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The political beliefs of political reporters

Written By: - Date published: 1:57 pm, May 25th, 2014 - 61 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, democratic participation, john key, Media, national - Tags: ,

In the aftermath of the Shane Taurima controversy Television New Zealand is requiring reporters to divulge their political affiliation, membership and other political party activity.

To be honest I thought the criticism of Taurima because of his political beliefs was overblown.  The TVNZ review found no evidence of bias.  Specifically it described Taurima as “a talented long‐form interviewer who grew in the role as the year progressed. He was well prepared, polite and calm. His questions were often based on specific research conducted by the programme, or by other credible sources, such as the Law Commission and BERL. His questions came from across the political spectrum. In each instance there was a justification for the questions he was asking.”

People with an interest in politics will naturally be attracted to the job of reporting.  They also have rights to hold their own political beliefs and of freedom of association so why shouldn’t they be allowed to belong to political parties.  It is not as if they hold an especially sensitive position such as the head of the GCSB where political involvement in the selection process should raise alarm bells.

The subtext of the attack on Taurima is that the political media is somehow left leaning.  A cursory glance at the comments at Kiwiblog or Whaleoil will show that on the right there is this utter conviction that the capitalist media is somehow a hot bed for socialism and is intent on undermining the right. Anything short of obsequious regurgitation of National spin lines is regarded as some sort of heresy.  On the left we just hope reporters do their job properly occasionally.

The Herald’s John Drinnan has been commenting on the issue with some insight.  His latest column points out the inequity of the situation.  A reporter can be fearlessly doing their job properly without favour yet not be allowed to be a member of a political party.  But someone with clearly conservative views such as Mike Hosking is allowed to not only hold those views but express them publicly.

As Drinnan puts it:

The TVNZ political purity drive unmasks an anomaly.

While current affairs people are not allowed to align themselves with political parties, presenters such as Mike Hosking are allowed to give their personal views, as long as they are not a member of a party or an activist for one.

In fact, Hosking is the “elephant in the room” when it comes to TVNZ’s reputation as an objective political observer.

He wears his conservative politics on his sleeve and TVNZ has given him influence over what gets shown on Seven Sharp, says a source familiar with the show’s workings.

Spokeswoman Georgie Hills says TVNZ accepts that most people, including journalists and presenters, will have some political opinions.

“Over the years it has become more common to hear personal views expressed by presenters on more conversational style news programmes like Seven Sharp – and up to a point we accept that as well.”

Which is probably handy, because Seven Sharp with Hosking and Toni Street rates well and delivers more advertising revenue than it did last year.

“You have to draw the line somewhere and we draw the line at active membership of a political party,” says Hills.

We are talking about the State broadcaster here.  If political reporters are not going to be permitted to be members of political parties then people such as Hosking should not be allowed to express their clearly held right wing views, even if it is good for advertising revenue.

Paul Henry is the strongest example of political bias.  The former National Party candidate has a world view which many of us find obnoxious.   And it seems to me that he has engaged in the repeating of National attack lines.

And John Key recently attacked Linda Clark claiming that she had been providing media advice to David Cunliffe.  I have no idea if she has or not but I had always regarded her to be scrupulously fair and sharp in her comments.

The big issue is the use of pundits to provide commentary on current events.  The right is well served by the likes of Matthew Hooton, David Farrar, Cameron Slater, Bill Ralston and a number of others.  The left have struggled.  A recent top class performance by Robert Reid has been marked by his complete disappearance from media events since then.

The overall impression that I have is that the right are busily attempting to silence any reporter or commentator they think could help the left, and are doing their best to make sure that important media positions are held by people perceived to be more sympathetic to the right.

The Herald came out with an editorial on the issue claiming that “partisan politics and mass media journalism do not mix.”  I laughed when I read this because the Herald’s pro National bias is clear to see.

The danger is clear to see.  If holding strong left wing views requires your silencing then the media will only reflect a corporate right wing world view.  Perhaps this is the intent.

