate of a ship lost at sea….no google involved.                                                                                                                                                                                                 I am sad to hear that you have succumbed to just answering the call of essentially reinforcing the lowest common denominator in human instinct, instead of helping to fellow citizens to look up higher, which as I mentioned earlier, is what I thought high level public funded news and reporting was all about…so I might just as well listen to Mike Hosking’s then?

KG: Not at all, it was a ferry in the Philippines. You probably don’t recall because here in NZ no one took any notice of the fact four thousand Filipinos had died – then or ever since.  And going back to the original message a) we are not racist and b) we are not an educational service, we are a news service. As such we follow the usual news values, which at the moment mean more people care about Paris over Kenya, Houston over Bangladesh. It may be a sad fact for you but it’s true.  And if anything more extend our reach much further than other news services.

AT: That’s a very strange analogy that you have used, surely you have just reinforced my position? isn’t this is the exact reason why RNZ should cover non european news in a more balanced way…I didn’t remember this tragedy probably because it was covered quite lightly considering it’s epic proportions at the time, whereas if this had happened in a western country I surely would have remembered it from the amount of coverage and human context you would have given it over a long time? 

People can only care about what they are informed about (you don’t know what you don’t know), if you took time to humanize and contextualize a human from Bangladesh most other humans would relate to that person just as much as they would if the person was from France, but you never do so they never will have that chance…but that is your production choice not ours. It is not sad for me personally because I try to take the time to stay informed, but it is sad for the citizens of NZ who trust you as their main news source.  BTW news and education are the same thing, well should be.

 

So there you have it. It was good that Griggs was prepared to debate me, however I still stand by my position, and I am still a bit disappointed that she thinks it is right to actively perpetuate such a negative (and small) world view.

But most of all I am angry that RNZ is so stuck in its ways, does so little to raise the bar and only helps in reinforcing national/ethnic divides.

All of which seem to me to be a real shame, and a lost opportunity for our state funded news agency to actually help in bringing a little positive change in people’s perception of their world and the people in it.

Finally, here are some excerpts from the RNZ charter, parts of which I believe show quite clearly that RNZ is failing to deliver the balance in world news as defined by its own charter (thanks to TRP for bringing this to my attention).

Charter and Principles of Radio New Zealand

(1) As an independent public service broadcaster, the public radio company’s purpose is to serve the public interest.

(5) In achieving its purpose, the public radio company must endeavour to provide services of the highest quality, which-

(b) inform, entertain, and enlighten the people of New Zealand:

(d) foster critical thought, and informed and wide-ranging debate:

(i) provide comprehensive, independent, accurate, impartial, and balanced regional, national, and international news and current affairs:

(k) contribute towards intellectual and spiritual development

 

 – Adrian Thornton

 

 

 

64 comments on “Racial bias in RNZ world reportage, or just giving people what they want?”

  1. Antoine 1

    Griggs’ emails are oddly confrontational

    Unprofessional in my view

    A.

    • Jonathan 1.1

      Griggs’ responses were very confrontational. This seems to be the new norm for twonks. She betrays her lack of wisdom by telling Adrian she has an MA, and asking him about a shipping tradgedy which has nothing to do with the topic.
      I’ve given up on RNZ. Adrian made important points, rather than take them on board she immediately went on the defensive.

      • Harpoon 1.1.1

        Ignorant rubbish. Adrian was the one being aggressive from the start it in his first email by accusing Radio NZ and Griggs’ programme of being racist. You can’t blame Griggs for standing up to that sort of opening line. The context of the shipping tragedy question was absolutely on topic and was not a ‘test’; it was to show what gets the attention of people and what doesn’t.

        • greywarshark 1.1.1.1

          Hooton
          Your quoted points are irrelevant to Thornton’s point and shows the unwillingness to think about the range of information offered and the problem being considered, as is RNZ. (RNZ is a logo for RadioNZ, a medium reporting to the country, remembering that NZ is supposedly integrated into a global economy and all countries.)

          RNZ is a public service organisation, and appears to have been tainted by political changes to believe that it should measure itself against private business-run radio stations. These find attracting money and profit their main purpose and prioritise news presented to that end, rather than fulfilling the requirements below:

          to:

          (d) foster critical thought, and informed and wide-ranging debate:

          (i) provide comprehensive, independent, accurate, impartial, and balanced regional, national, and international news and current affairs:

          • Harpoon 1.1.1.1.1

            Whatever. You and Adrian are both making a bigger thing of the original email exchange (last year). Griggs, a producer for the drive-time current affairs programme Morning Report, was clearly talking only about news judgement around the flooding in Houston, explaining why it (sadly) had greater news value than flooding in Bangladesh. You and Adrian have taken that very specific topic and portrayed it as a full-on organisation-wide policy to always ignore news stories from third world locations. What a ridiculous lie.

            • Adrian Thornton 1.1.1.1.1.1

              Settle down there Harpoon, I have never said RNZ ignores “news stories from third world locations” I said quite clearly that they have no balance in reporting those stories, as mediawatch on RNZ itself also pointed out, so why don’t you email Colin Peacock and tell him he has got wrong and actually RNZ have perfect balance in their world news coverage?

