Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Poll Day 2: Queasy

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  • andrew r,

    Journalist as the star - Gower etc. How very very sad. Grow the fk up and get some integrity. You're a journalist for gods sake do and be proud of your job. The lime light aspect is I would have thought an unavoidable occupational hazard. In the world of criminal barristers for example the late Greg King was very very uninterested in the 'star' aspect of his profile work. Rather, he was intensely focused on his craft, which is why he was one of the better criminal defence advocates this country has seen in some years.
    And agree, tv news is becoming a pretty difficult watch. Campbell Live excepted.

    auckland • Since May 2007 • 99 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But I am troubled by this framing of this question and I really think 3 News reporters have to stop using the Prime Minister to articulate their story angles, especially when the subject is Cunliffe. Key’s great talent, as we say in the trade, but it’s lazy and creepy.

    More or less lazy than (surprise!) going to Cunliffe for an entirely predictable "boo suck!" soundbite whenever the Government announces something? It's (pseudo-)balance, I guess, but I struggle to see any actual news unless Labour is going to articulate a position or some actual policy.

    As for Gower -- yeah, I'm not buying the "National propagandist" angle either. He's not a Labour (or Greens or New Zealand First or Conservatives) one either. He's equal opportunity offensive, and I don't see that changing until everyone gets over their far from new obsession with being "first" or "setting the agenda" with a load of empty calories instead of nutritious reporting.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    I struggle to see any actual news unless Labour is going to articulate a position or some actual policy

    A trend over the last year or so - for tvnz particularly - is for the story intro about an opposition policy to tell us what the PM reckons before we've heard from anyone else. So we know what daddy wants us to think, I guess. It's authoritarianism rather than party bias as such.

    It's also deeply unprofessional and if media want legal protections and privileged access to continue they had better start acting like journalists. Ethics, standards, pride, that sort of thing.

    On the upside I stumbled across Cunliffe sounding strong and focused on Radio NZ recently, so hopefully McCarten and others are working some magic and we'll get to hear more than one side of the story of what we can choose our future to be.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19707 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Richard Aston,

    Is that true that we have laws requiring news journalists to be balanced?

    Not any that are enforced.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19707 posts Report Reply

  • Suzanne McNamara,

    Complain to TV3 - it might be the only hope we have of stopping this crap reporting

    Auckland • Since Feb 2012 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Myles Thomas, in reply to The Ruminator,

    "We all just think the media is anti-whicheverside-we’re-on"

    You're probably right. I certainly do think Gower and many others are right leaning and then am blown away when I read on Kiwiblog claims that the Herald is left wing.

    So how would you measure a reporter's and newspaper's left or right wing balance? Obviously the subject, who is interviewed and how shallow they treat it. But getting down to party level bias is harder to gauge. No?

    Auckland • Since Apr 2011 • 130 posts Report Reply

  • Myles Thomas,

    Suzanne's right. Channels take a surprising amount of notice of the telephone logs.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2011 • 130 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to andrew r,

    Journalist as the star – Gower etc. How very very sad. Grow the fk up and get some integrity. You’re a journalist for gods sake do and be proud of your job.

    I also find it depressing to watch, but I have trouble completely blaming the journos alone when it seems to be what they're encouraged to do by higher-ups.

    Maybe those in the industry could comment, but when a TV journalist is looking for a job, I'd expect that like any acting job, someone whose face and presence is well recognised is likely to have more job security, and especially with competing channels is probably worth a higher salary. Promoting that aspect would count as career advancement---is there a screen time clause written into the modern employment contracts?

    John Hawkesby managed to get booted from TVNZ with $5.2 million in his pocket after 3 weeks work, because the network had somehow falsely imagined he'd bring so many viewers! In this type of environment, it's no wonder today's journalists are incentivised to be seen traveling to places on satellite feeds even when it's meaningless, to make sure their faces are shown asking the hard questions (not always the most important questions), and generally to make themselves the centre of stories. That's what goes into the ads to make you look better than the other channel.

