Some questions

Written By: - Date published: 9:51 pm, March 5th, 2008 - 54 comments
Categories: john key, Media, rumour - Tags: , ,

Today in Parliament Bill English made a very interesting comment which, if true, raises some very concerning questions about either his own honesty or the editorial integrity of APN, publishers of the New Zealand Herald.

Referring to a quip from Michael Cullen about John Key’s statement that ‘we would love to see wages drop‘, English said:

Is the Minister aware that the newspaper concerned is going to publish a retraction?

Fascinated, a regular reader of The Standard followed up the story by making a few phone calls. Eventually he reached a senior manager at the Northern Advocate, who told him the story would not be a retraction, but a correction, and would be running in the Advocate’s sister paper the New Zealand Herald either tomorrow or in the next few days.

According to this manager the Herald’s correction will run Key’s (eventual) line that he was misquoted and had actually been talking about Australian wages all along.

If true, this is a huge turnaround from APN that needs some serious explaining. The reporter has stood by every word that was written in his original article and a transcript has been released to back him up. The editor backed the journalist and his story to the hilt in an editorial last week. And the publisher has also gone on the public record backing the story:

Northern Publishing stands by the story published in the Bay Report on December 20, 2007 in which National Leader John Key was quoted as saying “We would love to see wages drop.”

Our reporter was at the meeting with the Kerikeri District Business Association President Carolyne Brooks-Quan and recorded the conversation.

We have a transcript of the meeting and we are happy that the quotes printed in the story are an accurate record of what Mr Key said.

Furthermore, if APN does plan to run the line that Key was talking about wanting Australian wages to drop then it has even more explaining to do, because the transcript shows it is simply implausible that Key could have been talking about Australia.

Of course, we don’t know for sure if any of this is true, but it does raise some concerning questions:

1. How and why did Bill English know about the correction in advance?
2. Is it true that Key’s office tried to get journalist Greg Roberston sacked for his story?
3. Why would APN publish the correction in the Herald and not the Advocate or the Bay Report?
4. Why would APN buy Key’s line that he was talking about Australian wages when the transcript suggests this is not the case and Key has issued multiple conflicting denials?
5. Why is this suddenly a story now, more than two weeks after it broke?

Again, I stress that none of this has yet been verified. But given Bill English’s comments in the house today, our reader’s conversation with the APN manager and Key’s rather menacing comments on Havoc the other day it all looks a little murky. Hopefully Bill or APN can clear it up soon.

54 comments on “Some questions”

  1. Wilson 1

    You know if there was going to be an article they’ll have pulled it after reading this.

  2. insider 2

    It’s perfectly standard for the Herald to inform those concerned if there is to be a correction. In my experience the wording and timing are the result of negotiations. Papers don’t like admitting fault unless they have made a real booboo but you can negotiate clarifications. That said I’ve found the herald is pretty good about admitting when they get things wrong.

    Stop bringing APN into this. This is an editorial decision and each paper will do their own thing. Remember the Herald ran their own story so will likely be clairifcation of that, which was a different story than what ran in the Bay times.

  3. dave 3

    Once again I was right and the standard was wrong

  4. Odd definitions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ you have there, Dave. Check it out:

    English: …the newspaper concerned is going to publish a retraction.

    According to the Standard, what will actually happen is that a different newspaper is going to publish a correction, ‘correction’ in this instance also having an odd definition if it directly contradicts the transcript.

    If the Standard’s commenter who phoned the Northern Advocate is to be believed, the newspaper concerned is standing by its story, not publishing a retraction. Whether some other paper that didn’t have a reporter present wants to back Key is of little relevance.

  5. Oh Dear – I wonder if Rick and John had a wee chat down at the club. I imagine National is trying to inoculate the issue but a correction stating he was talking about Australia would directly contradict Key’s statement on Havoc that he never even said the words.

    Cap: “Partying been” – I guess now it’s time for the hangover…

  6. Right there, for all to see this morning in the Herald:

    “Meanwhile, another controversy Labour has targeted will have a sequel today when Northland’s Bay Report newspaper, in which Mr Key was quoted as saying, “We would love to see wages drop”, issues a clarification.