              Here is his email for you.
              mediawatch@radionz.co.nz

            • greywarshark 1.1.1.1.1.2

              Harpoon
              Don’t bust a foo-foo valve! I didn’t take any one example as the basis for what I consider inadequate reporting. I have thought that there was a huge black hole for some time. There are over 100 countries in the world and I hear next to nothing about most of them. And something important is happening in each that will have relevance to iour past, present or future.

              But shoot the messenger is your approach. Queen Victoria is supposed to have said stiffly about unwelcome information “I do not want to know that’. There seems to be several people in such a state of suspended animation, you among them.

        • Adrian Thornton 1.1.1.2

          Of course the only reason I got a response was because of my opening line.

  2. Good on you Adrian
    I can barely listen to RNZ anymore

    Western values of universalism and human rights only apparently extend to other Europeans…. the so called international community
    What Gtriggs seems to be suggesting is that the NZ public is basically racist and incapable of empathising with non western subjects

    And nope, the msm is not supposed to inform the public with unslanted info , its job is to feed you the “western view” in an entertainingly propagandistic manner
    No wonder Assange, with his provision of straight unspun information has been so vilfied by those very journalists who see their jobs in this light
    The true danger to journalism is the way its being practised by the vast majority of journalists

    • OnceWasTim 2.1

      I CAN listen to RNZ because it’s all we’ve got left. It is however under threat.
      It has some very good people slaving under a junta that can’t see the wood for the trees (in terms of its mandate as a public service broadcaster). I wouldn’t be surprised if others are asking themselves ‘is this all worth it?’ Pays the mortgage tho’ I spose.

      Here’s a hint though. I don’t give a shit whether N2N is hosted by the gorgeously experienced Kathryn Ryan – equipped with a CV as an “Incisive” johnalist in the Press Gallery, and with a ‘balanced portfolio’ OR whether Lynne Freeman is standing in to allow her overlux to take advantage of a generous leave entitlement.
      Nor to I care whether Morning report is a Guyon and Susie (or maybe its Siouxshie), or a stand in Kim il Sun or Jung), or whether Afternoons comes to me by way of a Jessie or a Wallace (or even a Noel if things are getting desperate).

      RNZ however, is losing it’s shit, and it probably should be asking itself why (and the answer isn’t with a Gavin Ellis giving us all his words of wisdom)

      • Harpoon 2.1.1

        If all of that is true, OnceWasTim, why are their audience ratings increasing? https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2018/07/13/152246/mediaroom

        • Adrian Thornton 2.1.1.1

          @Harpoon, this discussion isn’t about ratings, it is about RNZ delivering fair and balanced reporting as mandated in their Charter, and lets face if RNZ is out to chase ratings as a priority over content and substance, well Mike Hosking and Paul Holmes have been in their own times far and away the most highly rated radio hosts on air…and I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t like to see RNZ head down that rabbit hole.

          • Harpoon 2.1.1.1.1

            Adrian, I raised the topic of ratings because OnceWasTim stated “RNZ, however, is losing its shit”. I don’t blame you for thinking Holmes and Hosking were bigger than RNZ programmes. Maybe you’re not aware, but that may be because Radio NZ didn’t participate in the ratings system. Then as soon as they did participate, they suddenly appeared in the the ratings reports, as if out of nowhere, as a giant. The reported figures show that Morning Report, for example, has a consistently massive and growing audience.

            • Adrian Thornton 2.1.1.1.1.1

              @Harpoon, fair point, I didn’t know about RNZ not participating in the rating game.. I would hazard a guess that that is probably when they started going wrong.

          • Dukeofurl 2.1.1.1.2

            RNZ mornings rates higher than Hosking or is at least level pegging. The radion that rates higher is other genres

    • D'Esterre 2.2

      Francesca: “I can barely listen to RNZ anymore”

      Yay, Francesca, I agree, at least where RNZ National is concerned. Concert is my go-to programme when National has become intolerable. Regrettably, that’s increasingly often nowadays.

      In fairness all round, I don’t think RNZ has ever been a broadcaster of record, in the way that many of us now expect it to be. I’m a longtime listener to RNZ and its previous iterations, going all the way back to the 1960s and earlier. To the best of my recall, it has never had foreign affairs specialist journos, with the honourable exception of Michael Field on the Pacific.

      For all the years that I’ve been listening, it has uncritically rebroadcast news from overseas, for the most part from the English-speaking West. What’s changed for me (and, I suspect, many others) as a listener over the past couple of decades has been my discovery of dissenters such as Noam Chomsky; and the rise of the internet, the latter giving us access to other dissenting voices – and investigative journalists such as the late, great Robert Parry, along with many others.

      I now expect to get a critical perspective on international affairs; unfortunately, it’s absent from RNZ. I’ve challenged its journalists about this, but I’m not certain that they actually understand what’s required.

      • Adrian Thornton 2.2.1

        @D’Esterre, Yes I to have concert as my go to station now.
        I think you are also right in saying that we maybe want more from RNZ now, however I can’t see why just a bit more fairness and balance in their world news delivery would be at all difficult to deliver?
        I am also not sure why so many commenters resist so vehemently to wanting to hear more balance in their world news…very very strange indeed.

