And here’s how three celebrated foreign correspondents weighed the importance of truth and balance in their reporting

Earlier this week Point of Order reported on how Fire and Fury had sparked a journalism teacher’s call for old-fashioned notions of fairness and balance to be abandoned.   Former foreign correspondent DAVID BARBER contributes these observations from three of the greats to the discussion…

It used to be drummed into fledgling journalists that they must be always objective in their reporting.  Every report must be balanced and there was no room for their personal opinions. Just tell the facts and get both sides of the story.

Three of the greatest reporters of modern times, Martha Gellhorn, James Cameron and Robert Fisk, who all saw the misery of war at close quarters and freely blamed irresponsible and power-hungry leaders for causing it, happily ignored that.

Gellhorn, an American, made it clear she had no time for what she called “all that objectivity shit” when she began a remarkable career as a war correspondent in Spain in 1937. She professed then that she knew nothing about “war” so started writing about the human cost of conflict and the impact on people’s lives.  She continued doing that around the world into her 80s. Continue reading “And here’s how three celebrated foreign correspondents weighed the importance of truth and balance in their reporting”

How Fire and Fury sparked a journalism teacher’s call for old-fashioned notions of fairness and balance to be abandoned

Point of Order too often has drawn attention to issues the mainstream media have overlooked or partially reported.  But we apply old-fashioned values and – perhaps – should go back to school.

More specifically, we should think about taking lessons from Dr Greg Treadwell,  head of journalism at Auckland University of Technology, who (we understand) will impress on us the case for dumping our quaint ideas about fairness and balance.

Writing for Newsroom, Treadwell has called for a rewriting of those rules in response to the  Media Council’s receipt of complaints against Fire and Fury, an hour-long Stuff Circuit documentary on disinformation and far-right political agitation which was released six months after  thousands of people camped on Parliament’s lawn.

Treadwell expects many complaints to result from the documentary makers’ decision to offer no right of reply to the subjects of their film.

The reasons why the right of reply was denied can be found at The Spinoff, after Stewart Sowman-Lund interviewed one of the documentary’s producers, journalist Paula Penfold. Continue reading “How Fire and Fury sparked a journalism teacher’s call for old-fashioned notions of fairness and balance to be abandoned”

Oliver Hartwich: State funding of the news media and an Orwellian distortion of journalism

David Farrar alerted us in a Kiwiblog post to an article about the state funding of the mainstream news media published in The Australian

The article, written by  NZ Initiative executive director  Oliver Hartwich, highlights the issue that should dismay the public about this funding:  the $55 million is conditional on media organisation’s agreeing with the Government’s contentious view on the Treaty of Waitangi.

Farrar comments:  

This is repugnant. Polling by Curia has shown a massive 59% think the PIJF undermines the independence of the media. Only 24% of Kiwis support retaining the PIJF.

I hope the next Government will scrap it entirely. However there may be a case for funding reporting on court cases and local councils. But this would need to be done with no conditions around the Treaty and through some sort of neutral body not appointed by the Government of the day.


An Orwellian distortion of journalism

According to a quote sometimes attributed to George Orwell, “journalism is printing what someone else does not want published; everything else is public relations.”

Whether Orwell actually said it or not, it is a useful definition.

There are whole armies of PR and comms people trying to make you swallow their predetermined messages. Continue reading “Oliver Hartwich: State funding of the news media and an Orwellian distortion of journalism”

$100 billion nationalisation but where are the business media on property rights questions?

The state-subsidised mainstream media have been found wanting in their coverage of Three Waters governance arrangements.   In this post, reproduced from his blog, BARRIE SAUNDERS exposes failings in the business press’s coverage of the nationalisation and property rights issues and their implications…

IF THE GOVERNMENT gets its way, around $100 billion of community-owned three waters assets, will be effectively nationalised. They will be placed in the hands of the most convoluted monopoly structure I have seen, with iwi leaders substantially in the drivers’ seat.

One might have thought a transaction of this scale would have attracted the attention of our business journalists, capable of going beyond the so called co-governance aspect.

Are property rights too boring for business journalists these days to matter?

I read the serious media including the NZ Herald and Business Desk, but as yet have not seen any articles, which dealt with the relevant elements.

