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The media bloodbath

Written By: - Date published: 7:03 am, April 16th, 2015 - 52 comments
Categories: accountability, journalism, Media, news - Tags: , ,

A much discussed piece by Scoop’s Alastair Thompson yesterday:

An Investigative News Media Blood Bath |500 Words

Last week was a bad week for NZ Media. And for much more than just the announced “review” of Campbell Live.

One of NZ’s best newspaper editors Tim Murphy resigned as editor of the NZ Herald. According to sources he decided to go over differences in opinion on how the editorial side of NZME. was being managed by its CEO Jane Hastings.

Murphy sent in a reply which is appended to the post, in which he denies any dispute with Hastings.

I am going because it has been a long, long run of responsibility and with a whole lot of new things happening and about to happen it is the right time to let a new voice come in.

Back to Thompson:

For working journo’s the other shocking public news in the week was the decision of Phil Kitchin to take up a job with Paula Bennett in the Beehive.

The reason this news is notable for media old-timers is that Phil is also a complete legend of investigative journalism – probably the longest serving investigative reporter in the Fairfax stable – he is responsible for a bunch of huge Scoops, the biggest being exposure of the rape culture being perpetrated inside the Police Force and the case of Louise Nicholas.

Bit Phil is not the only leading Fairfax investigative journalist who has left the publisher recently.

Michael Field – who recently published an in-depth expose of fisheries abuse in the Pacific Ocean – has resigned.

Scoop understands he was effectively forced out in the fall-out which followed a legal threat from a Kiwi businessman and one-time a minor Russian oligarch – Stephen Jennings – who has recently got himself into a spot of bother in Africa. You can read the apology here.

Dig a bit deeper at Fairfax and you discover that in the space of a few months they have lost several more senior reporters.

According to inside sources the driving force behind this has been the rise of Stuff the Nation as a priority for the organisation. Hank Schouten, Tim Hunter and Tim O’Donoghue have also gone, and legendary sports editor Trevor Mckewen apparently walked out when he saw what was happening. …

Go read the full piece at Scoop for plenty more.

Other “journalists” however are trying to sweep the headline event, the attack on Campbell Live, under the carpet. Here’s an anonymous editorial in The Herald (my money is on John Roughan):

Hard-hitting journalism alive and well

There has been much hyperbole in the reaction to a review by broadcaster MediaWorks of its evening current affairs show Campbell Live. … Critics’ knees jerked. An end to serious journalism. The demise of the last journalist who cares. The last nail in a coffin for news, public interest and political accountability. An act of political string-pulling to advantage the Government and de-fang the left.

Mostly exaggerated.

Even John Campbell, as professional and accomplished as ever amid the publicity storm, would likely cringe at the over-reactions.

Actually no, Campbell has repeatedly thanked his supporters.

He knows numerous journalists within his own company will continue to provide strong disclosure journalism holding the powerful to account. The team on what was 3rd Degree, who illuminated the injustice against Teina Pora; Patrick Gower and a press gallery team which puts the bite on allcomers; and a wider newsroom which has marked 3News as a feisty, if idiosyncratic, pursuer of stories which matter.

With respect to those doing good work (a list which does not include Mr Gower), they aren’t doing what Campbell Live does.

Beyond MediaWorks, fine public interest journalism is undertaken on competing television stations, radio, in newspapers, magazines and in all kinds of places online. It is trite to view Campbell Live as the sole holder of that important flame. It belittles so much else that is of value. …

And more with the straw-person exaggerations, and so on and so on, move along folks, nothing to see here. Or is there? John Drinnan suggest that there is more to come on events at TV3…

Well, despite the best efforts of our anonymous spinner, this is clearly a difficult time for NZ media. New technologies are disrupting the industry, commercial imperatives are becoming ever more naked and destructive, experienced and committed journalists are retiring, being sacked, or giving up. Privately owned media will not in the future have a hope of delivering large scale quality news services in this country. If we think that matters, then a strong publicly funded media presence is the only way forward.

52 comments on “The media bloodbath”

  1. tracey 1

    “Even John Campbell, as professional and accomplished as ever amid the publicity storm, would likely cringe at the over-reactions.”

    As if to prove the point Scoop is making, the anonymous editor didn’t actually ask Campbell for his reaction to that notion before writing his editorial.