        But then again I also can’t figure out why half the (voting) population would still vote National.

        • D'Esterre 2.2.1.1

          Adrian Thornton: “….I can’t see why just a bit more fairness and balance in their world news delivery would be at all difficult to deliver?”

          Neither can I. And we would all benefit from it, especially those people who get their news from RNZ or the main TV channels, and either don’t have access to the internet, or, if they do, don’t know where to look for alternative voices. Or even that there are such voices; I am acquainted with people like that.

          RNZ needs journalists who are – or can become – foreign affairs specialists. It used to have Michael Field covering the Pacific, whether always on staff or more recently as a commentator, I’m not sure; but I believe that he’s retired, unfortunately. In this piece below (worth a read in its entirety), he refers to the absence of foreign affairs specialists in the NZ media generally:

          “New Zealand’s media has abdicated any role in reporting on or defining the country’s foreign policy. It accepts a line that foreign policy is about trade while the actual policy itself is worked out behind closed doors, and in this case, by Foreign Minister Murray McCully.
          ……………………
          As one New Zealand diplomat put it, commenting on this issue, New Zealand ” diplomacy is still conducted very much in secret, indeed much more so than in other democracies”. The diplomat added the New Zealand media didnt have the specialists to pursue international issues”. Using the Official Information Act to find out what happens is no longer effective as it had been “gamed by ministers and comprehensive PR has been a hall mark of the Key regime.””

          http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1612/S00104/background-to-how-israel-nearly-went-to-war-with-new-zealand.htm

          “I am also not sure why so many commenters resist so vehemently to wanting to hear more balance in their world news….”

          It’s a puzzle to me too. I’ve noticed with some RNZ staff that their response to critique tends toward the defensive; it isn’t particularly helpful. It wouldn’t matter so much if that critique resulted in substantive change. But it doesn’t , sadly. So: if I want to hear nuanced reporting of international affairs – and about natural disasters in somewhere other than Western countries – I go to internet sites.

  3. Chris T 3

    TBF

    I didn’t know there was flooding the US let alone Bangladesh and I couldn’t name or remember faces of anyone in US mass killings.

    I think you are reading too much into it

    Yes, there is going to be more coverage on events happening in places NZers relate to, but it isn’t just that. It also lack of English speaking media who are there to provide on the ground coverage and not the same relationships with local media to liaise to get local media coverage.

    • Siobhan 3.1

      “It also lack of English speaking media”.. a statement that perfectly reflects how sorely let down we are by the MSM on our understanding of the World and its inhabitants.

      “An estimated 18 million Bangladeshis can use English as a second language.
      English is the principal language of the Bangladeshi upper judiciary, including the Bangladesh Supreme Court and the Dhaka High Court. Bengali is the sole official language, but English is often used secondarily for official purposes, especially in the judiciary.
      The Government of Bangladesh extensively uses English as a working language. Bangladeshi laws are written in both English and Bengali.” (Wikipedia)

      If all else fails I’m sure RNZ could find a BBC correspondent over there. Though I suspect the biggest difficulty would be getting the Bangladeshi journalists to understand Guyon Espiner.

      Given the massive amount of imported clothing we get from Bangladesh, now that the Chinese are starting to demand actual wages, I’m pretty sure RNZ could rustle up a bit of interest if they felt inspired. Lets face it, the News cycle is so quick these days it would hardly require a massive commitment on their part.
      I mean if even George Harrison managed to get people’s attention back in the 70’s I don’t see why we can’t manage it now.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Concert_for_Bangladesh

  4. mauī 4

    Thanks Adrian for making this vital critique of our media. RNZ is one of our better media organizations and the fact an outsider like yourself presumably with little media training could do a much better job in charge is scary. Thanks also to TRP for organizing this guest post.

    It also interesting that geographic location in relation to newsworthiness does not come into consideration. Events in Asia and around the Pacific rim do affect Kiwis more than events further away, i.e. Europe.

    • Harpoon 4.1

      … and Radio NZ does a lot of Pacific coverage in its bulletins, a Pacific-dedicated podcast, Pacific-dedicated section on its website, a daily Pacific current affairs show, and a weekly Pacific magazine programme. I’d say that was pretty comprehensive, wouldn’t you?

  5. Dukeofurl 5

    No one has ever asked me but I don’t care about Houston. There’s this strange obsession with climate porn especially from US. And as a diaster it ranks way down the list. Do we really have to know about a blizzard/snowstorm again in the US.
    My view is that this sort of coverage, hyped up, is like fast food. Easy to get and mostly a filler upper. To pretend there is any sort of news values is laughable. They have hours of program to fill easily and cheaply and they do as fast food news brings ratings. That’s the only values they care about.

  6. SaveNZ 6

    There is a simple solution, watch AlJazeera, or other news agencies that cover more of Asia, Middle East and Africa. If you think you are going to get any sort of news balance anymore from NZ or any MSM anyway, you are mistaken.

    Saying than I am also concerned at this ‘woke left” (I think they are calling it), which seems to only identify with pro Asia/African in particular issues and they are some sort of holy light that NZ needs to identify themselves with and stop their marginalisation. Firstly both those continents have the worlds first and second largest population and I think parts of Africa have the fastest growing population in the world, so they are not marginal as a racial group. They are dominant.