I have read articles by political journalists looking at it all from a political angle, and swiping anyone who might question governance arrangements as racist or dog whistling. Continue reading “$100 billion nationalisation but where are the business media on property rights questions?”

Column Stuff-up – defending science is challenging nowadays but professors were right about Wiles’ allegation

The Dominion-Post – without any hint of a blush – proclaimed in a Page 3 headline today:  Mauri restored to Parliament grounds. 

Really? We hope to see the photographs.

On the next page, a report is headlined ”Media Council upholds professors’ complaint”.

This tells readers “a most serious allegation” (and a baseless one) had been made against six University of Auckland professors by associate professor Siouxsie Wiles.  This had struck at the heart of academic freedom by asserting the professors were trying to stifle opposing views using lawyers’ threats and required immediate public correction.

The article beneath the Page 3 headline says work to rebuild Parliament grounds is starting after the occupation by protesters.

Reporter Glenn McConnell describes a procession and a ceremony which involved poi, taiaha and karakia and the turning of soil

“… to open Papatūānuku and restore mauri to the grounds”. Continue reading “Column Stuff-up – defending science is challenging nowadays but professors were right about Wiles’ allegation”

Pedants at PoO say “cobblers” to reports about world’s oldest man

The pedants among the scribes at Point of Order (who shall go unnamed) swooped on a headline in the Dominion-Post this week.

In its print edition, the newspaper had published a brief report under the heading “World’s oldest man dies”.

Newshub was a bit more expansive, reporting the news under the headline “World’s oldest man dies aged 112”

But in its first sentence, Newshub gave us cause to question the accuracy of the headline:

A Spaniard believed to be the world’s oldest man has died at the age of 112. 

The Dominion-Post tempered its report, too, saying de la Fuente was “described  by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest man” and “Guinness World Records dubbed him the world’s oldest man” last September.

Newshub proceeded to tell us:

Saturnino de la Fuente died at his home in León in northwest Spain on Tuesday, Guinness World Records confirmed. 

And then:

De la Fuente was crowned as the oldest living man by Guinness World Records in September 2021. He was born on February 11, 1909 in the Puente Castro neighbourhood of León.

A cobbler by trade, he started his career working in a shoe factory at 13 years old. 

Plainly, the Guinness World Records has played a critical role in telling us what we know about de la Fuente.  It bestowed the oldest-man-in-the-world title on him last September and this week it  confirmed his death.

The media obviously regard Guinness World Records as more authoritative on de la Fuente’s condition than the doctor who signed the death certificate or the funeral director who handled the funeral arrangements .

But if the Stuff team had dipped into their files, they might have uncovered an item headed Was world’s oldest person ever a fraud? 

Jeanne Calment, a woman from Arles in southern France, had gained international fame when she was recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest living person ever.

But a new study has cast doubt on her claim and has come up with a bizarre theory. “Jeanne” was, in fact, her daughter Yvonne, who was just 99 at the time of her death.

Gerontologist Valery Novoselov claims Jeanne actually died in 1934 and that Yvonne took over her identity so she didn’t have to pay inheritance tax.

As for the world’s oldest man, at Point of Order we are adamant he can’t be dead, because the moment he dies someone else will become the world’s oldest man.  It remains for Guinness World Records to identify him for the benefit of media hacks whose readers will be bursting to know.  


Graham Adams: The debate over the $55 million media fund erupts again


RNZ’s Mediawatch and a video clip viewed 42,000 times keep the topic of the Public Interest Journalism Fund fizzing. Graham Adams reports…


A week ago, the NZ Taxpayers’ Union posted a short video clip of the exchange in Parliament between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins in which the National Party leader quizzed the Prime Minister about the $55 million Public Interest Journalism Fund influencing political coverage.

Ardern seemed to find the exchange amusing until David Seymour stepped in to ask:

“What then would happen to a media outlet that received money under the fund and wanted to report a story deemed inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, which is one of the requirements to adhere to?”

Having recommended that Collins ask the media if they agreed they were under government influence, Ardern summarily dismissed Seymour’s suggestion that the fund’s mandatory guidelines for how to address the Treaty might present a problem.

The kicker to the whole exchange is that none of the mainstream media deemed it worthy of being reported. As the Taxpayers’ Union put it in its introduction to the video:

“If you’re worried about the independence of our media, this is a must-watch exchange in Parliament. Why do you think the media declined to cover it?”

