True To Form: Deconstructing this morning’s Herald editorial.

By   /   June 27, 2014  /   57 Comments

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IT IS DIFFICULT to know where to begin with today’s NZ Herald editorial. There is a thinness – bordering on transparency – to the newspaper’s case against charges of political bias that calls into question its right to be taken seriously as either a “fair” or “balanced” publication.

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IT IS DIFFICULT to know where to begin with today’s NZ Herald editorial. There is a thinness – bordering on transparency – to the newspaper’s case against charges of political bias that calls into question its right to be taken seriously as either a “fair” or “balanced” publication.

Let’s start with the editorial’s headline: “Cries of bias will not stop reporting”. As if somebody, somewhere was threatening to stop the Herald from reporting the news! No one, especially not the leading complainant, David Cunliffe, is demanding that the publication be closed down. All that the Leader of the Opposition asks of the Herald is that its reporting be factual. An understandable concern, given that amidst all of Mr Donghua Liu’s claims of donating upwards of $100,000 to the NZ Labour Party, hard facts have been very difficult to find.

The Herald virtually acknowledges this singular deficiency when, after its lengthy parade of straw men and non-sequiturs, the editorial finally declares: “We regret having reported inflated and conflated dollar figures.”

All well and good, but coming after a sentence in which Mr Liu is again credited with making “donations” and the Labour Party is again accused of “claiming” it has no record of same, the reader could be forgiven for questioning just how much “regret” the Herald’s leader writer is truly experiencing.

Indeed, the writer’s almost unconscious depiction of Mr Liu as a person dealing with facts and the Labour Party as an organisation issuing “claims”, offers the reader startling confirmation of precisely the political bias the Herald has been accused of displaying throughout its recent coverage of the Liu story.

The bias lies in the Herald’s assumptions. Mr Liu, a wealthy businessman who enjoys the patronage of senior Government figures, is believed when he states that he has donated many thousands of dollars to the Labour Party. Labour, on the other hand, is merely claiming that it can find no record of doing so. The assumption being that the former can be trusted but the latter cannot.

Such assumptions have a very long pedigree at the NZ Herald. The notable New Zealand poet, Robyn Hide (1906–1936) back when she was known as Iris Wilkinson, cub reporter, tells of receiving strict instructions from the Herald’s Chief Reporter that under no circumstances was she to report anything said or done by anyone representing the NZ Labour Party. If any reference was to be made to the “socialists” it would be made by the paper’s leader writers, its trusted parliamentary reporters, or with the pen and ink its formidable (and fiercely conservative) cartoonist, Gordon Minhinnick.

Such frank political bias was commonplace in the 1920s and 30s when newspapers and periodicals made no secret of their political leanings and when working-class oriented publications still boasted circulations in the tens-of-thousands. It is only relatively recently (in historical terms) that the demise of so many independent mastheads and the consolidation under foreign ownership of so much of the New Zealand news media has given rise to the expectation that a city’s one and only daily newspaper should provide “fair and balanced” coverage of political matters.

It is the contention of the author of this morning’s Herald editorial that the paper has made and continues to make every attempt to live up to this expectation. They cite examples from past elections where the paper’s journalistic fire was directed at both major parties without distinction – beholden to nothing and no one but the facts.

In doing so, however, the writer undermines their own case. In the stories they cite: the Exclusive Brethren’s association with the Don Brash-led National Party back in 2005; the “Teapot Tape” story which played such an important role in the last election; there was never any question that the Herald was reporting reality. The Brethren had spent a million dollars undermining support for Labour and the Greens. Bradley Ambrose had left a live microphone on John Key’s and John Banks’ table at the Urban Café. To date, however, no one has been presented with the slightest conclusive evidence that Mr Donghua Liu has donated a single cent to the NZ Labour Party.

It has been the Herald’s willingness to simply take Mr Liu’s “written statement” on faith, without demanding the slightest corroborative evidence – bank statements, receipts, letters of thanks – that has prompted Mr Cunliffe and numerous Labour Party members and supporters to cry “foul”.