    But yes, I do find Patrick Gower to be on the more annoying end of the scale.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Dawson,

    holy cow, I was going to comment but this comment box of punishing on an s2 android, can't space or punctuate. treats it like a url box, what's the fix?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 294 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Myles Thomas,

    So how would you measure a reporter’s and newspaper’s left or right wing balance?

    You could probably collect some stats on column inches which are favourable to which parties, although of course there's a lot of judgment in deciding if it's favorable, and if so, how much so. For TV you'd have to do it on time rather than inches. The placement of the stories should be recorded too, how close to the front page, or start of the news. Sound like a lot of work. That judgment is especially hard for non-verbal stuff. How many pics of Cunliffe with a silly face, and Key from a flattering angle. How scornful the reporter sounds....

    Couldn't do it myself. That would involve watching the news.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Myles Thomas,

    am blown away when I read on Kiwiblog claims that the Herald is left wing.

    That's the reframing at play. The right proclaims itself as centre, which then shifts everyone else skew-whiff, supposedly. And if enough journalists are credulous enough to accept that assertion without question, then over time it becomes a "fact".

    Happened in Britain. Happened in Australia (less successfully). Is happening in NZ.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2898 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Suzanne McNamara,

    Complain to TV3 - it might be the only hope we have of stopping this crap reporting

    I'd give him a couple of days for the benefit of the doubt. If there's still no equal and opposite recourse, I cite the relevant link once again:

    http://bsa.govt.nz/complaints/making-a-complaint

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5429 posts Report Reply

  • Pete George,

    As Ben says political bias in media is very hard to measure. One one off coverage there's valid criticism from the left and the right - 'bias' is often misused as a description for unfavourable coverage someone's preferred politician and is a common one eyed excuse.

    Selective claims of bias are common - I've seen Gower praised at The Standard (and here) for his Oravida overdrive and then slammed for going over the top on Cunliffe by the same people. Similarly John Campbell is praised as great by lefties and condemned by righties, and Fran O'Sullivan has reverse fans and foes.

    Both Key and Cunliffe do and say things that look bad and deserve to be reported as such. In the item being discussed here it mostly clobbered Cunliffe but I don't think Key came across well either, selected snarky sneering clips of him are not a good look either.

    To effectively address this I think the focus has to move away from political bias and concentrate on confronting poor news and poll coverage. Complaints about bias are easily dismissed as politically motivated sour grapes - and the grizzles are often at least as biased as the coverage.

    Now that polling companies are starting to release comprehensive information - I hope others follow the examples of Roy Morgan and Colmar Brunton - then it's easier to hold journalists to account if they are inaccurate or ignorant, based on facts rather than politics.

    The egos and competitiveness of some journalists are a problem at times - but those characteristics also mean they can be sensitive to being confronted and criticised. If this is done based on facts without political bitterness it can be effective in influencing behaviour and practices.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2011 • 139 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Pete George,

    Both Key and Cunliffe do and say things that look bad and deserve to be reported as such. In the item being discussed here it mostly clobbered Cunliffe but I don’t think Key came across well either, selected snarky sneering clips of him are not a good look either.

    Oh, come on. I think we can safely say that Cunliffe came off very, very badly and Key didn't.

    To effectively address this I think the focus has to move away from political bias and concentrate on confronting poor news and poll coverage.

    Which is what I think I've done in the post above.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    So, no story on the Collins resignation question, which I suppose isn't surprising given that One did the same question the night before.

    I'm guessing also that the numbers weren't that spectacular and there's no show of her going anyway. Cunliffe's problem is that there's blood in the water now. The claiming of scalps is one of the most odious elements of political journalism, but it's a real thing.

    I would also like to apologise for the mixed metaphors above.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Pete George,

    "Which is what I think I’ve done in the post above."

    Yes, and I hope Paddy responds. He's been MIA but may have had the day off yesterday.