    The Bay Report will say it accepted that any impression its report gave that Mr Key wanted wages to drop was incorrect.

    Mr Key reportedly made the comment during an informal meeting with Kerikeri Business Association head Carolyne Brooks-Quan in which they discussed the wage gap between Australia and New Zealand. It has been repeatedly used by Labour as evidence of a “secret agenda” by Mr Key.”

    How’s the heads boys, after two weeks of banging them against brick walls?

  7. george 7

    Well i have found the “correction” Buried deep in an article in the herald titled
    “Key admits blunder over Treaty”

    “Meanwhile, another controversy Labour has targeted will have a sequel today when Northland’s Bay Report newspaper, in which Mr Key was quoted as saying, “We would love to see wages drop”, issues a clarification.

    The Bay Report will say it accepted that any impression its report gave that Mr Key wanted wages to drop was incorrect.

    Mr Key reportedly made the comment during an informal meeting with Kerikeri Business Association head Carolyne Brooks-Quan in which they discussed the wage gap between Australia and New Zealand. It has been repeatedly used by Labour as evidence of a “secret agenda” by Mr Key.

    Yesterday, National described the clarification as a “retraction” when Finance Minister Michael Cullen again used the quote against Mr Key in Parliament.

    Dr Cullen also claimed Mr Key had tried to bully the editor and newspaper into sacking the reporter who wrote the article.

    Northern Advocate general manager Tony Verdon said Dr Cullen’s version of events was incorrect.

    “There was never any question of anyone being bullied or sacked for it. That was never an issue and it was never raised with us.”

    Mr Key has previously said that while he did not remember the quote it was probably a reference to Australian wages dropping.

    He claimed he was “badly misrepresented” by the Bay of Islands newspaper and “took umbrage with the reporting”.

    Ms Brooks-Quan has also backed Mr Key, telling the Herald she never got the impression Mr Key wanted wages to drop.

    However, the quote has continued to attract barbs from Labour. The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union and Council for Trade Unions have also used the quote and yesterday issued another round of press releases querying National’s commitment to wage increases.”

    How was Bill English aware of this before hand.
    Interference with the MSM?
    Seems to have a bad smell to it!

  8. Oh yes – why did it take this long? And why when Key’s last position was he never said it is the apparent position that he did but was taken out of context? Something is murky here. Very murky…

  9. James Kearney 9

    Once again the Herald does the National party’s bidding. Not a good look.

    [captcha: ‘staying Burnside’ At John Key’s place?]

  10. george 10

    I suppose the next question is why no word from the Journalist Greg Robertson ?
    I left a message of support and asked him to call me.
    I instead got a call from his manager Tony Verdon.
    Can anyone raise the reporters view or has he been silenced?

  11. higherstandard 11

    Dead story move on

  12. James Kearney 12

    hs- Why’s it in the paper then?

    The sudden about-face after two weeks and with no new evidence is very suspicious.

    There’s been some pressure applied somewhere in this case- the only question is where and by whom.

  13. mike 13

    First can we have a retraction from the Standard as well?

  14. higherstandard 14

    James I’d suggest it’s in the paper due to the ongoing quips in parliament.

    If a clarification/retraction or whatever has now been printed surely that’s the end of the matter.

    r0b – Agree absolutely which is why I’d like to see some comment regarding the HBDHB, this seems to me a far more concerning issue.

  15. insider 15

    MAybe the reason they have had to issue a clarification is because the circumstances as originally described by the Bay news and the transcript were not quite as robust as they made out…after standing by the story and the accuracy of the transcript, to then say the story gave the wrong impression is quite a turnaround.

    Perhaps it has taken two weeks for the answers as to what actually happened to flow through. PErhaps, as Key said, there was more to the story than what appeared in the paper.

  16. Tane 16

    From the Dom Post:

    “Mr Key revealed yesterday that the Bay Report would be printing a retraction, which he said had been “communicated to him” by APN chief executive Martin Simons”

    So there’s the Herald acting alone theory blown out of the water. I suspect that’s not the last we’ll hear of this.