    But NZ is a very small country and I’d like to see it have our own identity with Maori, biculturalism under the treaty and the Pacific and with ties to Europe, not just follow the money trail to Asia that has been government policy for years and (poorly) try to capitalise on that (Forays with Fonterra in China and South American blowing millions of farmers incomes, student visa/work and immigration scams continuing at an alarming rates, increasingly whenever government enter into any deal with foreign individuals or business they lose aka high country tenders. They can’t even control basic safety in their mines aka Pike River or even mount a simple rescue, that third world countries manage).

    Europe has a long history of democratic and more social remedies from education to welfare and corruption, and most people including those from Africa and Asia would prefer to live as one of their citizens in the EU than live in China or India for example judging from the immigration patterns.

    If the woke left love those countries, governments and citizens so much, please go there and make a life for yourself or start sending letters to those governments how they can make their citizens lives better…

    NZ has many problems and one of them seems to be this constant distraction of issues that seem to go back to identity politics without solving some serious race issues we have in NZ, such as

    NZ wealth being increasingly held by wealthy non residents or fake residents and corporations

    We have a growing meth problem from the last decade and

    it’s ok when 500 million is laundered oh I mean gambled through Sky city for example

    Spend copious amounts of tax money and give away land to business to increase the amount of housing thinking that some bizarre “build, build, build” strategy will work, without getting to the basic premise that we have around 50 -60% of our working population who earn $20p/h or less so the million dollar housing supply going up and the inward immigration of often low waged workers or rich satellite families earning “nothing” is actually making things worse for them

    while we debate the word cunt,

    worry about if someone a rape apologist or not, while doing nothing about rapists themselves who are apparently freely raping in prison for years + Louise Nicholas + roast busters, no charges laid..

    In addition, worry why Radio NZ’s pathetic world coverage is not racially evenly segregated enough?

    • RedLogix 6.1

      There is a simple solution, watch AlJazeera, or other news agencies that cover more of Asia, Middle East and Africa.

      Precisely; but you’ll find their coverage of New Zealand affairs is pretty slim. It cuts both ways.

  7. McFlock 7

    This is a critique that needs to be made regularly – although I sort of agree with you both.

    News reports about the west are generally easier for NZ media to cover – they usually have established links with local networks who have reporters on the ground reporting in English. Even continental European news is close enough to have UK interests and reporting.

    But then there is also a racist element – the best example was Katrina, where it all happened in the US. Stranded survivors were described as “taking emergency supplies from shuttered stores” if they were white, “looting” if they were black. Less obvious slanting permeates all our coverage.

    The denial of racism is an indication of the problem – the question is how racist (or any “ist”) are we? Have we behaved fairly in this situation, or has something been subconsciously skewed (or worse, even consciously)? It’s not angst as such, it’s just if something comes to my attention about how I behaved in a particular situation, have I identified a bit of baggage I need to allow for? Sometimes I’m fine, sometimes I realise something about myself. But I do have a quiet think, rather than just outright assuming it can’t be true.

    Are the news editors genuinely reporting news on topic areas people want to know about, or just the areas they think people want to know about because those are the areas they themselves are interested in?

  8. Thanks to Adrian for putting this post together. If other readers or commenters would like to try their hand a guest post, there is a ‘contribute post’ button toward the top of the page. It’s right below the donate button 😉

    Regarding Radio NZ, I think they do an excellent job with the resources they have at hand. They can’t cover every issue, obviously, and this is something all news media struggle with.

    As a public service broadcaster, RNZ have a clear remit, which Adrian touches on in the post. Fox News also have a remit, and so does the Guardian, and so does the Standard. News organisations tend to reflect their owners and their consumers. RNZ is no different in that regard and I think they do pretty well, overall.

    Here’s a piece on ‘newsworthiness’. It clarifies some of the principles that go into choosing stories. These rules are used in just about every newsroom in the world to determine what is broadcast or printed:

    https://www.mediacollege.com/journalism/news/newsworthy.html

    As they used to say in Fleet St, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

  9. RedLogix 9

    It’s entirely normal that we are selective about what is important to us, because unless we filter most things out we would be utterly overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of the world. About 150,000 people die every day. If we were all locked into mourning each and every one of them, no-one could function. Nothing would get done.

    Of course the OP omits that fact that a disaster in Bangladesh is covered extensively in their local media … while something comparable in New Zealand would rarely be mentioned. It’s essentially the same the world over; people are interested in what is local or familiar to them. To label this common and necessary human behaviour as a form of racism is puerile ideology at its worst.

    • Hanswurst 9.1

      I agree that racism is a poor label for it, but I also think that Adrian highlights an honest problem, namely that simplistic feelings of cultural kinship lead to such a massive and persistent distortion of the scale and frequency of world events. Insofar as the point of news is to inform people about the context of their lives and help them engage in meaningful discourse and decision-making, that’s a huge deficiency. It goes well beyond what is “common and necessary”, and, while ‘racism’ is probably not the best term, to dismiss Adrian’s criticism as puerile ideology at its worst is puerile ideology at its worst.