Louis Houlbrooke, the union’s campaigns manager, says that with 42,000 views so far, “it is by far our most-watched video post of all time.”

Clearly, discussion of the topic is not only in the public interest but also of interest to the public.

Nevertheless, it is extremely difficult to persuade senior members of the media and those administering the fund to accept there might be a problem — even if it is only the public’s perception of bias. The latter, of course, can be as damaging in practice as actual bias, given the media’s primary asset is the trust its audiences place in it for independent, truthful and unbiased coverage. Continue reading “Graham Adams: The debate over the $55 million media fund erupts again”

Graham Adams: Going where the media won’t

Behind the coverage of David Seymour’s rise in the polls and Maori Language Week lurk inconvenient truths. Graham Adams argues journalists need to be more even-handed to maintain their credibility.


IN THE HULLABALOO that followed Curia’s poll results last week, the media focused mainly on the startling fact that National’s support had collapsed to 21.3 per cent — with all its dire implications for Judith Collins continuing as the party’s leader.

Predictably, the dismal figures spawned a flurry of articles predicting a palace coup — with the rider that the mutiny could not be immediate because Level 4 lockdown prevented the party’s Auckland MPs flying to Wellington en masse to disembowel their leader in person. A coup conducted over Zoom would have been unseemly and presumably unsatisfying to those consumed with blood lust.

The fact that Act reached its highest number in any poll — at 14.9 per cent — was also widely covered, partly because it was seen as a fresh humiliation for Collins, with the party described as “hot on National’s heels”.

While the media was keen to dissect the causes for Collins’ poor showing, however, it didn’t seem nearly as interested in analysing possible reasons for David Seymour’s ascension — including the role played by his tweet revealing the confidential code prioritising access to vaccinations for Māori.

Seymour posted the tweet at 9.49am on September 6. The poll of 1000 respondents was conducted between September 5 and September 9, with the median responses on September 7.

In short, nearly all the polling occurred in the days immediately after Seymour’s message appeared, which also saw his defence of his actions published prominently in the NZ Herald on September 8.

It is clear that despite the widespread condemnation he received in the media — ranging from the Māori Party describing the tweet as a “lowlife move” to the extraordinary response of Newshub’s political editor, Tova O’Brien, calling him a “cockwomble” — his popularity hit new highs. Continue reading “Graham Adams: Going where the media won’t”

Outdated Views? Andrea Vance On Sean Plunket

Chris Trotter, political columnist, blogger and commentator, writes here about “shock jocks”, “outdated” views, “privilege” and the “Woke” establishment …  

IT’S ONE OF THOSE throwaway lines which, precisely because so little conscious thought was given to it, tells us so much. The author, Andrea Vance, is an experienced political journalist working for Stuff. The subject of Vance’s throwaway line, Sean Plunket, is an equally experienced journalist. It was in her recent story about Plunket’s soon-to-be-launched online media product “The Platform”, that Vance wrote: “Plunket’s dalliances with controversy make it easy to paint him as a two-dimensional character: a right-wing, shock-jock with outdated views on privilege and race.”

It’s hard to get past those first four words. The picture Vance is painting is of a dilettante: someone who flits from one inconsequential pursuit to another, taking nothing seriously. And, of course, the use of the word “dalliances” only compounds this impression. To “dally” with somebody it to treat them casually, offhandedly – almost as a plaything. Accordingly, a “dalliance” should be seen as the very opposite of a genuine commitment. It smacks of self-indulgence. A cure, perhaps, for boredom?

To dally with controversy, therefore, is to betray a thoroughly feckless character. Controversies are all about passion and commitment. Controversies are taken seriously. Indeed, a controversy is usefully defined as a dispute taken seriously by all sides. And yet, according to Vance, Plunket has only been playing with controversy: trifling with it, as a seducer trifles with the affections of an innocent maid.

In Vance’s eyes, this indifference to matters of genuine and serious concern distinguishes Plunket as a “two-dimensional character”. It reduces him to a cardboard cut-out, a promotional poster, a thing of printer’s ink and pixels – insubstantial. Or, which clearly amounts to the same thing as far as Vance is concerned: “a right-wing, shock-jock with outdated views on privilege and race.” Dear me! The scorn dripping from those words could fill a large spittoon!

