The myth of objective journalism

Written By: - Date published: 6:00 am, November 4th, 2009 - 68 comments
Categories: Media - Tags:

IrishBill: It’s never an easy decision to pull another poster’s work but after some reflection I’ve decided this post constitutes an unwarranted personal attack and is out of line with the Standard’s policies and direction and have therefore removed it.

68 comments on “The myth of objective journalism”

  1. singularian 1

    Smiling = brimming with excitement?

    Maybe you need to get out for a bit of fresh air Eddie.

    I have to say, I only come to this site now for a bit of a laugh at you guys or to read and wonder at the same set of commentors making the same inane comments day after day.

    It reminds me that I’m not as bad off as some people.

    Time for a new plan people. The one you’re running with is broke.

    cheers.

  2. mike 2

    As a reporter of course he is going to be there. As for ‘reveling in the victory’ he is smiling as it would be hard not to be swept up with the emotion all around you I imagine. Weak conspiracy Ed

    • Eddie 2.1

      his job is actually not to be swept away in the emotion of things but to report on them objectively. He’s actually trying to swallow his excitement to look objective but he can’t because he’s so excited.

  3. Fran O'Sullivan 3

    Sounds like someone is trying to sandbag Colin’s next career step – nasty.

    • IrishBill 3.1

      I’m not sure Colin having a wee smile is definitive evidence of his lack of objectivity. Although I do think he’s a bit swept up in the yay-national narrative but that’s not unusual for a gallery journo in the first year of a new government (especially after a three-term government). I must also be a little out of the loop as I’m not aware of what Colin’s “next career step” is, Fran can you elucidate?

      • Tigger 3.1.1

        If it’s such a silly post why are Fran and Russell here decrying it? Not saying it’s not silly, just pointing out by rushing in to defend Colin you’re giving firewood to a tiny flame…

    • Eddie 3.2

      next career step? Don’t know what you’re talking about. The guy doesn’t understand SM – frankly, I’m surprised he got as high as he is.

      Into Key’s office is it? Make it official?

      • lukas 3.2.1

        just keep digging just keep digging

        [lprent: Do you have a spade fetish?
        Or is this one of those coded statements that only make sense to the idiotic faithful at the sewer? ]

  4. What a deeply silly blog post.

    • Eddie 4.1

      You don’t think Espiner is objective do you, Russell? You don’t think he’s a well-informed commentator do you?

      Then you agree with my point. We’ll be in at least the same position when the newspapers die as we are now. In fact, we’ll be better off if the myth of objective journalism goes with them.

  5. shock horror a journalist went to the Nat’s celebration party on election night…. I guess the top journos were there and the lesser ones at the Labour HQ? Going to out them too Eddie?

  6. Geek 6

    It took you a year to dig this piece of nothing up. My god how sad is that.

  7. Monty 7

    Oh you guys are still sour? No surprise there – as your lot have plumeted in the polls and no one outside the beltway even knows who the hell the Leader is (Is Clark still running the party?)

    Of course Espiner is happy – the whole country was elated that we could finally say goodbye to Clark and her government that was becoming more and more corrupt and inept as the final days of the Labour Government rolled on

  8. Razorlight 8

    Keep attacking that messanger

    sheesh we are getting desperate over here in the wacky world of the left

  9. I’m not aware of what Colin’s “next career step’ is

    Fairfax are merging their gallery offices.

    As others have pointed out, the claim that smiling on election night somehow compromises Espiner as a journalist is pretty fucking daft.

    I don’t always agree with Espiner’s political analysis (although for my money he wrote the definitive summary of the year in politics; back in July he wrote of Labour’s poor performance as an opposition party: ‘[Labour] are making the Government look good. And it isn’t that good.’). But his journalism is always objective and balanced.

    • Eddie 9.1

      It’s not remotely objective and balanced. It’s not even informed. The barely contained grin (if you can’t read facial expressions – note the way the corners of the eyes and mouth are crinkling up but the lips are being forced closed and thin and the cheeks are flushed – like when you’re trying not to smile) is just a physcial example of the bias that anyone can see.

      The Espiners are a rightwing family. Colin’s brother has told national ministers that he supports their agenda. The smile when he’s supposedly impartially covering the situation is just an exemplar of the myth of objective journalism.