      • RedLogix 9.1.1

        Nah … the r-word gets tossed around far too casually far too often; it actually means something important but not when it’s debased like this.

        • Hanswurst 9.1.1.1

          Well, zeroing in on a single word and brushing aside the actual point (after paying the latter the barest lip-service one your previous comment) is definitely childish.

        • SaveNZ 9.1.1.2

          I agree RedLogix, there is so much r-word being used casually that is not only is becoming debased because every man/dog/organisation is apparently guilty of it.

          The overreaction of calling everyone and everything racist and inadvertently championing the spread of neoliberalism and its ponzi schemes, is turning off people from the middle and allowed people like Don Brash to now be called a free speech advocate as well as be nominated for NZ’er of the year.

          It could get worse quite frankly as Brash is taking away heat from Bridges, and positioning himself outside of the Natz (John Key’s government rates 0%/feels sorry for the middle classes) maybe for a senior citizen run at a new Conservative type party – for the National party haters who maybe used to vote NZ First or National?

      • Harpoon 9.1.2

        There’s a thing called the internet. You can go on a computer or a cellphone anywhere and find out about news in the remotest of places. there are even places on the Internet called ‘websites’ that will show news about Bangladesh and Mali and Yemen. You don’t have to rely on local news to tell you about these places! It’s amazing you should try it some time.

        • Hanswurst 9.1.2.1

          :rolleyes: Yeah, news services should just put out any old crap about whatever subjects they feel like, because we’re all grown-up enough to do their job for them. Master builders could use the same defence: “If you want a building that’s fit for purpose, all you need to know is right there on the electrical internet service. Not my fault you’re too lazy to do all the research for yourself!”

        • Adrian Thornton 9.1.2.2

          @Harpoon, What are you even talking about? RNZ is mandated to provide BALANCED world news..what exactly is your problem with that?

    • greywarshark 9.2

      red Logix
      You seem to be shutting down your critical faculties. I don’t hear the wide ranging comment these days. Are you living in Australia? They have this morning been reported as receiving a strong maiden speech in their Parliament of an ex Pauline Hanson follower,but now Australia Party MP, that the White Australia policy should be reinstated calling on Christian and other criteria on which the country is based.
      FGS they were born as a convict colony! Nothing Christian about it.

      But we have had that reported which is good. We need to hear what is happening around the world and not only relating to religion. Picking out some disaster in Bangladesh as being mostly of interest to locals is thin thinking. We claim that we are a developed country, we trade and travel throughout the world. We claim we are educated and therefore knowledgeable, and think we understand the world. We need to be interested in it as global people.

      That should be obvious to anybody who wants to relate to the world. If you are in Australia and just think locally, why do you want to come here and take an interest in opinions here? It is no doubt because you have business interests here and possibly relatives. In fact you are part of a wider world in which everything that happens ripples out to affect you. This applies to all of us.

      • OnceWasTim 9.2.1

        +100
        “Thin thinking”
        What a good term.
        This thread is really interesting. We’ve got commenters offering a defense of Griggs that could be equally applied to a Ralston or a Soper and who think she should be above critique on the basis of not much more than longevity and experience (which btw shouldn’t be minimised)
        We’ve had TRP ‘LECTURING’ us on other threads about Media101 selectively.
        We’ve got others suggesting that if we’re so concerned about the likes of Yemen, then tuff shit – the internet is their friend and they should actively go solicit it.
        What comfy little lives some of us have become accustomed to eh?
        “The truth is…” !!!!!
        “End of story!”

    • Adrian Thornton 9.3

      @ RedLogic, no you are wrong.
      As I have said all along it is about BALANCE, I will explain it again…if there is a flood in Southeast Asia that affects 14 million people and is the worst of its type in that region for a decade, while at the same time there is a flood in the USA that affects many many millions less people less and that similar floods have occured there over the previous few years, thereby making it a more common occurrence, why wouldn’t a radio service that is mandated to provide balanced world news report give the flood in SE Asia at the very least 25% of the air time that it affords the much lesser flood in USA?

      I think you got your description of of ideology all mixed up pal..it is RNZ who display a racially biased ideology., and that is just a fact….maybe that idology it just happens that it might fit snugly with your own, so you don’t notice it to much, or aren’t bothered by it, it just so happens that I am.

      • marty mars 9.3.1

        I agree on these points you make Adrian. It is a form of colour blindness and othering – to mostly be expecting people to be interested in news relating to other people that look the same as the people receiving the news is arrogant because not everyone and indeed most aren’t like the people in the news.

        I want diversity not conformity.

  10. Martin Harris 10

    Good on you Adrian for taking a stand and having a go but to be honest, you were way out of line. The replies from Kim Griggs are bang on. RNZ gives us a broader view of the world and a greater diversity of perspective than any other mainstream media and in no way could be viewed as racist. That’s a plain silly and offensive accusation. Griggs is right – most NZers relate far more to the West – 5 dead in a Paris attack registers as far closer to home than 30 dead in a Syrian village no one’s ever heard of, let alone visited. My advice: Don’t lecture NZ’s best news professionals on how to do their job.