61 comments on “The political beliefs of political reporters”

  1. Foreign Waka 1

    My question is this: Given that political news are NEVER unbiased, whose news will we hear under those circumstances? The job description will also have to change to news reader and certainly not journalist. So hurray for the new era of news from the dictatorship chair, oops directors chair.

    As for Linda Clark, I hope she reads this, as she can hold it with the best in the business.

  2. Tamati 2

    The difference is that Henry are Hosking are openly loudmouths and never pretend to be objective journalists. Their shows are just soapboxes where they preach to their congregations.

    • BM 2.1

      They’re just the opposite of Campbell Live.

      Campbell does the left, Hosking and Henry do the right.

      • Tracey 2.1.1

        in your world two shows to the right plus hosking on radio is equal to a half hour of john campbell. there you have it ladies and gentlemen, a definition of fair and equal from the mouth of the right.

        • Tamati 2.1.1.1

          People think that Seven Sharp and Campbell live actually matter when determining the outcome of elections. Only old people are actually have the time or the desire to watch those shows, and most of them already know who they’re going to vote for.

          Shortland Street is by far the most popular 7.00 o’clock show.

        • BM 2.1.1.2

          What about Radio NZ, you don’t get any more left than that.

        • Grantoc 2.1.1.3

          Unlike Hoskings and Henry, Campbell frequently dedicates his efforts to presenting entire programmes to advocating one left wing cause or another – see his recent efforts on the GSCB.

          By contrast, H & H make the occasional throw away right wing comment on an issue of the day; maybe 2 to 3 minutes worth of time. This hardly compares with Campbell’s hard out efforts on behalf of the left.

          Campbell’s dedicated left wing advocacy more than makes up for the 2:1 ratio in H& H’s favour.

          • BM 2.1.1.3.1

            Yeah, he’s practically campaigning for them.

            May explain why is show rates so poorly compared to seven sharp, not that I watch seven sharp.

          • Naturesong 2.1.1.3.2

            People of New Zealand = Leftwing cause.
            Investigation into Corruption = Attack on the National Party

            What a strange world we now live in.

          • Tracey 2.1.1.3.3

            privacy and prime ministers lying and misleading the nation are just left wing issues?

          • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.3.4

            Unlike Hoskings and Henry, Campbell frequently dedicates his efforts to presenting entire programmes to advocating one left wing cause or another – see his recent efforts on the GSCB.

            So, detailing the truth is showing an inherent left-wing bias?

      • mickysavage 2.1.2

        BM

        They’re just the opposite of Campbell Live.

        Campbell does the left, Hosking and Henry do the right.

        The point that I was trying to make is that if it is good enough for Hosking and Henry to express their clearly held right wing views then why isn’t it appropriate for a left wing journalist to do the same?

        • BM 2.1.2.1

          Campbell, Hosking and Henry do infotainment/current affairs shows.

          None are what I would consider political reporters.

    • Tracey 2.2

      perhaps but there are many who will not know henrys political past, a simple statement running along the bottom of the screen each time he screens stating the fact, would put the matter to bed.

      • Tamati 2.2.1

        But he’s not trying to be an objective journalist. He’s openly right wing and proud of it. In many ways he’s like Bill O’Rielly (apart from the ratings, of course).

        • Tracey 2.2.1.1

          he is openly right wing to you and i. a large number of nzers will have no idea he stood for national in 1999.

          • Populuxe1 2.2.1.1.1

            Are you really suggesting that after five minutes of being inflicted with Paul Henry anyone of average intelligence won’t have worked out that he’s a smarmy little Tory thug? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA snort HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA

  3. newsense 3

    Or that John Key’s former electorate chair can sit on NZ on Air, or a former National PM press sec/head of Pm’s dept (?) can run Radio NZ.

    Radio NZ was the last bastion of public service broadcasting. 6 and 7 were put down and RNZ is being whittled away piece by piece, question by question.