  17. higherstandard 17

    Tane just as an update on this from the herald.

    The Bay Report will say it accepted that any impression its report gave that Mr Key wanted wages to drop was incorrect.

    Mr Key reportedly made the comment during an informal meeting with Kerikeri Business Association head Carolyne Brooks-Quan in which they discussed the wage gap between Australia and New Zealand. It has been repeatedly used by Labour as evidence of a “secret agenda” by Mr Key.

    Yesterday, National described the clarification as a “retraction” when Finance Minister Michael Cullen again used the quote against Mr Key in Parliament.

    Dr Cullen also claimed Mr Key had tried to bully the editor and newspaper into sacking the reporter who wrote the article.

    Northern Advocate general manager Tony Verdon said Dr Cullen’s version of events was incorrect.

    “There was never any question of anyone being bullied or sacked for it. That was never an issue and it was never raised with us.”

    Mr Key has previously said that while he did not remember the quote it was probably a reference to Australian wages dropping.

    He claimed he was “badly misrepresented” by the Bay of Islands newspaper and “took umbrage with the reporting”.

    Ms Brooks-Quan has also backed Mr Key, telling the Herald she never got the impression Mr Key wanted wages to drop.

    As an aside I haven’t seen anything in the Bay Report as yet had a quick look on line – the main story was a 15 year old girl killed by a drunk driver who drove into her and a number of other young ones puts things in perspective in a very depressing way.

  18. ghostwhowalks 18

    So the Chief executive of the group is now running the ‘corrections’ column.

    perhaps it was after a ‘direction’ from the board to the CEO

  19. Tane 19

    hs – that’s already been published further up the thread. What I find interesting is that the Bay Report hasn’t even been published yet. It’s an afternoon paper.

  20. the sprout 20

    “Stop bringing APN into this”

    why – you don’t think it’s a coordinated effort? the very fact that the Herald is running ‘corrections’ for its sister paper suggests inter-publication coordination.

    next the Listener will have a partially buried throw-away reference to the issue in an attempt to further innoculate.

    naive or disingenuous insider?

  21. Tane 21

    Sprout, it doesn’t matter whether people think APN has taken control of this issue from the highest levels, it’s in black and white in the Dom Post:

    “Mr Key revealed yesterday that the Bay Report would be printing a retraction, which he said had been “communicated to him’ by APN chief executive Martin Simons’

  22. Steve Pierson 22

    george. None of people who actually dealt with this story are being allowed to go on record. We’ve had correspondence with various people involved but, unfortunately, can’t cite them directly because of this gagging order which seems to have come from high up in APN.

  23. higherstandard 23

    Apologies Tane

    Didn’t read the whole thread – I still think you chaps are trying to find a story where there isn’t one.

    Oh well each to their own.

    Have a good day.

  24. the sprout 24

    for readers’ information here’s Rosenberg’s 2008 paper on media ownership in NZ, which helps for tracking APN’s “Elect National” campaign.

    http://canterbury.cyberplace.org.nz/community/CAFCA/publications/Miscellaneous/mediaown.pdf

  25. ghostwhowalks 25

    There isnt a story ?
    When retractions are announced first by the deputy leader of the opposition.
    And this from the Newspaper that used the banner line democracy under threat when helen only said NZH has all ways been uncharitable to Labour.

  26. anon reporter 26

    For the benefit of the confused, or those playing deliberate diversion:

    A reporter or editor has one job. The chief executive of the publishing company has a very different one.

    The chief executive does not write, or comment on, or re-write, the stories in the papers. At least, not publicly.

    So now we know who is responsible for the APN papers’ editorial line. Not the editors.

  27. anon reporter 27

    And to add: this IS a big story. This kind of pressure on independent professionals is very disturbing indeed.

  28. r0b 28

    You know what they say – the cover-up is always more damaging than the original crime! Good to see this issue alive and well in the msm.

  29. insider 29

    Sprout

    There seems a fair bit of confusion. The Standard has said that the Herald would run a clarification not the Bay Times. Now we find that was wrong and it will apparantly be the BT – not sure what has gone wrong there, perhaps Tane can explain how the confusion arose. (I don’t class the Herald story as a clarification BTW.)