They cast their minds back to the General Election of 2008 and the other example cited in this morning’s editorial: the “exposure” of Winston Peters’ “dishonesty” in denying the receipt of a sizeable donation to the NZ First Party from Sir Owen Glenn. Inevitably they draw comparisons with the Herald’s treatment of Mr Peters then, and Mr Cunliffe now.

They are right to do so, because in both cases the primary motivation of the NZ Herald seems to have been the discrediting of the politician most likely to prevent National from winning the imminent election. In other words, the readers of the Herald are not being presented with fair and balanced journalism but politically-biased propaganda composed in the interests of – and quite possibly facilitated by – the NZ National Party.

If the Herald’s protestations of fairness were genuine Mr Liu would have been required to swear a formal and legally binding affidavit attesting to every one of his funding allegations. This is what Mr Cameron Slater of the Whaleoil Blog did when he exposed the Len Brown Scandal. What’s more, Mr Slater was willing to post the sworn affidavit of Mr Brown’s paramour on his blog for everyone to read. It is highly significant that, to date, the Herald, by steadfastly refusing to release Mr Liu’s “signed statement”, has treated it readers with less consideration than the Whaleoil blog. A professional discourtesy which Mr Cunliffe has quite understandably construed as a breach of “natural justice”.

It simply will not do. The morning’s editorial is not an explanation, much less a justification, of the Herald’s coverage of Mr Liu’s claims, it is a continuation of same. Even after admitting they got it wrong, the Herald heaps insult upon injury:

“The core issue remains, however: At a minimum, removing Mr Barker’s China trip and a donation to a rowing club the MPs daughter belonged to, Labour faces Liu’s claim that he made $38,000 in donations to the party and anonymously through MPs.”

But for an ethical journalist a “claim” is not proof, nor is it a justification for blackening a person’s name. Before trashing someone’s reputation – especially a political leader’s three months before a general election – a professional journalist requires evidence.

Nothing of the sort is required, however, if the what a newspaper is engaged in isn’t “fair and balanced” journalism but a politically-motivated exercise in character assassination.

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57 Comments

  1. Maria Sherwood says:

    Just reading the comments after this sham of an apology, the article has not fooled anyone.

    I believe a complaint to the Press Council is needed by either you or Frank. My complaint to the Editor came back with a reply very much like the article today, but pointing out strongly that I was wrong in all my complaints

  2. McChristchurch says:

    Dong Hua Liu should be deported for:

    (A) Wife-beating
    (B) Corruption
    (C) Making false staments that libel an individual or political party.
    (D) All of the above

    There’s a flight that leaves at 18.30pm from Auckland tomorrow, arrives in Beijing at 5.55am on the 29th June.

    I’m sure the Labour Party could have a whip round from their $5 raffles to save the taxpayer some money. I will even donate my superannuation and eat rice for a week.

    • Seaweed says:

      What are you suggesting ? That we flush that Liu ? Whether you like it or not he is now a Kiwi citizen so the only place he can be deported to is N.Z.

      • Maama says:

        Thank you Maurice Williamson – any other wealthy crims lined up for NZ citizenship?

      • Delia Morris says:

        Actually you are wrong, citizenship can be revoked.

        • McChristchurch says:

          Whoop whoop – go Delia. And bye bye Mr Liu.

          However, I think it is more likely to be the National Party that get rid of Mr Liu from NZ, rather than Labour…. but not permenantly, only temporarily.

          I’m sure some of the $5,000 a head money raised at Antoine’s and from Cabinet Club whip-rounds might send Mr Liu on a vacation, so that Campbell Live, or some MSM with a re-developing conscience doesn’t ask the wrong questions and get the right answers.

          Leaving tomorrow and coming back some time around 20th September at 7.01pm

          再见董华刘先生。看你在9月21日。
          Zàijiàn dǒng huá liú xiānshēng. Kàn nǐ zài 9 yuè 21 rì.
          Au revoir Mr Dong Hua Liu. See you on 21st September.

          爱。国家党。
          Ài. Guójiā dǎng.
          Love. National Party.

        • mary_a says:

          Really? I wasn’t aware that citizenship can be revoked!