  4. RedLogix 4

    I was killing an hour or so in a great little cafe in town yesterday – and found myself quite engrossed in the Melbourne Age. Full of good, strong articles from a decent range of perspectives.

    After an hour and a half I still hadn’t gotten the whole way through. By contrast the Herald and the Dom are rags I’d skim and discard in 10 minutes or less.

    • TheContrarian 4.1

      I was in New York for a couple weeks a few years back and the New York Times was thoroughly engrossing and balanced. I’d sit in Central Park with a couple of beers and read it cover to cover over a few hours.

      Compared to the Sunday Star Times? There is no comparison.

    • Tracey 4.2

      i was in melbourne a couple of weeks ago when the age was covering anzac day, pre budget announcements amongst other things. I was struck by the analysis and reporting with less relince on opinion.

      I still pine for it.

      • phillip ure 4.2.1

        these are all a large part of the reason i started whoar..

        ..because..with a few exceptions..we were/are served so poorly by our corporate/access-media..

        ..it seems to me to be a conscious effort to dumb-down the populace.

        ..an ill-informed/uneducated/unaware populace is much easier to mould/manipulate..

        ..into making stupid voting decisions..

        ..people need brainfood…

        ..brains wither and die otherwise..

        • Tracey 4.2.1.1

          The dumbing down of the population began some decades in something we call schools. Trevor mallard had some great stuff underway in our schools but this govt sees school and tertiary as a type of job placement.

          Statutorily universities used to have an obligation to be the conscience of society… Sadly in recent times speak out and your research grants start to dry up.

          • phillip ure 4.2.1.1.1

            ..the current education problem that puzzles me..

            ..is the news of so many students arriving @ universities..

            ..unable to string a sentence together..

            ..and while heartily endorsing the precept that there are many different ways to learn..

            ..the best i took from school was a serious grounding in those tools of reading/writing..

            ..and surely..without that..

            ..you are fucked..aren’t you..?

            ..so..something seems askew/unfocused..

            • Tracey 4.2.1.1.1.1

              maybe, but ponder this phil, the highly literate are thebest conduits for propaganda, not the so-called ignorant.

            • karol 4.2.1.1.1.2

              ..is the news of so many students arriving @ universities..

              ..unable to string a sentence together.. ?

              • whereas i arrived able to..

                ..and left unable to…

                ..having thrown the sentence against the wall..

                ..(good pick of my poor choice of words..heh..!..)

  5. One Anonymous Bloke 5

    This isn’t simply a double standard it’s a deliberate attack designed to silence and marginalise dissent. Tony Astle’s despicable gutter ethics applied in a larger sphere. We have a right to be here. You don’t.

    • RedLogix 5.1

      Yes — the ‘born to rule mentality’ quite openly on display.

      The way to squash it is to simply point out that yes we accept this right-wing principle of excluding, silencing and marginalising dissent from the ruling party.

      In fact we on the left think now realise is a very good idea and intend to implement it ourselves next time we are in power – much more comprehensively than you’ve ever done. You will be so proud of us.

  6. Philj 6

    xox
    Newsense + 1
    RNZ as an independent,quality public broadcaster, is rapidly sinking. It’s taken a wee while but Griffen’s invisible hand is beginning to take effect.

  7. Blue 7

    It’s a counterattack by the right wing. This year, the right-wing bias in the media has got up people’s noses and they were starting to attack the media outlets serving up this garbage.

    True to form, as soon as the Tories realised this was getting traction they decided to strike back and try to paint the media as being biased towards the left. That they were able to find any lefties in the media at all is remarkable enough.

    Their attempts have fallen a bit flat, though. People aren’t that stupid. They know when a political commentator is biased and it’s quite obvious that most of them are biased toward the right.

    Shane Taurima is demonstrably even-handed in his work whatever his personal politics are and Linda Clark media training someone does not mean she is left wing – media training is a job and you don’t have to share someone’s politics to agree to do it. The Nats must be quite happy with all the coverage this is getting, however.