      • gitmo 9.1.1

        Take a week off you’re loosing the plot, it’s a bit like talk back you need to distance yourself from it for a week or two to regain some perspective and humour.

        Really this type of post and comment really does you a disservice

  10. ak 10

    Good post Eddie. Fair and balanced my arse. The very day after winning “best political reporter” he wrote of Winnie appealing to the “elderly and mentally ill”. Worst aspect is the veneer of impartiality invariably followed by the casual anti-Labour quip – just the other day “Labour’s spendthrift behaviour” tossed in as a pseudo-truism. Compare and contrast the Labour “scandals” so vehemently attacked by the Spinners et al throughout 07-08 (eg paintergate, Winniebash) with the treatment given this year’s series of tory rorts and sleazefests.

    Struck a nerve, obviously – keep it up. This handful of career-hungry hacks and their puppeteers hold the monopoly on informing and influencing the swing voter: if we can’t keep em honest, at least let them know we know.

  11. I disagree with the decision to take this post down. You’re in the age of the internet – it’s probably cached somewhere. Taking it down is pretty pointless and opens the standard up to accusations of censorship.

    • IrishBill 11.1

      I’m fully aware of how the internet works but the main point is that it’s not on the standard. As much as I have made criticism of Colin’s work in the past I don’t think this post was valid or fair to him. In my opinion taking it down is the best remedy available.

      • BLiP 11.1.1

        If one of the major roles of the blogosphere is to hold the MSM accountable, your decision seems to me a bit heavy handed.

        • IrishBill 11.1.1.1

          Accountable for what? Smiling?

          • BLiP 11.1.1.1.1

            Smiling is one interpretation, celebrating a political party’s election success is another.

            The manipulation of images is a tried and true MSM ploy. That the MSM knows the “watchers are being watched” is more important, IMHO, than giving individual journalists an occasional poke in the eye, justified or not. In this case, it was C Espiner – a not unworthy target – but the post sent a message to the wider MSM that the blogosphere is onto their tactics and not scared to use them either.

            Other decisions that could have been made in this instance might, perhaps, have included an edit turning the original post into a caption competition and/or giving C Espiner a post of his own in reply and/or gathering up other images of the media, say, at a Labour function. Your decision, however, sets a cautionary precedent.

            Having said that, I am the first to concede that The Standard must be run along similar lines as a benevolent dictatorship. While I criticise your decision, I do not question your right to do so. It just seems less than sophisticated.

            • rocky 11.1.1.1.1.1

              All of your suggestions for how the photo could have been published are in my opinion legitimate. But Irish pulled the post for the right reason – lack of objectivity. The damage was already done, and pulling the post serves as a good reminder to us authors to think carefully about what we post.

  12. Not a well considered or written post perhaps, but it pointed to an underlying truth. Political journalists get captured and some struggle, (not too hard) in the ‘Spinners case, to deliver objective coverage.

  13. For those who want to see the original post. I note the Thorndon Bubble currently has it at the bottom of their front page.

    http://thorndonbubble.org/

  14. Colin Espiner 14

    My goodness, the furore over this pulled post has made me rather keen to see it! Judging by the comments though it sounds like I’m being accused of being a National Party toady, with the photograph of me smiling at the back of John Key’s scrum on election night being used as proof.

    What you can’t see in the picture is the immense crush of the people surrounding us as we were swept towards the stage. I was being pushed into the back of the DPS officers surrounding Key and his family and was doing my best to stay upright. It was pretty much bedlam and it was this that I was laughing about – the chaos, not National’s win.

    To somehow draw from the fact that I’m smiling that I was either pleased Key had won or excited about National’s victory is just pathetic.

    Eddie, you say the Espiners “are a Right wing family” – do you have any evidence for this whatsoever? You have no idea how any of us have voted, and you may well be surprised if you did.

    By all means critique our work, but don’t descend into this sort of slander. It does the Left a disservice.

    • IrishBill 14.1

      Colin, I should point out that “slander’ is defaming someone verbally. I think in this case you mean “libel” 😉

    • r0b 14.2

      Eddie, you say the Espiners “are a Right wing family’ do you have any evidence for this whatsoever?

      You mean apart from your badly slanted journalism, and the comments that you make in your own blog comments section? Anyone paying attention knows that you two are Nat fanbois. If you want to prove us wrong don’t come here and play all mysterious about how you may or may not have voted, do some real balanced journalism instead.