          Oh well, once the GCSB gets itself warmed up, snooping on this and other left wing sites, I along with many others I guess, will be in line for the deportation shove! Reason? Possibly sedition!

      • Marc says:

        Yes, sadly, and that is why there should be tougher rules enforced on these rich and wealthy “business migrants” that are allowed into the country, now for some time again, without even a requirement to speak and understand the English language.

        All this is the result of the politicians and governments in too many countries bending over backwards, when it comes to big and not so big business, wealthy migrants, and also party donors.

        It is time to treat all people and all migrants equally!

        • blueice says:

          Don’t know so much about politicians bending over backwards… I think most of them are bending over forwards, especially John Key Corporate Shill.

      • McChristchurch says:

        Yep – if only there was some way to get rid of a Kiwi Citizen that has broken the liu? Maybe the FBI could do a raid on Liu’s mansion, confiscate all his money and start denigrating him in the media?

        Key could even invite him to come to Parliamentary Select Committee on GCSB, or corruption in NZ politics and try and take the piss out of him and liu-se.

        Is there a left-wing Super-Power that politicians want to suck up to so we can get rid of Liu for ever, by trumping up charges against him?

        Key so reminds me of Peter Sellers. http://youtu.be/Rm2TAL53wVc.

      • Nick Morris says:

        You’re right. He should be deported to Christrotterville where I’m sure he will get a fair and balanced welcome.

    • Pete says:

      Would there be free press in China when Mr Liu arrived back?

      Would that, could that, press be any less propaganda than what the Herald has published in the past two weeks?

      Questions have been asked in recent months about some immigrants not knowing how things operate here, and them trying to do things in the ways of their countries of origin. The questions I would ask of the Herald, “Who the hell do you think you are? Where the hell do you think you are?”

      I have previously commented on the ‘new ways’ things are done in our politics. Old rule books, niceties and traditions are gone. Anything goes. In a column a few years back John Armstrong wrote of John Key’s legacy of greatness and being remembered. (My words.) I thought it was arrant, arrogant, presumptuous twaddle.

      The diabolical Herald work on the donations ‘stories’ show the Key playbook is now their accepted one. The whole outfit, not just Armstrong, is seduced and compromised.

      • Maama says:

        We know very well who they are – they are the mouth piece for the wealthy minority in this country, and where are they – alongside Key and his cronies who are making sure that the principles that this country have abided by since at least the 30’s are fast going out the door.

      • I for one have steadfastly refused to buy a NZ Herald for years now on the grounds that I do not wish to donate to the National Party. The NZ Herald has become a lot worse since John Keys reign for the wealthy

    • XRAY says:

      What’s the chances this Liu guy even wrote this shit? Slim to none!

  3. Jack says:

    National & the NZ Herald did a great Smear Job on Winston Peters in the lead up to the 2008 Election, looks like they are trying for a repeat on Cunliffe, dirty rotten politics.

  4. Ken Sparks says:

    A pretty succinct summary Chris. Do you know if anyone is considering making a complaint to the Press Council? This biased rag needs to be shown up for what it is…

    • weka says:

      Anyone can make a complaint to the Press Council. It’s good if lots of people do. Here’s how (plus examples),

      thestandard.org.nz/take-action-against-the-herald/

  5. XRAY says:

    I too have now read the editorial (only as a result of reading this on The Daily Blog), as I wont buy their National Party Journal/tabloid any longer.

    I am heartened by the amount of feedback the Herald have got rejecting their pathetic attempt of justification.

  6. fatty says:

    Reputable media outlets will either admit to reporting along an ideological line or they will ignore accusations of ideological bias. It’s the ones who claim objectivity that you can’t trust.
    Congratulations to the NZ Herald, they’re now in the same pile as Fox News. How classy. Give John Armstrong a banjo, he’s our version of Hannity.

  7. Richard Christie says:

    IT IS DIFFICULT to know where to begin with today’s NZ Herald editorial.

    My thoughts exactly.
    I can hardly articulate the itter contempt with which I now view that ethic-less rag and anybody associated with it.