    I read the Scoop article yesterday (h/t fellow author) and despaired. I then read some comments in (Open Mike I think) about opting in or out of voting and how we can exercise our democratic rights and I thought… “we” (individually and then collectively) have to put our money where our mouths are (and if we don’t have spare cash, our time) and really support those outlets we consider serve democracy.

    Scoop may be one answer to that. Making sure when we see or read stuff in the media we find offensive or whatever we actually complain. Stop viewing/reading certain media. They say they are rating driven so we can always vote with our feet, our ears and our eyes. If McDonalds or anyone else is treating workers badly let’s stop helping them reach a profit and tell them why. The last part is crucial.

    It’s hard to walk the talk. Not impossible.

  2. vto 2

    One. That privately owned media are incapable of proper news should not be a surprise….. and it isn’t of course. They are owned by some of the richest people on the planet who are heavily involved in partisan geopolitical actions around the globe

    Two. Most people do place a status on the “news” in private media and give it a credibility that is misplaced due to the lack of knowledge around media ownership and associated conflicts of interest which render their news entirely subjective.

    Three. The Fair Trading Act outlaws misleading and deceptive conduct in trade.

    In light of the above three facts it seems to me there should be an obligation of disclosure on private media to outline their ownership and that ownership’s various interests….. Front page, full details, full history, links in support…

    Otherwise it is a terrible joke.

  3. James Thrace 3

    “Stuff the Nation” you quote. Is that a Freudian slip or what from Thompson? If not, it’s certainly rather apropos of what Fairfax are perceived to view the Nation as. STUFF THE NATION indeed.

  4. James Thrace 4

    Vto: You will find that the Fair Trading Act is unlikely to cover fictional news stories published by papers. That’s for the journalism council, if one has teeth and even exists anymore.
    Nay, the best thing to do is order a breakup of the monopoly of print media. Nationalise the printing presses. Allow local newspapers to print for pennies at the govt owned printing presses. Get back to local papers. NZH, Press, Waikato/Otago Times and Dom would still be daily metro papers, but the rest would local. Then, and maybe then, we might get some critical discourse in this Nation.

    After all, NZME and Fairfax between them have editorial control of 89% of the local rags.

    • vto 4.1

      The Fair Trading Act is very wide reaching and certainly catches the media. It catches everyone and everything. Everyone and everything except the politicians funnily enough – politicians are the only ones permitted by law to engage in misleading and deceptive conduct.

      If a media outlet holds itself out as objective but is not then it is in breach of the Act. So how easy is this to establish? Do they hold themselves out as objective? Yes. Are they objective? No.

      Done

      • tracey 4.1.1

        FTA is a consumer protection vehicle (as you know). What is the loss suffered by the consumer in terms of the Act and what remedy would be applied in terms of the Act?

        What representations have they made to you before you purchased their product? You need to be able to show evidence of their claims as well as their breaches.

        What if it were free? What was your loss from their false claim? Must be quantifiable.

        https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/fair-trading-act

        “Penalties under the Act

        If a trader contravenes the unfair conduct or product safety provisions of the Act, criminal penalties may apply.

        Companies can be fined up to $600,000 and individuals up to $60,000, plus costs.

        Traders also risk being prosecuted by the Commerce Commission for failing to comply with consumer information standards and rules relating to door-to-door sales, extended warranties, layby sales and auctions. Penalties for breaches are limited to $10,000 for an individual and $30,000 for a company.

        The commission has the option of issuing an infringement notice where a trader hasn’t given consumers the required information about their rights in relation to door-to-door, extended warranty and layby sales. The maximum infringement notice fine is $2000.

        Infringement notices can also be issued for breaches of a consumer information standard and where an online trader falls to disclose that they’re “in trade”.

        Traders who contravene the Act may also face civil penalties. The range of penalties includes injunctions, orders to issue corrective advertising and awards of damages.”

        vto

        It doesn’t cost you to make a complaint, so give it a go but you first have to prove their representation to you, then that they breached it… and the damage

        • vto 4.1.1.1

          Sure, understand that and ran it through mine mind before posting. Have done battle under the FTA in the past and it is surprisingly simple.

          Representation, breach and loss is the thing being purchased – news. Representation of objectivity, breach in lack of such by way of political positions, loss being not receiving what is paid for, namely objective news. We buy te newspaper daily – out-and-out consumer. Exactly what the FTA is designed for.