    • snoozer 14.3

      any read of your work shows your bias Colin, have some resepct for you audience, don’t think we can’t see it. here, examples:

      “the conspiracy theory peddled by Labour and the EPMU (i.e. Labour)”
      – anti Left bias, Left’s concerns dismissed as conspricacy theory, conflating EPMU and Labour

      “I can’t believe someone with chairman John Judge’s commercial background is going to put his reputation on the line just to help the Government push a particular political ideology. Judge is not going to claim that the very existence of the ACC is under threat if it’s not.”
      – assumption that wealthy people with commerical backgrounds are ipso facto telling the truth and would never push a pro-business line to the disadvantage of others.

      “there have now been three relatively independent reviews of ACC’s financial position, and all of them have come up with the conclusion that it is in the poo.”
      – that’s not what the PWC review or any of the reviews say. It’s what the National spin says

      “there’s little doubt that the additions made to the scheme by Labour a couple of years ago – including things like lump-sum payouts for the families of suicide victims, and physiotherapy, simply aren’t affordable any more.”
      – little doubt says who? Says the right. No explanation of why something that was affordable “simply [isn’t] affordable any more”, it’s assumed to be true because it’s the Right’s position

      “I do think Nick Smith has over-egged the pudding a little bit. At least some of the need for the big increases is because of the move towards fully funding the ACC.”
      – the strongest words you can say against Smith and even they have softening modifiers. You don’t even seem to understand that ACC is bringing in enough money to cover the costs of claims in each year, the whoel reason for the increase is fully funding, but, again, to say that would ruin the Right’s line.

      that’s enough for one comment. But those are examples from just one blog post. Don’t tell us you’re not right-wing, Colin. It’s there in everything you write.

      • Tigger 14.3.1

        Why is it that when someone expresses an opinion from the left, or a minority, which some others find unagreeable, they are said to be doing the ‘Left/Maori/women/gays’ a disservice?

        I rarely hear this type of statement said about the right wing. Right wingers individually can do whatever they want. No one says that what Key says is representative of all right wing men. But if Goff says something he’s speaking for ‘the Left’.

        And does The Standard speak for the Left? It is of the Left but does it represent the Left? I’m a regular here and never thought I was speaking for anyone but myself.

        • Daveo 14.3.1.1

          It’s typical Espiner. He sees the Left as the “other” so he lumps us all in together. Right wingers are just those people he knows who have various right-thinking opinions about stuff.

          If you doubt this, just ask yourself, would Colin Espiner ever take a post on No Minister or Whale Oil and attribute it to John Key?

      • scrubone 14.3.2

        Colin is to your right. We get it.

  15. sean14 15

    FFS Eddie, all that bile based on one photograph? Colin could have just passed wind for all you know!

  16. Lew 16

    The myth is that journalism can be objective. It is what it is: competing spin from different sides of the same issue, news you can use, things which make you sit up and say ‘gee whiz’, the stuff people decide they need to know in the form they decide they ned to know it. It’s not science, it’s not mathematics; it’s not a cathedral, it’s a bazaar.

    L

    • BLiP 16.1

      True. But, there was a time when the owners of the media provided its journalists with sufficient resources so as to be able to seek objectivity, to verify facts, gather counter opinions and present a wider picture so as to hold politicians and business people to account. These days, newsrooms are shredded down to bare minimums, the PR industry floods journalists in-trays with ready-to-use corporate pap and spin-doctors everywhere seek to “manage” their organisation’s information.

      I blame the media audience to a large extent for not demanding news, rather than entertainment – I’m often dismayed at what appears in the “Most Popular” and “Most Emailed” columns on media websites. Has this demand for entertainment and titillation been driven by the audience or by the providers, I wonder.

      • BLiP 16.1.1

        Stuff-Up Website “Editor’s Picks” as at 13.20 04/11/09:

        * Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin to host Oscars
        * Sportscaster must pay ex-wife NZ$1.2m a year
        * Warrant details alleged burglars’ celeb loot
        * Low cholesterol may prevent prostate cancer
        * Crocodile Dundee in tax evasion probe
        * Kiss kiss – here come the metrotextuals
        * China clamps down on Warcraft
        * Italian schools told to remove crucifixes
        * Refs favour Canterbury claims Wellington coach
        * Madonna’s worst fashion moment

        – hmmm, I wonder what they want the readers to know about.