    To them I say you’d be well advised not to include such association in your CV.

    • Richard Christie says:

      Since the edit function inexplicably refuses me permission to edit my own comment, I plead that u is next to i on the qwerty keyboard.

      • McChristchurch says:

        itter is a perfectly good adjective Richard. I have used it many times. I have itter, itter, itter contempt for National and its fourth estate corrupt lackies.

        • LilaR says:

          Or lickies.

        • YogiBare says:

          Perhaps Richard was subconsciously thinking of an “L” in front of his “itter” as a apt description of their editorial!
          How bad can it be when Whaleoil has higher standards than this gutter rag?

  8. Pete says:

    The week has ended well. Since it concerns John Roughan it’s appropriate to put it in with the rest of the dog’s breakfast Herald stuff.

    One of the Trademe ads for the John Key biography is a ground breaker. It pictures the PM autographing the book. Sitting. Now I can genuinely say that this year I have seen him not lying.

  9. Delia Morris says:

    This is required reading for everyone. It explains exactly what the Herald did and are still doing. It makes me sick.

  10. Marc says:

    “In other words, the readers of the Herald are not being presented with fair and balanced journalism but politically-biased propaganda composed in the interests of – and quite possibly facilitated by – the NZ National Party.”

    Yes, and I and some others have raised this again, and again, and again, over many months, that the mainstream media is largely biased, as it is dominated by privately owned and run media, where even public television and radio now follow similar focus, direction and contents as their privately owned competitors. All is ratings and advertsing revenue orientated, all is geared to create “excitement”, “scandals”, “revelations” and “sensations” of whatever types, no matter how much in the way of factual information is behind it.

    And it is all done with the intention to maintain the status quo in economic, social and political areas, which is why people are not properly informed and educated, so they fall for catchy headlines, emotive messages, simple and short lines with little value.

    A lazy – or short term focused – mind is encouraged and nurtured, as lazy minds simply follow or react, without working too much by analysing and questioning information. Hence also the endless bombardment with commercial advertising, as people are primarily meant to be consumers, buyers, and workers earning the income to spend, and little else.

    This fits into the agenda of the elite that runs and controls New Zealand, and the political forces and players that serve them.

    It is not a coincidence that the Herald journalists wrote the stories as they did, they have a “task” to fulfill, for the paymaster, that is the businesses, the rich individuals and the shareholders, that own the media, and the ones that also pay for advertising, and do not want a different society with informed democrats.

    The problem is, most brainwashed people do not even realise how manipulated they are, and they simply accept things, including the media, as they are presented to them.

    It would require a massive task to change things, but as long as we have opposition politicians simply conform and work with the media as it is now, they make themselves complicit in this corrupted system, and they lose credit in the eyes of the more critical and better informed beholder.

    They though feel, they are damned if they do (work with MSM), and damned if they do not, as the latter means they will simply be ignored and get any messages across.

    It is time to be bolder, and to frankly tell the mainstream media members and staff that it stinks, what they are doing, and they should be exposed for it, not just in this instance the ones responsible at the New Zealand Herald.

    • Grant says:

      Very well said Marc.Every last word.
      I would like to see the politicians from ‘The Left’ take the journalists on when it is clear that they have no interest in asking proper, pertinent and important questions.I have noticed for awhile now that they show little or no respect when interviewing’ The Left’.
      When they start deviating into obvious ‘smear intent’ questions, they need to put them in their place.
      Winston Peters has become very good at it and journalists now know that when they interview him , they better be on their game. He doesn’t take any crap!
      It was good to see Laila Harre also showing some fiestyness when being interviewed by the completely incompetent and disrespectful Susan Woods a couple of weeks back.She is a rising star!
      David Cunliffe also interviews very well, but gives them almost too much respect when they are deliberately being rude and provocative.
      People from all persuasions like to see bullies put in their place.
      On his day however he is formidable. Everyone from ‘The Right'(ie. most of the media and National) knows this and that’s why they obfuscate with aggressive intimidation to diffuse his message and also to make him look as bad as possible.
      If ‘The Left’ succeed in Sept., they need to have a big cleanout at TV ONE and bring back TV7 for starters .Then new media ethical guidelines will need to be introduced to knock the spread of this current vile disease on the head.This can’t go on!