  11. Hongi Ika 11

    We live in a cocoon here in NZ and do not get balanced MSM reporting ?

    • greywarshark 11.1

      Hongi Ika
      I will take that further. We are in a cocoon that wants to lie in a hammock. And that cocoon is no protection against predatory wasps that will lay their eggs in our body and hatch and consume us. It’s an ugly analogy but is true.

      We who attempt to know and think about what is happening. We need to allow ourselves frequent glimpses as looking at it too long can lead to deep depression.
      Facts and truthful reporting of what is happening is a public service requirement.
      Not just feeding us sensation and feelgood stuff. The idea that news is not educational, ie that you don’t learn anything from it, is the most specious rubbish that the journalism courses have manged to twist their subject into. I read this quote from a man who wrote horoscopes, and was quite witty. But he had picked up on something very funny (queer) that apparently some journalists have absorbed. And that suits NZ which does tend to skew everything that it learns in a rather ‘she’ll be right approach’.

      Though it may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of news is as a utility to empower the informed. The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.
      What is the purpose of journalism? – American Press Institute
      https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism…is-journalism/purpose-journalism/

      We need to support each other and be like Victor Klemperer who wrote I Shall Bear Witness (which was published after WW2). Awhi and aroha are needed along with thoughtful practical action with a human bias rather than technological, and hat tries to build rather than be destructive.

      Nothing in this world is more powerful, or more dangerous, than the truth. That’s why some people go to such lengths to avoid hearing it. It may also be why others strive so hard to keep their conversations empty. They wouldn’t want to find themselves accidentally saying something meaningful that might bring about a change.
      Jonathan Cainer

      https://www.azquotes.com/author/46510-Jonathan_Cainer

      • greywarshark 11.1.1

        Just a note – I coudn’t find the quote about journalism that I referred to. Still can’t find that source sorry. Got some other telling links and quotes:

        From google:
        Functions of Journalism are to Inform, Educate, Guide and Entertain …
        http://www.studylecturenotes.com/journalism…/functions-of-journalism-are-to-inform-educ...
        Sep 12, 2015 – 8 Important purposes and functions of journalism are to inform, interpret, … This function not only competes for space and time with either …

        From google:
        (Here is someone out there trying to tell us what the world is like. A war journalist.)
        Why I go to war, by Sunday Times journalist Christina Lamb | Media …
        https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2014/jul/…/war-reporting-sundaytime…
        Jul 30, 2014 – ‘I want people to know what’s happening,’ she says.

        (I heard that chaps coming home from the war back a bit, found that people here didn’t want to know about the details. Isn’t that what is at the base of the arguments here? Don’t interfere. don’t ruffle our feathers, don’t spoil our calm, don’t show us reality and upset us. Boo hoo.)

        By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community. Oscar Wilde

        Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/oscar_wilde_101639?src=t_journalism

        I keep telling myself to calm down, to take less of an interest in things and not to get so excited, but I still care a lot about liberty, freedom of speech and expression, and fairness in journalism. Kate Adie

        Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/kate_adie_350823?src=t_journalism

  12. OnceWasTim 12

    “My advice: Don’t lecture NZ’s best news professionals on how to do their job.”
    Gawd Strewth there are some pompous gits about.

    Radio NZ does a bloody good job across all genres, and especially given the resources it gets. (Just been listening to Bollinger on Nights for example. They should be proud of the various awards that presenters – such as Kim Hill, have received).
    Then there’s Concert FM with any number that ‘know their shit’, and The Wireless,
    AND RNZ Pacific.
    That doesn’t mean it’s above criticism. It could do better given half a chance.

    Adrian is probably correct: “@Harpoon, fair point, I didn’t know about RNZ not participating in the rating game.. I would hazard a guess that that is probably when they started going wrong.”

    Counting beans though appears to have become a science. Won’t be long before a couple of risk managers are employed.
    However, I must learn not to criticise WINZ, or MBIE, or the Munstry of Health, or the GWRC because they’re just professionals doing their job.
    I must not criticise RNZ
    I must not criticise RNZ
    I must not criticise RNZ etc.
    Apparently some have done it for 30 odd years at RNZ, ergo they know better than their ‘demographic’ audience.

    Then there are others that suggest any Media 101 student….. NO, not even going to go there!

    • Harpoon 12.1

      Truth is, somebody who has been doing hard news for thirty years probably does know a bit more than you or me about news and reporting than a know-all whose opening line in an initial email rudely accuses Radio NZ of being racist.

    • Martin Harris 12.2

      Hey OnceWasTim, no one says you shouldn’t criticise anyone. But giving a lecture, as if you know more than them, is a different matter. This self-appointed social justice warrior comes across as a dropkick.

      • Adrian Thornton 12.2.1

        If you are saying that stating my opinion makes me a Social Justice Warrior, then thank you I will wear that badge with honour and keep fighting…better that, than a defender or enabler of this Status Quo, or worse still, those who talk but never act.

      • OnceWasTim 12.2.2

        Hey Martin Harris. You appear to have bought into the ‘lecture giving’ idea.

        And these “self-appointed justice warriors” just aren’t on are they.

        “The truth is” (the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth) he must be a dropkick.