  5. Sable 5

    New Zealand journalism like its Australian and UK counterparts is considered some of the most biased and trashy in the world. Personally I do give two hoots what the hacks do. I wont be reading their neo lib bullshit anytime soon.

    Want real journalism take a look at the Keiser Report on RT.

    • halfcrown 5.1

      “Want real journalism take a look at the Keiser Report on RT.”

      Well said or Cross Talk

      • Colonial Rawshark 5.1.1

        I actually wish they would make Cross Talk into a 45 minute show; it’s too short and rushed at the moment.

        I find the interviews done on Sophie & Co and Worlds Apart (both RT) also very good. And they aren’t afraid of interviewing people with a pro-US, pro-EU or pro-NATO bias either.

    • Linda 5.2

      That is a very good program and people he interviews are well informed like Chris cook predicted the oil crash Max can be over the top but he puts things in away that is understandable and he doesn’t sugar coat of santise anything

    • Phil 5.3

      New Zealand journalism like its Australian and UK counterparts is considered some of the most biased and trashy in the world.

      Hyperbole, much?

      Look at some of the blatantly propagandist and openly corrupt activity that passes for journalism in countries ruled by African and middle eastern despots. Or the appalling conflicts of interest between Indian politicians and their media.

      New Zealand has room to improve, no doubt. But to call our journalists “some of the most biased… in the world” is to do them a terrible disservice and suggests your world view so narrow you may as well be looking through the slot in your letterbox.

    • RedLogix 5.4

      Yeah nah – the Aussie media for all it’s obvious faults is still way ahead of NZ.

  6. esoteric pineapples 6

    Just checked with a highly reliable source and they say there was a dispute over editorial control between Murphy and Hastings.

    As for Phil Kitchen – funny choice to go from being an investigative reporter to working for Paula Bennett, which is essentially working for John Key who has done as much as possible to neuter the media?

    • tracey 6.1

      Perhaps the pay and working conditions were better? Haven’t a few good journalists passed over to the Dark Side before?

      • saveNZ 6.1.1

        @Tracey

        The problem is there seems to be only one paid dark side.

        It’s the diversity that is missing in MSM.

        Same company connections keep popping up.

        • saveNZ 6.1.1.1

          Classic Crosby textor borg style. Take them in, and turn them into the machine of the Nats. Poor Guy he must have a really big mortgage!

  7. Colonial Rawshark 7

    Public funding of media is necessary, but insufficient.

    Publicly funded media is only a fraction of the answer. There needs to be far more to it than that, including publicly supported independent media.

    The whole package has to be structured to be independent of direct political control and political funding. The reason I say that is because we have seen how governments can utterly undermine 100% publicly funded media like the National Programme and RNZ.

    • tracey 7.1

      NZ is small, very small. Then you shrink it to journalism/media and it is even tinier. It is very hard to ensure true political independence but also be able to account for taxpayer money and its use. There are Crown Entities which are supposedly independent of MInisters but I am sure others know of very hands on Ministers in some of these entities, and Board Chairs appointments reflect the Minister’s preferred direction for the Entity. Sport has been one of these in the past. More under McCully than Mallard. Like many things it would work if both government Ministers and people appointed had ethics which they adhered to regardless of the behaviour required by law.

    • Chooky 7.2

      CR +100…agree…publicly funded …INDEPENDENT media

      • tracey 7.2.1

        and how will you ensure accountability and oversight while maintaining independence?

        • Chooky 7.2.1.1

          ….well why not independence in journalism?

          …. isn’t the judiciary supposed to be independent?…and the police?…( admittedly in the best scheme of things)

          …and the public service also used to have some measure of independence ( we are not supposed to be a banana republic)

          …..what keeps their ‘reputation’ of being independent?…appeals to independent tribunals?

          How does independent journalism (eg.the BBC and television) operate in Britain?

          • tracey 7.2.1.1.1

            Police and Justice systems are governed by regulations and laws that cover so many aspects of their daily work. Journalism far less so. Not saying it can’t be done but it would be very expensive and Farrar, right before CL was “reviewed” spread his version of the world through an unsubstantiated research project designed to make people think there is no bias in NZ media.

            • Chooky 7.2.1.1.1.1

              agree it would be difficult….but possible….the media is also governed by regulations, laws eg….libel, slander etc…

              ….they would have to make a commitment to being open and accountable and adherence to principles of journalism best practice eg….right of replies, counter interpretations, open about bias…and in final resort appeals to a tribunal.