  11. reason says:

    We are now at the stage where buying the herald or that other right wing rag the dompost is effectively donating money for Nationals PR and re-election.

    Do what I do and never buy them.

    If you know left leaning people who do buy them explain to them how they are helping the national party.

    • kevin says:

      Me too, I turned them down when they called me and offered it for free !!!
      I told (the poor sales girl that called me) that it was just creating pollution-waste within New Zealand and that whenever (IF EVER) I wanted to know what the National party wanted to tell me, I’d just cut out the middlemen (the Herald, Dom Post etc etc, TV1 and 3 ‘news’) and subscribe-read the National parties PR press releases.
      SADLY……….I don’t think she got the point I was making…….

  12. Thanks, Chris.

    You’ve saved me the effort of making my own response.

    Now I can focus on a complaint to the Press Council.

  13. Dorothy Bulling says:

    Just having money does not give anyone, politician or not, the right to impose their will on any other citizen. The Herald should be ashamed of it’s policy in the Liu affair. How come so many can’t see the dirt being dished. Can Liu be stripped of his citizenship? He is one good reason why we need to be more careful about to whom we grant this privilege.

  14. Mike the Lefty says:

    Funny how the Herald uses the old “freedom of the press” cry to defend itself from accusations of bias. Freedom of the press means freedom to tell the truth with no repercussions. If you deliberately spread lies and innuendo then you are abusing that freedom. The Herald preaches sheer hypocrisy when it demands the freedom to misinform and lie to its readers. Its readers should demand the right for accuracy and informed comment, not free advertising for the National Party.

  15. dwnats says:

    Not that I would do any such thing. But the racks of Heralds for sale would not be altered by being doused with a dribble of oil.

  16. My father was an editorial writer for many years for a conservative New Zealand newspaper. He was as very literate, well read and informed liberal,and constantly felt the underlying pressure of the owners conservative, if not reactionary right wing views.

    Chris has the NZ Herald’s similar position correctly summed up and a as with the Fairfax group, APN who own the Herald and its editorial people will seek to interpret and be slavish to its owners/investors.

    The notion that Western media are free and impartial is a myth perpetrated by them.

    Look at the major NZ media who accepted embedded roles with the NZ Defence forces in Afghanistan and then when Nicky Hager’s book “Other people’s wars” exposed it for its complicity and dubious roles, they either deliberately ignored this revealing and substantial book, or damned it.

    The NZ Herald as it always had done, owes its allegiance to conservative forces and the National Party. To pretend otherwise is to perpetuate the myth of its impartiality and freedom.That with the Liu case it has done it so brazenly and crassly, is interesting, but not new.

    There is an answer of using counter market forces.

    Simply don’t buy it or read it and get the message out there to the thousands of non National/Act.Conservative party forces that nothing hurts the NZ Herald/Tories more than their pocket. Boycott the paper.

    And when the investors and owners grasp this concept they may alter their biased, ill informed and unscrupulous behaviour and may out of bed with Key and the National party.

  17. blueice says:

    Does anyone know what Donghua Liu is being investigated for in China, apparently with the assistance of the NZ police?

  18. Don Saunders says:

    From memory to me the Herald has always shown bias towards right wing politics. But definitely in the last decade there has been a stronger bias from the Herald. But I will ad it seems too many of our media organizations seem to show biased reporting. As an example the likes of Paul Henry and Mike Hosking come to mind.

  19. chris says:

    Ever tried asking for help in nz after having ya spouse die, police meet ya on return re kidnapping ya child, bailiff turns up with family court papers, applicants steal a dead body, they get awarded ya child every Christmas, judge smith says to shhhhh…abducted, beaten up, stomped on, locked up to keep silent…trying to sue them for damages is like running into a brick wall…im trying to get a law change that prevents people associated with sex offenders from being able to make claim on peoples offspring, but all ive had is being called a idiot, mental, loser by govt officials…what do they have against parents trying to make laws harder for sick scum to obtain kids through family court? after 9 1/2 years from when it started, still no apology, explanation or compensation or justice…this nz govt treats peoples lifes like discarded trash while they all run and hide under the suppression/immunity table.

