GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – Quality investigative journalism cannot survive without the support of bold publishers.


More years ago than I now care to remember I was the editor of CANTA, the Canterbury University Student Newspaper. One edition caused a problem because I and a couple of my reporters had done an investigation into aged care in Christchurch and found a couple of residential homes where the standards of hygiene and over -crowded conditions were frankly appalling.

CANTA was, at that time, printed by a private firm who refused to run the story because they believed it would leave them vulnerable to legal action by the home owners named in the article .

As the print deadline was just a couple of hours away I took the copy from the manager of the firm and with a black marker pen I blocked out every word in the story and told him to put the redacted version on the front page.

I also wrote an editorial about what had happened. The printer was not happy but he could not refute that I had wanted to publish a story and he had refused to publish it and so the printing presses rolled.

I have to admit then to a bit of a nostalgic smile when I read yesterday that two of Australia’s biggest newspaper rivals The Sydney Morning Herald and The Daily Telegraph had decided to black out their front pages in protest over national security laws which journalists say have stifled reporting and created a “culture of secrecy” in Australia.

TDB Recommends

The worry about press freedom in Australia began last June when police raided the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the home of a News Corp Australia journalist .

The raids it is claimed had been conducted over articles which had relied on leaks from whistle blowers,one of which had detailed allegations of war crimes while another had alleged an attempt by a government agency to spy on Australian citizens.

So good on these newspapers for their protest. Freedom of the press is vital to a healthy democracy and I applaud their actions.

My only comment would be to invite them ( and indeed all mainstream media) to take this moment to reflect on their own editorial policies. How often do they deny their readers the right to information because a story might offend one of their major advertisers or some other vested interest?

Quality investigative journalism cannot survive without the support of bold publishers.


Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.


  1. +1000

    Journalistic freedom is a must and being eroded by the laws protecting the guilty and powerful not the innocent and vulnerable.

  2. On the issue of rest homes – found this disturbing reading from OZ.

    On the investigative front could not find NZ journalistic investigation on the state of the NZ rest home situation which shows how bad journalism is in NZ, nothing independent about the actual state of the rest home industry in NZ… l and our social care providers for government are increasingly Australian profit driven companies not NZ institutions like universities and hospitals and rest homes and social housing and ACC providing their own care, and MSM are constantly running articles about increasing aged migrant numbers while apparently the quality of care here, is uninvestigated..

    Scary reading from OZ rest home sector… including

    “Nursing homes have been encouraged to make profits, largely from government funding, since John Howard passed the Aged Care Act in 1997. The act also introduced regulations intended to scrutinise and hold providers to account.

    The top-tier private aged-care companies and some of the big not-for-profits make up to $25,000 per bed per year in profits – a figure that grows every year.”

    Australian nursing homes have no minimum legal ratio of staff to residents, no minimum training requirement and no statutory requirement to have a nurse on duty at all times. The only legal requirement is the unenforceable rule that staff numbers are “adequate”.

    “The vast majority of care staff in nursing homes are “personal care attendants”, also known as “personal care workers” or “assistants in nursing”. Most have a Certificate III qualification, though Health Department figures show about 6 per cent have not even finished school.

    The average level of qualifications in nursing homes has crashed in the past 15 years in what the Queensland Health Department describes as a “de-professionalisation” of the industry.

    Virtually all the students for the Certificate III qualification in aged care are doing courses that are shorter than the minimum 33 weeks full time recommended by the vocational education regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority.

    Between them, the nine biggest private nursing home companies cleared more than $240 million after tax, and the big not-for-profits made comparable (tax-free) surpluses. Christadelphian Homes, which housed Dawn Weston, reported a $14.5 million surplus. The sector as a whole cleared $1.1 billion in 2016.

    Talk to enough people involved in the system and you repeatedly hear this comment: “It’s all about the money.”

    Operators have “become a powerful lobby that fiercely resists any reduction in government subsidies or any increase in oversight. Two of these companies are owned by private equity firms and three, Regis, Estia and Japara – are listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. Another, Bupa, is listed in London.””

  3. Bryan,

    When it comes to, “How the media works?” I am merely and observer (although in past lives I have often been ‘the news’ and a target for a raunchy story).

    Today, as an intermittent armchair contributor, it seems to me that Kiwi media journalist are under pressure to produce what the editorial policy demands- and that this ‘demand’ is substantially modified by the “dark hands” which fund the board!

    Trickle down theory. (Like a guillotine.)

    Journalist for whom I once had grudging (because I was often their target) respect, today are – in my view- like lambs waiting patiently for pay day because: (a) they have grown too old to get another job if they challenge and merely regurgitate rubbish – to ensure that their pay cheque will continue to appear for a few more years, or (b) have families to support and crave the pay cheque more than they crave ‘exposure and justice’.

    I could be wrong of course? But I fear not.

    Questions I have include:
    Who are the pay masters?
    To whom do we turn for real investigative journalism?

    As much as the Daily Blog is condemned by many in the ‘establishment’, Bomber and his team of contributors, are one of the few promulgators of news, who appears to produce the unpleasant reality of what lurks latent but lethal.

    Sometimes a bit ‘left’ for me on the economics – though social policy is easier to digest.
    But that’s me.
    Where you are concerned: “Don’t give up, m8.”

Comments are closed.