  17. Nice to see Eddie’s humble apology to Colin Espiner. What, there hasn’t been an apology yet? Quelle surprise!

    Little wonder the left is taking a caning in the polls, if this is the best that you guys can come up with.

    • rocky 17.1

      Why are you blaming the whole of left on one post by one author on one blog?

      Should we blame the whole of the right for Whale Oil?

      • Inventory2 17.1.1

        rocky – the comments in this thread suggest that Eddie is not a lone voice

        • rocky 17.1.1.1

          Yes Inventory2, some people agree with Eddie. But as Colin Espiner quite rightly just pointed out in this thread:

          It’s fun being selective… You can make people look biased easily enough if you only print half the story.

          Plenty of people from the left on this post disagreeing with Eddie, including me. Oh, and the moderator (IrishBill) who removed the post.

          I’m happy with people arguing that Colin Espiner is biased, but putting up a picture of him smiling and trying to deduce all sorts of conclusions from that alone was well over the top.

        • lprent 17.1.1.2

          ….suggest that Eddie is not a lone voice

          There will be people who think that. There will be people who don’t. What do you think this place is? Some kind of collectivist hive? You know that opinions here will go all over the place. You comment here for instance.

          In my experience you only get that kind of conformity where people have prejudices stuffed at them from an early age and by the whole of their local society (which is why public schools are so useful for exposing kids to differing opinions)

          Personally the only places I tend to find it in NZ are on talkback and the sewer. In both places I’m convinced that there is a darwinian winnowing towards the lowest common denominator of reflexive bigotry fueled by dog-whistling.

  18. senzafine 18

    Wow, the vitriol and the bile here truly is outstanding.

    The biggest thing I get from this post and ensuing thread is that people whom do not tow the exact political agenda of Eddie and snoozer (et al) are right wing patsies and evil incarnate.

    Unfortunately for you, New Zealanders in general are for more moderate and centrist in their views than you are. Until the left can grasp that fact with both hands, they are confining themselves to irrelevance in NZ politics.

    As Colin said, You do the left a dis-service.

  19. how funny to such earnest responses from journalists desperate to defend their precious, albeit pretend objectivity 🙂

    good to see the Streisand Effect starting to take hold on this post though

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect

    Lew is right, the myth is that there can be objectivity. in most developed media environments publications declare their ideological preferences, which i think is much more honest than the system we have here, where the APN/Fairfax duopoly have decided it’d constrain their abilities to maximize market share if they were open about where their loyalties really lie, so instead they pretend to be centrist or apolitical 🙂

    ah the kiwi msm, corporate giants somehow miraculously free of commercial and therefore political interests, fighting valiantly to protect we humble citizens from the manipulations and ravages of corporate giants

    priceless

    • re. Streisand Effect

      views for this post are now more than 3x that of the next closest 😆
      looking at the absolute numbers on the blog stats this post is tracking towards being one of our most read ever.

  20. Sean14 @ 11.16am’s got it.
    He’s farting to the right.
    Wish I could read the post. Please put it back up Irish.
    Or if its gone anywhere else then where?

  21. Colin Espiner 21

    It’s fun being selective, isn’t it Snoozer. You can make people look biased easily enough if you only print half the story. Here’s some more selections from my scrapbook that you overlooked:

    “If this National-led Government was at university, it would be the most popular dunce in its class. National continues to score a D-minus in the basics of political management. Last week was an absolute shocker. You wouldn’t ask this lot to organise your child’s birthday party, based on the mess it made of the Rugby World Cup (RWC) broadcasting rights and proposed ACC changes.”

    “Is the Government in cruise control? Or does it just see no point in pretending to “do” things simply for the sake of it? Parliament is in recess. At such times, when everything stops and ministers slink away for a few days off without telling anyone, Labour used to have a series of pre-planned announcements ready to roll out. It “fed the chooks”, as former Queensland premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen used to say, and made the Government look busy. National has never done this. In Opposition, it tended to disappear without trace until the House resumed. In Government, it hasn’t proved much different.”

    “Yet after English’s performance in the last few weeks, senior figures in the party are doubting the deputy prime minister will ever attain the leadership again.
    His handling of the housing allowance saga has been an absolute debacle. English’s about-face last Monday, in which he admitted he had stopped claiming the payment because he was unsure of the rules, was nothing short of an embarrassment for the Government.”