    • greywarshark 12.3

      I see you are being put in your place, you little ignorant citizen OwT /sarc

      This is an example of the true NZ tall poppy cutting at work. And our horizons are so low that merely wanting change, and setting forth better standards to aspire to, is a reason to be dumped on.

      A sad journalist from Australia talked on Radionz this morning about how uninterested Ozzies are in some really important matters there, such as government invading their privacy. And climate change and sustainability I think are also there. Meanwhile we try to get our poppies to flower despite the Giant Moa!

      https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2018658175/australia-s-national-energy-guarantee-gets-thumbs-up
      politics
      Australia’s National Energy Guarantee gets thumbs up
      From Nine To Noon, 20 minutes ago
      Listen duration 8′ :22
      Bernard Keane has details about the National Energy Guarantee plan to settle climate and energy policy; a massive new expansion of surveillance laws that would enable the Government to force tech companies to help it defeat encryption and more on the questions being put to the Government about its handout of $444 million to a charity with no due process.

      • OnceWasTim 12.3.1

        I am @ grey – despite my critics knowing SFA about me (nor do I wish them to).

        By the way, I hope your “thin thinking” phrase comes into common use because “ultimately” “the truth is” that’s what it is “going forward”.

        I was thinking how to characterise RNZ, before it Radio NZ and before that NZBC, and ‘staid’ came to mind – these days, thankfully in the senior ranks.

        Staid:
        sedate, respectable, and unadventurous.

        synonyms: sedate, respectable, quiet, serious, serious-minded, steady, conventional, traditional, unadventurous, unenterprising, set in one’s ways

        ‘set in one’s ways’. The tensions between 30 years experience, comfort, defensiveness, etc and being adventurous and risk taking.

        • greywarshark 12.3.1.1

          I don’t know how anybody can call on staid reporting from the past and hold it up, unchanged, as a benchmark for now. I am all for some stable benchmark, but change also has to be incorporated.

          There is a business practice that is being inserted into society, like a boning knife, and that is the idea of ‘disruption’ This means that all of the past may be passed over for shredding, not just some of it. With this sort of ill-considered vandalism going on, a good journalist will help us by refreshing their presentation to ensure it is relevant, and adequate for ‘the end of the world as we know it”.

  13. Cemetery Jones 14

    Why would the author post an exchange of emails where he clearly got BTFO? Griggs had him at every turn. Brave though.

  14. Grantoc 15

    Its human psychology

    As humans we’re much more interested in and emotionally affected by events and people that are close to us.

    The same is not true when news events and people are remote from us. We don’t relate in an especially close or emotional way in such cases. Yemen is very distant for example, emotionally and culturally, and unless we specifically know someone there we’re unlikely to care a great deal about events in that country.

    Lay on top of this the vast amount of news that we are subjected to and its obvious that we’ll filter out and ignore that which is remote and to which we feel disconnected.

    It’s pointless in my opinion to make some sort of issue out of this and furthermore start labelling or condemning people for reacting accordingly; its just how we’re wired as humans.

    • greywarshark 15.1

      Grantoc
      As humans we’re much more interested in and emotionally affected by events and people that are close to us.
      Is that an appeal to authority?

  15. Given that there is a good amount of research explaining the racism of the New Zealand judiciary, Health system, education system and media, in regards to the treatment and portrayal of Maori, and immigrants, ts quite odd, or a the very least, overly optimistic, to claim that we wouldn’t also have a good dose of international racism in our World view.

    But to claim that racial bias in the news is ‘just natural’ and should be left alone to flourish as ‘the norm’…well that steers us into Southern/Molyneux territory.

    • corodale 16.1

      Could this also be seen from the perspective of conflict resolution?

      Yes, this compassionate impulse is as-important-as-ever; seeking to have RNZ comply with their Charter. For example: we wish NZers to maintain a balanced perspective and remain focused on peace; despite the Washington consensus to use conflict towards forming an independent Kurdistan.

      While the physical world will never be perfect, it seems to me, that the positive response is to remain discerning but tolerant of; as you say, “racial bias as natural”. Ignorance can only be countered with love and the chance for all to learn.

      This peaceful and compassionate response from Adrian T shows how “racism” can be countered; by being proactive without causing harm. Inspiring leadership to see one persons love for humanity expose the ignorance of RNZ, on this issue. I’m sure RNZ will learn from the error, or face th’e natural and negative consequences thereof.

  16. Adrian Thornton 17

    What most of the critics seem unwilling to address is the single point of this post…it is only about balance of coverage of world events…nothing else, why on earth would anyone argue to not have more of this on RNZ is completely beyond me.

    Mediawatch – 12 August 2018

    “For whatever reason many in the media seem to think that hot air over Europe’s more newsworthy than cholera outbreaks in Yemen. And porn stars having affairs with presidents trump the lot.”
    https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/mediawatch/audio/2018657513/stormy-daniels-vs-yemen-no-contest

    Yemen could be ‘worst’ humanitarian crisis in 50 years

    I guess this is the news these commenters are defending the right to see more of…

  17. D\'Esterre 18

    Adrian Thornton: many thanks for your post.

    “…..which ends with Griggs telling me “more people care about Paris over Kenya, Houston over Bangladesh. It may be a sad fact for you but it’s true.””