    • “..That they were able to find any lefties in the media at all is remarkable enough..”

      ..aye..!

      ..and i agree with yr rating of the skills of taurima..

      ,..i watched quite a bit of taurima..

      ..and he always impressed me with the intelligence he brought to the job..

      ..and how he had clearly well-researched whatever topic was to hand..so was able to ask those ‘intelligent’/probing questions..

      ..and to my eyes/ears he was equally vigorous with left and right..

      ..and could not be faulted for his work..

      ..as opposed to the likes of henry/hoskings..et al..

      ..with their constant rightwing-biases held in both hands..

      ..and waved at the audience..

  8. greywarbler 8

    wtf. Of course people have ideas of their own. To be able to report political information or any requires some life experience and the ability to understand the culture one lies in. How dare TV try to take away people’s rights. They just have to keep them to themselves and try to actively and accurately protray the information they get and make sure that they get the information we expect to know.

    • greywarbler 8.1

      ‘one lies in’ How funny – a Freudian slip perhaps. I meant lives.

  9. captain hook 9

    the thing is that Labour Party supporters are proud of their beliefs whilst torys like to keep theirs hidden so normal people do not see the depths of their venal grasping depravity.
    and what about the gang of sad little righties that Richard griffin has installed at radio New Zealand. The place is going from bad to worse.

  10. Philj 10

    xox
    Bad to worse? Before I switch off. Can it really get any sillier than Mora and his gigglers. And Simon has continued on with the tired format he inherited from Mora. And Morning Report has fallen. Very disappointing.

  11. Lez Howard 11

    I have watched Hoskings a couple of times on Seven Sharp He.s just an actor, terrible hair do , A Hollow personality Just in keeping for a National Party stooge

  12. greywarbler 12

    Political beliefs show up in the questions that you ask as an interviewer, and the way you don’t find certain answers questionable.

    Also the way that political poll results are blazoned to the public. Like this Monday morning – so bad for Labour. Ooh no good at all, Not looking likely. Negative stuff. Like water dripping on chalk, soon all there will be left of Labour is a streak of red colour on the walls of the Beehive.

    Some of the comments on Open Mike this morning are revealing about how it came over to we listeners. Very soggy questioning by – was it Espiner or Ferguson. I think him.

  13. aerobubble 13

    Today’s a graduate will leave university in debt (if a member of the under class who have little capital), they will (according to NR, like in the US, get entry level jobs that don’t need their degrees), they will then have to work very very hard to keep up, and finally any ideas will quickly be leveraged to keep up profits.

    Key says that we should tax them – sorry have them pay for their education – early because they will make much more money in later life. Which presumes several assumptions, that all will get high salaries, that some won’t need to borrow as they have capital rich parents, etc.

    Seems we can only hate, revile and hate the rich, and not discuss how Key hates Students.

    Imagine ancient Rome. A slave did not own the product of their work, had to work very very hard, was in debt and had to but their own freedom, and did not vote. Now we hear today that return on investment is higher than return on earnings, and that this will create a new class divide.

    So when they say how profession make heaps, just remember that what they mean is professionals should pay lower taxes and poorer students should be indebted, overwork, misapplied, and likely non-voting.

    This morning on NR, a acedmeic, you know the type, comments with conscience and critics our society by stressing how essential it is that we move to the US system where graduates enter level jobs don’t need their skills, where they are indebt and have to prove themselves by working very hard. No criticism of the indentured nature of the modern workplace thanks to the right.

    • aerobubble 13.1

      You’ll note that when assessing outcomes that students who come from wealthy families get very very wealthy when in work as they get a head start in not paying off debt. So when assessing outcomes, they should not be used in the stats, i.e. a fair assessment of student loans should look at those who are most effected and their income outcomes. I bet very very few actual make the reported returns, sure they are well off lawyers and doctors but they won’t be the dominate in the top of their professions pay.