As if the holding of right-wing views somehow renders a person less than three-dimensional. As if conservative thinkers from Aristotle to Thomas Hobbes, Edmund Burke to Carl Schmidt haven’t contributed enormously to Western political thought. As if Keith Holyoake, Jim Bolger and Bill English aren’t respected by New Zealanders of all political persuasions for their rough-hewn dignity and love of country. To hold right-wing views isn’t a sickness, It doesn’t make you a bad person. It merely denotes a preference for the familiar; a wariness of the new; and a deep-seated fear of sudden and unmandated change.

As for “shock-jocks”: well, that is the sort of broadcasting talent commercial radio producers are constantly searching for. People of energy and enthusiasm, with a way of communicating both qualities to the radio station’s listeners. And if they also have a talent for decoding the zeitgeist on air: for tapping into the audience’s anger and frustration; and giving voice to their hopes and their fears? Why, then they are worth their weight in gold – and usually get it. The more people a “shock-jock” glues to the station’s frequency, the more the advertisers will be prepared to pay. That’s the business.

Perhaps Vance should have a word with the people who pay her salary: perhaps they could explain where all that money comes from.

The most important words, however, Vance saves for last. What really confirms Plunket’s lack of three dimensions are his “outdated views on privilege and race”. It is with these six words that Vance betrays both herself and her newspaper.

Who says Plunket’s views on privilege and race are “outdated”? According to whose measure? After all, his views on privilege and race correspond closely with those of Dr Martin Luther King. Is Vance asserting that Dr King’s view that people should not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character, is outdated? Is she suggesting that a poor white man has more in the way of privilege than Oprah Winfrey? Or that the privileges which flow from superior economic power and social status count for less than those attached to race, gender and sexuality?

The answer is Yes. Those who declare such views to be “outdated” are, indeed, making all of the claims listed above. This locates them among a relatively narrow section of the population: highly educated; paid well above the average; more than adequately housed; and enjoying all the “privileges” accruing to those who manage the bodies and shape the minds of their fellow citizens.

Andrea Vance is a member of this truly privileged group, and so, at one time, was Sean Plunket. So, why the sneering condescension? Why the scorn? The answer is to be found in the new priorities of the truly privileged; the people who actually run this society. They have determined that their interests are better served by fostering the division and bitterness that is born of identity politics. Rather than see people promote a view of human-beings that unites them in a common quest for justice and equality, they would rather Blacks assailed Whites, women assailed men, gays assailed straights, and trans assailed TERFS. In short, the “One Percent” have decided that their interests are better protected by corporations, universities and the mainstream news media all promoting the ideology of identity politics.

By setting his face against this new “Woke” establishment, Sean Plunket the conservative poses as large a threat to the status quo as Martyn Bradbury the radical. On the one hand stand those who question the necessity and morality of changes now deemed essential by persons no one elected. On the other, those who insist that such divisive policies will produce results diametrically opposed to their promoters’ intentions. Right and Left, joined in an “outdated” search for the common ground that makes rational politics possible. The place where both sides are willing to acknowledge and agree that, in the words of John F. Kennedy:

“[I]n the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”


This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 21 September 2021.

Curia political poll is grim news for the Nats – but its measure of enthusiasm for “Aotearoa” will be vexing for Maori Party, too

The New Zealand Herald was not alone in reporting on the discomforting results for National in the latest Curia opinion poll and the petition mounted by Maori Party leaders to have the name of this country officially changed to Aotearoa.

The first matter was headlined The National Party’s polling company has the party crashing to within six points of Act

The writer of the report beneath this headline seemed to delight in noting who had conducted this poll.  

The National Party’s historic pollster has the party’s support crashing to historic lows, while Act is on the verge of overtaking it.

A Curia poll, conducted for the Taxpayer’s Union, has National on just 21.2 per cent, with Act close behind on 14.9 per cent.

The result is only a whisker above National’s worst-ever election result, 20.93 per cent in 2002. It is the closest National and Act have ever been in the poll.

Labour is at 45.9 per cent with the Greens on 9.6. Te Paati Māori is on 1.2 per cent. Continue reading “Curia political poll is grim news for the Nats – but its measure of enthusiasm for “Aotearoa” will be vexing for Maori Party, too”