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"Fairness, and Balance"

There is a debate going on at the present between Granny Herald and Cam Slater’s despicably “unbalanced” Whaleoil Blog. This debate revolves around what Cam Slater claims is the Herald’s demonstrably unbalanced coverage of the antics of Kim Dot Com. It seems that a number of its writers have become star-struck by someone Slater describes as a “convicted criminal” – a fact that cannot be disputed.

Certainly, a review of the outpourings of a number of respected journalists provides support for Slater’s view that the Herald has failed in its need to maintain “balance” – a charge that several of their writers have for a long time laid at Slater’s door.     

Of course everyone has their own view in regard to the Herald’s performance in this regard over the last few years, but the utter contempt that its so-called professional journalists have for bloggers in general gives an indication of the pressure that they are under to perform. Their failure to come within cooee of nailing the Len Brown story, and the subsequent flailing around in an endeavour to catch up puts the issue in some perspective.

The lack of balance in the handling of the Kim Dot Com situation, and his apparent ability to pull the Herald’s strings while setting about establishing a new and prosperous (public!) life in this country does not reflect well on the Heralds claim to fairness and balance. Slater has drawn attention to this anomaly either in glee, or frustration.  

In order to obtain accreditation to report on court cases, Slater is required to prove that he is subject to a code of conduct, and a complaints procedure. An alternative avenue exists by way of a discretionary approval, by which Slater will seek access for his own media representative.  

As Slater claims: “The whole structure of media has organically evolved over the years to the point where it isn’t comfortable with the emergence of citizen journalism, and ‘“non-accredited”’ people running around claiming to be media.”

This whole issue is now rapidly coming to a head with new legislation being proposed providing a level of oversight of non-traditional news sources. The internet is turning old and out-dated concepts on their head as those who have traditionally controlled news through the NZ Press Council are coming to terms with a completely different paradigm. One does not have to venture far into the pages of our newspapers (and even National Radio) to detect the advanced level of hypocrisy surrounding editorial balance over which these paragons of journalistic purity have endeavored to adjudicate over the years. 

As Slater has repeated ad nauseum – “Journalism does not have to be fair, it does not have to be balanced – it only needs to be factual” – beyond that, opinion is simply the manner in which any individual, professional journalist or otherwise, interprets those facts. Readers, viewers or listeners will decide the level of audience.

I have returned to this issue on a number of occasions – most recently because of the rather unsubtle attempt to choke my efforts to provide an alternative source of news about what is going on within the walls of Council. The Mayor and  Chief Executive appear to be working 'hand in hand' in reducing coverage of Council affairs to bland and selective press releases. Independent examination of deficiencies and anomalies in the administration of the Council is not welcomed, and co-operation minimal. 

The total failure of the local Fairfax publication, and Mediaworks radio to otherwise cover the Council simply reflects their predominant economic interests – keeping on-side with those in power, and who pay advertising remains the driving force - nothing new there in small town politics. 

The petty, but ineffective removal of the media table from the Council Chamber is a clear indication of the manner in which our Council plans to deal with my annoying presence, and apparently infuriating opinion pieces. It reflects the underlying attitude towards ‘citizen’ journalism that is by no means peculiar to our Council, but which may have to change before too long. 



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