    “Oh dear, oh dear. Just when National thought the Budget had put the Government’s stumbles of past weeks behind it, along comes the bumbling figure of Richard Worth – again. Prime Minister John Key must be ruing the day he appointed Worth a minister, although, at the same time, thanking his lucky stars he did not make him Speaker. While the various allegations against Worth are not likely to impact severely on the Government, they are a major embarrassment and a distraction when National was keen to get back on the front foot.”

    “There is an old saying about the worst day in government being better than the best day in opposition. However, Labour set out to disprove that last week.
    Rarely has a party recently thumped in a general election looked as united or as positive as Labour when Parliament resumed on Monday. Granted, it had a new leader in Phil Goff, who was keen to make his mark before Christmas. A good performance from the party veteran was almost guaranteed. However, last week’s display was a team effort, and it has given National some cause to be worried.”

    • the sprout 21.1

      such researched substantiation and dedicated, diligent attention to accuracy Colin, well done.

      nice to see you are at least capable of it when it’s a topic close to your heart.

    • r0b 21.2

      All your examples are about the puppet theatre Colin, the bread and circuses, not about substance or policy. You point out when Nats are making a mess of the theatre sometimes in the same way that a teacher tries correct a favourite pupil. “Now Johnny, you’re making a mess of this, do try harder”. On policy and substance you are Tory and it shows. Here’s one comment that you made that caught my eye:

      HOWEVER, National would dearly love to get stuck in to Working for Families, and get people earning $100K-plus off welfare and all the lack of productivity that entails. But it can’t, because it promised not to.

      It would LOVE to list some state assets on the stock exchange. It would be good for business, for the SOEs, for the stock exchange, and for investors. But it can’t, because it promised not to.

      So WFF / welfare simply entails “lack of productivity” does it? It isn’t a safety net that has lifted thousands out of poverty? So privatisation is simply good for business is it? Is it good for the people of New Zealand do you know? You want the Nats to get on with their hard right agenda and lament that fact they are constrained by their promises…

      Face it Colin, you’re as Tory as they come, and it colours everything you write. Which is fine, takes all sorts you know. Just stop pretending to be neutral and no one will have a problem.

      [You did do one piece once that genuinely confronted the Nats on their dodgy use of anonymous trusts, but you never followed up alas]

      • Pascal's bookie 21.2.1

        I’d love to see what he meant by those quotes r0b. There’s a few shibboleths in there.

        (I see now that wff has made a disturbing number of 100k plus types all non productive by the magical powers of welfarism run amuck. How many families are there in this 100k plus wff bracket, and is there any evidence they are less productive in their work since the scheme came in? Or is it just a pile of red-bait-ease?)

        And you’re right, those quotes seem fairly conclusive to me, unless he got some curly explanation or context.

        They amount to “The Nat’s would love to do sensible things, but the stupid voters made them promise not to”. Where ‘sensible things’ equals right wing policy, and the voters extracting the promises are the centrists Key won over by being all centrist and stuff. That makes no sense, unless you think right wing policy is actually just common old fashioned sense.

  22. prism 22

    Good argy-bargy. Fits my theory that many people treat their political affiliations in the same one-eyed way as they support their favourite sports team. But politics is how we arrange our real lives, bit more important to get right information.

    Quote for the day from some smart alec.
    The job of the press is to encourage debate, not to supply the public with information. Christopher Lasch (1932-96)

  23. Deemac 23

    always fascinating to see how much time the rightwing trolls can devote to posting coments here.
    Are they sad unemployed people with nothing else to do?
    Or are they being paid to do it?
    Hard to think of any other reasons for spending so much time on a blog they dislike so much.
    I think we should be told!

  24. graham 24

    we trolls come here to look at the freaks of the left

    • lprent 24.1

      Yep, thats because you’re pretty pathetic at arguing. Looking is all you really can do due to lack of actual content in what you say…

  25. Trevor Mallard 25

    Just caught up with this – I don’t think attacks on journos opinions as opposed to correcting facts helps anyone. I didn’t see this but if it was like the earlier post on John Armstrong then it adds nothing positive.

  26. I didn’t see this but…

    which might give some clues about the value of commenting on it perhaps?

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