Coalition for Better Broadcasting – Quality of Journalism



“Skilled journos getting unwarranted shit from hack bloggers & online warriors could earn big $ in PR/marketing, so thank you for what you do”.

As this tweet rolled across my screen this morning the irony had me rolling my eyes. Why on earth would we be thanking our journalists, our cherished fourth estate and seekers of truth, for showing traits that could be transferrable to Public Relations?

Now that the Dirty Politics blame game has shifted from the politicians to the media, it seems like a darn good time to reevaluate the role journalists play in society. And the effect their bosses have on them

Studies of the New York Times carried out by Daniel Chomsky (Noam’s nephew) show that editors are more likely to hire and promote like-minded employees who hold the same values and societal views as them. Which only begs the question, what if someone like Mike Hosking was in charge of hiring the next generation of journalists? And further, who hired Mike Hosking in the first place? The transformation of a news organisation from these top-down effects highlights the danger of having a whole country dependent on just a few commercial news sources.

Being important battles up against being interesting. Facts are romanticised and exaggerated creating room for opinion and bias, and the end result is a published article ‘based on a true story’.

The truth should be paramount, and integrity shouldn’t result in job insecurity. An independent, publicly owned and funded news source would not go amiss in New Zealand. Hopefully its presence would whip all other news services into shape.

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I think George Orwell effectively sums up this point. “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations”. Which begs the question – who wants what printed?



Daniel Bain is a member of the CBB and a communications student at AUT


  1. I will start right out and declare that I am an ex-journalist, trained in the late 70s. I no longer work in this industry for various reasons that would take too long to explain here. When I was training and working in the industry, journalists used to pride themselves on their independence, being the voice of the people rather than the establishment. To be seen as anyone’s political lackey, whether left or right was a source of humiliation and would quickly kill off your credibility amongst fellow journalists and other editorial staff. This kind of approach was not without its risks as reporters occasionally got beaten up for their stories; especially when working for the Truth which was a real newspaper back then, long before Cameron Slater sent it down the tubes with his incompetence.
    How things have changed. The “independent” reporters have become columnists, bloggers and political party front people in disguise. Being independent is no longer seen as an asset, it is a bar to a successful career. Much of the blame for this can be attributed to the rise of right-wing media companies like Fairfax, Fox, APN who have systematically sought to remodel journalism into a political right-wing mould. Journalists are now not trained to be objective and to form an opinion from the facts, they now form an opinion first and find (or invent) the facts to fit their opinion. The right realized long ago that the pen was mightier than the sword and have worked long and hard to make sure the pen always points to the right. The results are what we are seeing from the MSM this election. We see it most in extreme examples like Hosking and Henry but in fact it pervades the whole industry like DDT, a slow acting poison that once in the environment takes ages to get rid of. Hosking, Henry et al do it deliberately, but there are many journalists out there in various forms of media who are completely unaware of how they have been trained and conditioned to do things the “right” way rather than the “correct” way. One day we hope they will wake up and smell the coffee.

    • I’ve been thinking that journalists should be like Doctors – swear the hippocratic oath that they must help the sick. they should swear to be the voice of the disenfranchised, the minority, those that have no power to voice their needs and oppression. Like you say to work for the people, not the estate.

  2. The rise of the mass media, and television in particular, has brought the masses into the political process to an historically unprecedented degree. And the masses, such voices insist, are not so stupid as to be the passive victims of crude manipulation.

    The fourth estate theory explains the role of media. Media acts as a non-governmental organization in a consititution that helps the public citizens to understand the exisiting problems and also a platform to express opinions. Hence, the media can balance the power of the state and avoid autocracy. Economou and Tanner state the main professional values and ethics that journalists, editors and owners should have in order for the press to avoid media bias through external or internal influence that would influence debate of current political issues. When all three journalists, editors and owners are fair, objective, incorrupt and supportive of each other information could be broadcasted truthfully and public would be informed of the true matters of the state. The fourth state approach encourages norms and not rules to be followed by the three parties.

    The media is powerful, for example. Take the Campbell live show on TV 3 hosted by John Campbell, the host of the show, is not, a journalist. He is a commentator, TV and radio personality. However, because his show is broadcasted on news stations, suddenly his opinions and convenient statistics are called news.

    • Yes, all good points. The saddest thing, perhaps, is that we are slowly becoming used to the rubbish that is dished up to us on TV and radio as news. This makes us less critical, less objective and less attentive – thus more politically indifferent.

      • Totally agree, therefore we as audience and choice makers need to make meaningful choices that media makes it easier. Liberal democracy requires elections, which provides us as voters with meaningful choices. Therefore the character and strength and their translation into the party system it depends on the responsiveness of political parties. Purpose of elections is to collectively decide about which political agendas should be pursued and which policies should be enacted and who in order for a choice set to be meaningful. Media can shine its own spotlight on the election process and expose corruption or other illegal activities but as you mentioned “we are slowly becoming used to the rubbish that is dished up to us” this is where we need to make meaningful choices and check the credibility of the info being fed to us through news or different channels.

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