            • Colonial Rawshark 7.2.1.1.1.2

              I don’t have all the answers but I do know that decentralising control and funding out of Wellington is critical.

  8. dukeofurl 8

    THis I found interesting from the Scoop story

    Email from Colin Espiner PR Chief at Sky City:

    “I’ve never met, spoken to or emailed Tim Murphy. Or Jane Hastings for that matter.

    The PR chief of Sky City, a former leading journalist, has NEVER spoken to the editor of the major newspaper in the same city as its major casino. ?

    Im not saying hes not telling the truth , but something doesnt make sense about that.

  9. ” If we think that matters, then a strong publicly funded media presence is the only way forward. ”

    Or we can rely on a vigilant proportion of the population (many on this site, who no doubt are not mutually exclusive of paid media and other sectors of the economy/society) along with altruistic and very time-generous moderators and host (thanks Lprent).

  10. Chooky 10

    Great Post..thanks…it is in reality a stifling of Democracy

    …in all of this there is an opportunity for online sources like the Standard to take up the gap/slack left by the abdication of responsibility of this John Key Nact government for public funding of high quality , lengthy News and Investigative journalism and Current affairs

    • Sans Cle 10.1

      This site (The Standard) proves that pure “public goods” don’t have to be publicly funded. It also got me thinking about private goods being publicly funded e.g. State house sales:privatization in general; Also, private goods are rarely privately funded (we need a mechanism to communicate new private goods e.g. Advertising, which is reliant on historic publicly funded goods through building of communication-infrastructure)….and perhaps more generally, this is the crisis that NZ’s media sector are facing: they thought their industry could be privatised completely, giving themselves a monopoly on advertising revenue…..and are kicking back against it.

  11. AmaKiwi 11

    In the 1970’s Woodward and Bernstein were the Washington Post reporters who unearthed Nixon’s Watergate crimes, which permeated the highest levels of the US government. It took them SIX months of investigating before they produced their first printable story.

    It is unimaginable that today a privately owned / for profit news company would fund two reporters for six months without them producing a useable single story.

    Investigative journalism has changed. I have no idea if anything will replace it. Big Brother is not complaining.

    • tc 11.1

      yes and the amount of resources required behind just one TV current affairs reporter is a similar situation, researchers, producers, crew, lawyers to ensure libel and other laws aren’t breached and stories can take months also.

      There is no payback in terms of ads/sponsors for quality news and current affairs so it has to be done as a publicly funded independant service.

      Abbotts is now attacking ABC/SBS as they call it like it is and western govts can’t have that anymore.

      you want quality and objective reporting then it has to be isolated from all commercial/profit based influences.

    • saveNZ 11.2

      +1

      It is all part of the plan to rid society of decency and replace it with consumerism and fluff on the surface and mass surveillance and control underneath.

      Those speaking out about injustice (i.e. normal journalism) are out.

      The fluff doctor CEO’s redesigning this media landscape are ex entertainment managers, cinemas, travel agents, movie production, stock brokers, gambling, (if you can consider it entertainment).

      The brokers aka John Key are selling out the country while the MSM entertains us.

  12. James 12

    3 News certainly doesn’t do what Campbell Live does. Looking at their RSS feed just now, they have seven sports-related articles and three local news articles. The only unusual aspect is that normally half of them are entertainment-related, examining the lives and careers of important figures such as Miley Cyrus and Jay Z. Since MediaWorks NZ is owned by an Australian private equity firm which is necessarily more interested in pursuing dollars than “stories which matter”, their indifference to investigative journalism is only natural.

    …[A] strong publicly funded media presence is the only way forward.

    Let’s not forget that “publicly funded” needn’t mean “taxpayer funded”. Media Lens has an interesting perspective on the subject:

    Many readers are aware, on some level, that the profit motive distorts and cheapens every last thing offered by a ‘mainstream’ media system that in fact represents the extreme viewpoint of 0.1% of the population.

    Any given journalist might not give a damn about antagonising the White House, BP, or the Royal Family, but he or she knows that the host media does and must care. So all corporate media output marinades in an environment of ‘caution’, ‘respectability’ and self-preservational second-guessing. ‘Je suis Charlie Hebdo’ aside, write or say anything construed as ‘offensive’ or ‘outrageous’ by the wrong people, and a vast state-corporate, reputational wrecking ball can be mobilised. Anyone can be made a pariah, and journalists and corporate media entities cannot afford the consequences. . . .