    And I agree that the claiming of scalps and calling for and pressuring for resignations is often odious. It's not as if journalists are held to anything like the same standards they insist on from politicians.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2011 • 139 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to BenWilson,

    You could probably collect some stats on column inches which are favourable to which parties, although of course there’s a lot of judgment in deciding if it’s favorable, and if so, how much so. For TV you’d have to do it on time rather than inches. The placement of the stories should be recorded too, how close to the front page, or start of the news. Sound like a lot of work. That judgment is especially hard for non-verbal stuff. How many pics of Cunliffe with a silly face, and Key from a flattering angle. How scornful the reporter sounds….

    I'd be surprised if it was particularly difficult. There's a bunch of methodologies that can be used to place any particular individual on a 2-axis scale (Nolan chart, Pournell chart, etc). I expect they could be relatively easily adapted to purpose (although everyone would shift to arguing about the detail of the methodology and the position of the base lines).

    It would be fairly labour-intensive, though - I expect you'd need a lot of warm bodies to watch and data-crunch. I remember watching a doco a while back about the US elections, and how each team basically had a bunch of interns watching every single micro- and macro-pronouncement of anyone on the other team and attempting to find contradictions or inconsistencies with what they were currently saying and what they had previously said. It appeared to be a job that suited a certain type of highly committed individual, shall we say...

    Maybe we could outsource overseas. That way they don't have skin in the game, either.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Rich Lock,

    Maybe we could outsource overseas. That way they don’t have skin in the game, either.

    Ahem, maybe not in this game just yet but they are already watching....

    Also not so long ago for NOTW debacle that gives me confidence in having "no skin in the game"

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    I really think 3 News reporters have to stop using the Prime Minister to articulate their story angles...

    It isn't just TV3. Here is Rob Salmond over at polity.co.nz catching out Audrey Young's lazy use of Key as an unchallenged media commentator in the Herald.

    Really, it adds up to a press gallery that is completely besotted by John Key.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2214 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    No confidence....

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Pete George,

    It’s not as if journalists are held to anything like the same standards they insist on from politicians.

    No, but there's a reason for that. They're nowhere near as powerful.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    It isn’t just TV3. Here is Rob Salmond over at polity.co.nz catching out Audrey Young’s lazy use of Key as an unchallenged media commentator in the Herald.

    Jesus. That's very, very poor. Audrey Young's usually better than that.

    Really, it adds up to a press gallery that is completely besotted by John Key.

    I think there's a case for saying that establishing a good relationship with key journalists is part of the job. One that Key's very good at -- you get the impression they basically like him -- and Cunliffe presently isn't.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich Lock,

    although everyone would shift to arguing about the detail of the methodology and the position of the base lines

    Yes, the devil is right there. But if it were done, then it would at least be data rather than anecdata.

    It would be fairly labour-intensive, though – I expect you’d need a lot of warm bodies to watch and data-crunch.

    It does depend on how intensively you want to do it - it could be done on only the top 2 newspapers and top 2 highest rating shows. Which would probably just be a full time job for one person. Or it could attempt to do every print newspaper and every show, which would be what? 3 times as much in NZ? Way, way more in the UK.

    I could see it working as a crowd sourced thing. A semi open website (like Wikipedia is) dedicated to the collation of such stats. Like Iraq Body Count was.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    State of the art in automatic sentiment analysis is (what I would describe) as moving from "deeply flawed" to "marginally useful" these days. What you would need are a bunch of transcripts (so this favors written media as a source of analysis).

    Another approach would be to employ a random collection of survey takers for a few dollars on Amazon's Mechanical Turk (to avoid observer bias in classifying) asking the question "rate how positiviely the media treated the subject in this clip". But that assumes anyone is interested enough to fund a survey.

    I tend to think the crowd-sourced corpus tend to work better for assembling facts than assessing opinion, as they are two susceptible to where the crowd is coming from.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Didn't universities used to do regular content analysis like that? You know, from their public funding. With their plentiful student-hours.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19707 posts Report Reply

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