  14. Mr Interest 14

    Humm, listening to Hooten this morning on RNZ made laugh

    He seemed to have center stage, crowing (sorry, I mean hootering).

    He gave sagely (or was that saccharine) advice that the polls are not won on issues such as poverty gaps, that the Spirit Level author were merely throw away academics. Juxtaposed against this was his proud one liner of how he had worked for the corporates (insinuating we should trust him). Yip…. I see the humor. It was actually funny.

    But even more funnier still was his advice to Labour, that they should effectively do a dirty campaign and pull off the gloves and go after immigrants stealing jobs (at least this is my interpretation of his advice), etc. Says something about the man?

    The kicker came from Hooten when he mentioned that National were the party for education, health and housing (or something like that). I nearly jetted hot tea out my nostrils laughing. Not only was he doing political commentating but comedy as well.

    Having taken me to such high tea humor I waited for a come back from Mike Williams (even Ryan who should have picked up on this and held him to account). All I heard was the tea spoon clinking and chasing the sugar cube around in tepid intellectual waters.

    Come on Williams, Hooten was handing you the come back lines this morning and you failed. In fact the last few times I have been wondering what team you bat for. I am starting to question your political belief as a reporter. There was enough ammo there that anyone with a little understanding of politics in NZ could have taken the pxxx back? Essentially, every time National turn up, Labour or the left have to clean up there…… now what do you call it, and pay for the privilege.

    Its not that hard to counter the leemingly economic hooterings of nationals comedians on RNZ? On one side he maybe partially right, leemings once making a decision to following cannot un calcify the brain (i.e. only optimism and brighter futures are allowed even if based on selling the crown jewels.. maybe this is the Crosby/Textor Keys spin managers in action…?)

    Political beliefs and reporters…. are there undertones of Shane Jones coming through?

    Come on Williams….. Give it some, take the pxxx back.

    Remember Churchill:
    “Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense”

  15. Whatever next? 15

    I presume intelligent people have political views, and therefore I do not expect complete objectivity.
    What I do expect is to be exposed to BOTH sides of the political spectrum, so that I can choose who to listen to.This may include a left leaning journalist interviewing a right wing politician, AND right leaning journalist interviewing a left wing politician.
    I thoroughly enjoyed Shane’s considered questions, and avoid the brash arrogance of Hoskins and Henry. shame we have hung drawn and quartered Shane for far less offensive behaviour.

    • Colonial Viper 15.1

      I presume intelligent people have political views, and therefore I do not expect complete objectivity.
      What I do expect is to be exposed to BOTH sides of the political spectrum

      Of course, there are far more than just two sides to the political spectrum (sorry, nitpicking, but it’s true).

      • whatever next? 15.1.1

        good point, “Leanings” cover it for me, and I like the movement around the centre, otherwise politics loses it’s dynamism.

  16. Journalism in NZ. Buaaahhahahahahah. There is no such thing as journalism in this country. For one, the people presenting themselves as such here in Safesville are not jaded enough to qualify. A good journalist is a political atheist and an outsider to the system. He/She is jaded to the point of almost finding it too disgusting to write about politics but driven to do so because he cannot help himself to tell the truth no matter the consequences. Somehow I don’t see Patrick Gower, Shane Plunket or any of the other MSM hacks in that light.

    • Colonial Viper 16.1

      A good journalist is a political atheist and an outsider to the system.

      After listening to Chris Hedges’ presentations on journalism (he was the New York Times middle east bureau chief and war correspondent in many different conflicts) I think that his views – which borrow heavily from George Orwell’s – suggest that journalists

      1) Need to be outsiders to the system, but more than that, must have no wish to become part of the system of self serving media courtiers to the elite.

      2) Feels an inner duty to relate to readers/viewers the truth of exactly what happened and how it happened, even under adversity and duress. The journalist’s own political and personal preferences as always secondary to that.

      3) Exercises the use of language as a skillful tool to convey that truth (as opposed to conveying spin and PR).

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