    In my view, the subtext to what she says here is: ” Those of us producing the programme care more about Paris over Kenya etc” or “We’re frantically busy, and this stuff is easier to broadcast: no need for translations and the like.”

    This isn’t good enough for someone from our national broadcaster, but at least it would’ve been honest.

    When she said: “Not at all, it was a ferry in the Philippines.” was this the one she meant? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Do%C3%B1a_Paz

    If so, it’s rather a stretch to expect people younger than me to recall it: that happened in 1987. As it happens, I do remember it, but – having forgotten the details – I had to look it up. There may have been a more recent disaster in the Philippines with such large loss of life, but if there has been, I don’t remember it.

    At the time of the UK vote to leave the EU, I took issue with Morning Report’s failure to broadcast any content that would have indicated that a “leave” vote might be possible. Yet there had been opinions aired on the UK media which suggested such an outcome was possible: I’d found them. RNZ was blindsided by the vote “leave”; yet if they’d relied less on their usual sources, they might also have found those dissenting voices.

    As for the 2016 US presidential election: journalists in NZ – including RNZ – abandoned any pretensions to analysis in favour of variations on “Oooh…isn’t Trump AWFUL!”. I wrote repeatedly to Morning Report, imploring them to look beyond what US msm was saying. Many of us were doing just that, and US internet news and blog sites had commentary suggesting that Clinton wouldn’t be a shoo-in.

    But of course we were ignored. The morning after that election, I contacted Morning Report, wishing them good eating of the great big humble pie that I expected they’d have in the studio. Heh! They didn’t read it out…

    Then, at the time of the Skripal incident in Wiltshire, Morning Report’s coverage was so appallingly unbalanced that I made a formal complaint to RNZ. No surprises: it wasn’t upheld. Some pusillanimous reason: I tossed the letter into the shredder.

    Some months ago, I wrote to RNZ with a critique of one of their programmes. Said programme concerned a topic about which I have some knowledge; it was clear that the presenter had absolutely no specialist expertise, nor, it seemed, had she consulted with anyone who could have helped her. After a longish time, I got a rather passive-aggressive response from another RNZ staffer, who, also clearly without specialist knowledge, proceeded to defend the job the presenter had done. That staffer did concede that RNZ has no foreign affairs specialists, although there was no concession that this gap negatively affected the quality of the programme I was concerned about. Even though it was very obvious that it had.

    For the most part, I’ve given up on RNZ as a purveyor of international political news. I look elsewhere for that sort of content now.

    “Is RNZ as racist as it seems to be…”

    Over the last while, I’ve been waging what feels like a one-person campaign to return the term “racism” to the meaning I understood it to have when I was very young. Back then, it meant what governments do or did: apartheid; the segregation of pre-civil rights US; the White Australia policy; the holocaust. Nowadays, the meaning has been generalised out to the point of reductio ad absurdum, such that it’s being used as an epithet to clout people about the head with, and to shut them up. And because people don’t like being called racist, they generally do shut up. But they resent it, which may explain Griggs’ snippy response to you. I’d describe what RNZ does as the result of bias on the part of the producers and presenters.

  18. Adrian Thornton 19

    Ha, sent a post election email that was pretty similar….yes lots and lots of humble pie that morning for sure.
    “But of course we were ignored. The morning after that election, I contacted Morning Report, wishing them good eating of the great big humble pie that I expected they’d have in the studio. Heh! They didn’t read it out…”

    Yes and I too sent in numerous emails regarding the lack of balance on the Skripal story, and the lack of balance on ‘Russiagte’ generally.

    I take your point on the “racism” term, an agree in part, however if you had worked on some of the building sites, been into some of the pubs I used to drink at in the 1980’s you would have seen and heard up close some seriously racist individuals.

    I think it is a term that can (prudently) be used to evoke response in the right situation.

    Sometime it does people good to get a little jolt that they don’t like..me included.

    • D'Esterre 19.1

      Adrian Thornton: “Ha, sent a post election email that was pretty similar…”

      Good to hear that you were one of the many! Pity that RNZ ignored us. It’s to all listeners’ great disadvantage. I conclude that producers and journalists want to believe in the verisimilitude of what they broadcast, so they won’t listen to countervailing views until events force it upon them.

      “you would have seen and heard up close some seriously racist individuals.”

      Indeed. I know what you mean. I’m a boomer, born immediately after WW2. Talk of that sort was part of our environment when I was growing up. Societal changes made it less acceptable for people to say such things in everyday life. But it doesn’t follow that people didn’t still think and say them in private, or when they were in the drink, as you found in the ’80s. I think that those views are still prevalent today.

      So using the racism label hasn’t necessarily changed views: it’s just driven those opinions mostly out of public discourse.

      The racism label is also being used to squelch legitimate debate and critique on important societal issues. I’ve had it flung at me in comment threads: I’ve noticed that such people don’t proffer a countervailing argument.

      So I’d prefer “racism” to apply to governmental systems. That which you heard in pubs and building sites is bigotry of the most egregious sort. Xenophobia, even, depending upon whom it’s aimed at. I certainly call that out when I hear it.

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