    I’ve had to negotiate corrections before and always found that if you have a good case the media are reasonable. They don’t enjoy the process and will try to minimise a correction to a clarification but I put that down to professional pride. In my experience these issues are managed by the editorial staff.

    However, if you don’t get anywhere with them and are unsatisfied, you can do what any consumer organisation suggests – take it up with the management. Didn’t Cullen do that regarding the Herald once?

  30. the sprout 30

    cheers ap

  31. higherstandard 31

    Anon

    If that’s the case and you have proof why not drop it on Nicky Hagar – he loves this kind of thing

  32. insider 32

    ap

    If a story has been misleading, it’s legitimate to question how professional and independent the poeple responsible were.

    Publishers have always influenced editorial line. That may not mean directly but they hire the editor, they are responsible for its financial performance etc. So the concept of independent editors is naive. They are independent within the boundaries set by the company they work for.

    You only have to look at the UK to see how this works with politically aligned papers. The editor of the Mirror is unlikely to be free to align it with the Tories as that would be commercial suicide.

    I think the APN CEO calling Bill English is unusual, but then it may be he is fronting for the company. That is his job at times. For all we know National was demanding a full blown front page retraction and the CEO was called in to deliver the bad news that they were getting an inside clarification.

  33. Brownie 33

    Another question, boys?

    Say you go and buy a car. The salesman tells you it has a 3 yr warranty and you buy it under this impression. Later you find out it only has a 2 yr warranty and that, for whatever reason, the salesperson got it wrong but, too late – you have allready bought the car. Being a bit angry about a missrepresentation, you would naturally ring the salesperson’s manager. The sales manager says that you must have heard wrong and backs his employee (something I personally agree with) and says no restitution will be forthcoming. Having no joy with the salesmanager, you contact the business owner. This would be entirely reasonable and I would say logical step.

    Yet when John Key believes he has been missrepresented and takes steps to seek appropriate corrective action, there are howls of derision? If the Editor refuses to “clarify” or “correct”, it would be absolutely appropriate for National to go to the owners.

    BTW, is there a complete transcript hanging around?

  34. the sprout 34

    and no doubt APN and National have a memo of understanding that needed to be observed.

  35. insider 35

    But rOb there is no evidence of such interference. Only The Standard’s inferences. ANd as shwon in this thread they got much of the clarification printing wrong, despite having a direct source/

  36. How many times does the Herald misrepresent people’s positions? How many times have ordinary people been incorrectly quoted or had their positions skewed.

    And yet poor vulnerable Mr Key is misquoted and the head of the publishing conglomerate personally tells him they are printing a correction. POLITICS OF PRIVILEGE ANYONE? This reeks, they publish incorrect things about Clark everyday and she just has to get on with it. Key on the other hand makes another enormous fuck up and the Herald jumps, licks his wounds and makes it alllll better. Yay for our media!

  37. r0b 37

    anon reporter – if you are indeed what your name suggests, then bravo for contributing here. Blogs are a great forum for whistle-blowers, and whistle-blowers do a great service to democracy.

  38. insider 38

    If I thought I had been misquoted I too would put pressure on the media to correct it. What exactly is wrong with that? You, me or Cullen saying something happened doesn’t make it true.

  39. insider 40

    I would add that the press council complaints process specifically says that people who have an issue with soomething printed must take it up with the media concerned first. Not doing so means you have no options to follow up further.

    The PC is the industry’s self governing body, so they encourage disaffected people to ‘pressure’ them. So where is the issue?

  40. You wouldn’t have a shit show in being succesful though would you insider? Unless you know something us little people don’t? Which according to your name you should…

  41. Brownie 42

    “…apparently using their mates the owners to put pressure on editors to influence what is reported.”

    rOb, Sorry but who says they are his mates? The analogy is quite correct – you keep going higher up until you get someone to make good on an error.

    And Bean

    “Key on the other hand makes another enormous fuck up”

    Isn’t this the whole point, Bean? That he didn’t stuff up and the Bay report got it wrong? Thats why they would be printing a “clarification”?