    It may sound like wild fantasy, but we can imagine a collective of high-profile writers and journalists willing to detach themselves from corporate and state media, and to place themselves entirely at the mercy of the public.

    Two points would be absolutely key for the success of such an initiative: journalistic output should be completely free of charge to the public, a gift; and it should be openly presented as a declaration of intellectual war on the corporate media. Not in any vindictive way – the intention would be to offer an example of honest journalism based on selfless generosity as a contrast to the compromised, greed-based corporate media.

    Imagine if George Monbiot, John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, David Peterson, Jonathan Cook, Mark Curtis, Glenn Greenwald, Nafeez Ahmed, Robert Fisk, Naomi Klein, Russell Brand, Michael Moore, Julian Assange, Chris Hedges, Sharon Beder, Seumas Milne and others rejected the media moguls, billionaires, parent companies and advertisers, and offered their work completely free of charge from a single media outlet. Would the global public be willing to support such a group, such a cause, through donations? The answer, we think, is blindingly obvious. . . .

    We believe the internet makes the global outreach and required level of donations achievable. The support would be vast, if the journalism was free, and if it offered a genuine, uncompromising challenge to the corporate stranglehold.

    • tracey 12.1

      Thanks for that perspective. Appreciate it in light of “conversation” going on higher up.

  13. Rolf 13

    Dying media is nothing specific for New Zeeland. The problem is all the time, “who pay the piper chose the tune”. If the funding is public, the politicians will be in like a rocket to protect themselves and get their version out and the same for officials. This was the Soviet and the early Chinese model. A paper like the Herald does not publish anything unless they have the writer’s home address. “We know where you live mate, you don’t say anything wrong will you, you may get unpleasant visits”. The way to go is to protect the writers, private people and journalists, from powerful people who today use methods as “defamation” lawsuits, threats from officials, invent “regulations”, using the courts as leverage, then find ways for them to get the message out, without being threatened and at the same time make web media financially and technically accessible.

  14. Maui 14

    “According to inside sources the driving force behind this has been the rise of Stuff the Nation as a priority for the organisation”

    Geez-ez, so let’s use ordinary kiwis to write stories on what they think is important in their everyday lives as the basis for a news/entertainment organisation. Do readers seriously give a sht about what their neighbour thinks about what is wrong with the police, or how they got their baby through teething. Makes me want to run far, far away.

  15. saveNZ 15

    Jane Hastings – the same companies and connections keep popping up

    Hastings joined TRN as chief executive in September 2012 from Amalgamated Holdings where she was general manager, entertainment Australia and New Zealand.

    Hastings was previously general manager group sales, marketing and cinemas at Sky City Entertainment Group.

    Oh NO, no wonder news is now considered entertainment – we thought it was just John Key but now CEO of NZME previous experience is running cinemas (think Warners) and Gambling.

    We don’t need news! People might start to know what is going on!

    They sure as hell don’t want real journalists either!

  16. Hateatea 16

    The opinion of our esteemed (!) Prime Minister on publicly funded broadcasting / television
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/tv-radio/67802231/key-would-people-watch-publicly-funded-broadcast-tv

    The fact that television in the New Zealand that I grew up in was serviced only by publicly funded TVNZ or whatever it was originally called, says that New Zealanders did and would watch it.

    It was that that gave us Brian Edwards and the Forsyte Saga as well as Peyton Place and Fair Go.

    I watched Prime Ministers, Ministers of Labour called to account and a very young Winston Peters discuss the Hunua recount.

    It was the drive to make our public broadcasters pay their way that has led us to the place we are now where pleasing the advertisers view of demographics is more important than quality, variety, topicality and honesty.

  17. Phil 17

    television in the New Zealand that I grew up in was serviced only by publicly funded TVNZ or whatever it was originally called, says that New Zealanders did and would watch it.

    Aye, there’s the rub… You grew up in a New Zealand serviced only by publicly funded television because there was ONLY publicly funded television in New Zealand.

    Communication costs, both in terms of an individual’s access as well as the cost of production, have fallen dramatically in the last few decades and the number of mediums we can use to access media have exploded.

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