  20. anker says:

    I am pleased to hear Labour are looking at their legal options against Liu. This may put pressure on him to fess up to who put his up to this……………….someone in National must have. I can’t see the motivation for him approaching the Herald on his own…..

    Pressure on Liu could unravel the whole smear.

    BTW I put in two complaints to the Press Council around the time DC trust came out. They were finally heard on 16 June and were not successful. Apparently John Roughton was on the panel, but stood out of the discussions.

  21. Bob says:

    And the Herald are at it again this morning by using Rodney Hide to dredge everything up and keep the story going. Herald are just taking the piss now and Labour have to take them on!

  22. e-clectic says:

    As for this tawdry effort purporting to be an “interview” with Laila Harre.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11283264

    I don’t give a toss about Laila’s wardrobe, make-up or other incidental rubbish. Would a male politician get asked this kind of crap?

    • D-Man says:

      After reading the Herald article that you linked through, I was so incensed that if I could have responded to the article, I would of said this to the journalist who penned such rubbish:

      Are you a paid troll? Because you come across like one in your rubbish article which is unintelligible unreadable stupid crap. The Herald are full of idiot twits like you who think they are ‘hilarious’ with their one-sided bullying. It is embarrassing. Maybe you will win a journalistic award like that other wood louse blogger Slater. Or with your pathological tendencies would make a fine addition to team Key. And before you tell me to get a life, I want to respond by saying thanks for wasting five minutes of mine with what can only be described as the largest, loudest brain fart I have ever read. Hopefully the Herald gets shut down before it dumbs down journalism to the state of complete idiocracy. More intelligent writing can be easily found online, thanks to the freedom of the Internet, which makes writing hacks like you irrelevant.

  23. kevin says:

    I couldn’t believe Coran Dan this morning on Q & A (?).
    He thinks it’ll all blow over and accusing politics will give way to policies (or something similar) !!!
    Oh yeh, and mine’s a Tui.
    So now that the National party have been caught out, along with it’s propaganda arm, (the Herald) , he now ‘wants’ the populace to move on. Well NOT BLOODY LIKELY, you paid for National spruiker, you.
    Get after them Frank etc. They deserve to be shown up for what they really are, a bunch of lying B%^&*#s.

  24. Charlieboy says:

    Boycott the Herald. I do. Hit em where it hurts.

    • Lara says:

      I think they’ll die if they try to go behind a pay wall.

      Why pay for rubbish; poor grammar, spelling errors, no fact checking, tabloid junk.

      You can get that for free on the internet.

  25. Brit Bunkley says:

    Hide (in his article yesterday published by the Herald) wrote “Liu produce(d) documents… confirming his substantial donations.” Unless Hide has access to such “documents”, and can produce them, both he and the Herald are clearly and indisputably guilty of libel. A boycott will not work. A high profile libel case may well do the job. Libel cases are notoriously expensive and fraught, but few have such compelling evidence against them as this one would. I think it would be a slam dunk.

    • Doug says:

      Seems to me that Mr Key has overstepped the mark by a long way on this one too – why not sue him for slander? From what I’ve seen of his out of parliament comments he deserves it.

  26. Brit Bunkley says:

    One cannot have an “opinion” and also state it as fact in the foremost national newspaper when it is incorrect and defamatory. In an exaggerated example, I cannot publish that Hide is a child molester and publish that the document exists proving it, when there is no such document. http://www.howtolaw.co.nz/bring-an-action-in-defamation-xidp392173.html

  27. JC says:

    I buy the Herald for the puzzles – it the only thing they print that exercises the brain. That’s why I won’t be reading the upcoming articles on DC because they will just be a load of rubbish.

    • Richard Christie says:

      All the puzzles they provide can be found free of charge on the net or in omnibus books at a lower cumulative cost if you prefer hard copies. Do your mind and pocket a favour, ditch the Herald.