    “This reeks, they publish incorrect things about Clark everyday and she just has to get on with it. ”

    What things were factually incorrect?

    “POLITICS OF PRIVILEGE ANYONE?”

    You also have the same privilege, Bean. If someone materially affects you by getting something wrong, you too have the right to complain to whomever will listen until it’s either proven that you were right or wrong.

    Captcha: Technology 69 – this thing is scary sometimes

  42. insider 43

    Oh FFS bean. Stop looking for conspiracies in every part of your little life. It’s the online name I have been using for years in a range of fora.

    To be absolutely clear, all I know about the specifics of this case are what has appeared in public fora such as here and the papers.

    Stop taking the paranoia pills and engage on the issues.

  43. Tane 44

    they got much of the clarification printing wrong, despite having a direct source/

    No, we had a second-hand tip-off and made it very clear that’s what it was. We told our readers (some) of what we knew asked some relevant questions. I’m actually pretty stoked our tip-off was largely right.

  44. insider – the story came out in December and turned up in parliament three weeks ago. The paper stood by it until the CEO stepped in. What the fuck would the CEO (not a journalist) know about the story that the people on the ground didn’t? Answer: nothing except what he was told to do by National.

  45. “You also have the same privilege, Bean. If someone materially affects you by getting something wrong, you too have the right to complain to whomever will listen until it’s either proven that you were right or wrong.”

    Actually Brownie I don’t. I wouldn’t have the public profile to make enough of a fuss to push a paper into ‘correcting’ what I had said.

    Key here has people working for him specifically to clean up his mess and this is what they have managed to do- he stuffed up. Just like he did on Breakfast yesterday, and about Iraq and about the Auckland Airport issue. This time though he was able to throw his weight around and the herald jumped. I bet if he hadn’t been caught on camera screwing up his treaty policy he would have claimed Paul Henry lied as well.

  46. r0b 47

    Say you go and buy a car.

    All very reasonable Brownie. But – when the PM makes some mildly critical remarks of The Herald, it gets plastered all over the front page. So clearly politician’s relationships to the media are somewhat more sensitive than my relationship with a car dealer. They are news.

    Here we have Key / National, not making a few public remarks, but apparently using their mates the owners to put pressure on editors to influence what is reported. That’s news. It should be plastered all over the front page.

  47. “Oh FFS bean. Stop looking for conspiracies in every part of your little life. It’s the online name I have been using for years in a range of fora.

    To be absolutely clear, all I know about the specifics of this case are what has appeared in public fora such as here and the papers.

    Stop taking the paranoia pills and engage on the issues”

    Nerve hit anyone? next insider will use that witty zing ‘go put on your tinfoil hat’.

  48. specifically to clean up his mess

    Oh, but I think they may have made a bigger mess…

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0803/S00055.htm

  49. the sprout 50

    you’ve usually made a hit when you’re either “PC” or “a conspiracist”. the conspiracist dismissal seems to be growing in popularity at the moment.

  50. r0b 51

    But rOb there is no evidence of such interference. Only The Standard’s inferences.

    Insider, it’s true that no one has (yet) popped up with a recording of Key on the phone to the Hearld’s owners or whatever. But add up the public comments that are on record, in this thread, and also in this one:

    Did Key try to get ‘wage drop’ journalist sacked?

    If you can reasonably come to any conclusion other than “Key / National have been putting pressure on the mdeia”, well, good for you, I admire your touching faith in the purity of politicians.

  51. r0b 52

    Hey bean – good to see you back!

  52. r0b 53

    If I thought I had been misquoted I too would put pressure on the media to correct it.

    So you not see any difference between you doing that, and a major politician doing that?

    Why has it been front page news every time it seems Clark or Cullen has expressed an opinion on the media? And given that context, why should it not be front page news if Key does the same? Does he get some kind of special free pass?

    Not to mention that if he really did try to get a reporter sacked, then he way crossed the line, and he should resign.

  53. dave 54

    Yes, ther is a story here – but not the “story” told by The Standard… get your angles right, boys and girl.

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