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If the mainstream media had done their job, New Zealand would have known about its dirty politics years ago. Or maybe not.
One of the most upsetting and least discussed revelations to come out of this whole saga isn’t that we were being manipulated by grubby politicians. It’s that the media, the very people who are supposed to hold those in public office to account, knew full well what was happening the whole time.
There is a difference between what is reported and what a reporter knows. According to Duncan Garner, the entire Press Gallery was well aware that some of the information they received was being leaked straight from Ministers. Instead of reporting on this fact, they played into the hands of the dirty politicians by printing the stories. It’s not just the politics in New Zealand that are dirty; it’s the media too.
In the latest leaked email dump, Cameron Slater (Whale Oil) said he ‘owns’ The New Zealand Herald. He was in daily contact with reporters. Information flowed both ways – whatever couldn’t be printed in the media was passed on to Slater to put on his blog. They were doing exactly the same thing that politicians were doing. The Herald colluded with a gutter blogger instead of exposing the injustice that exists at the top echelon of our society.
And what have we heard from them? After being implicated, the Herald wrote a short and deliberately vague reply which was buried on their homepage soon after. Jared Savage, the lead investigative reporter for the nation’s daily, attempted an excuse. He said it was “naive” of the New Zealand public to expect journalists to make sure their sourcing and sharing of information is above board. We emailed the Herald to respond a bit more fully to these claims, but they never got back to us. They’re lucky that, unlike government, they don’t have accountability to the people: only to their readers.
The media knew what was happening for years, but went along for the ride. But maybe it’s not all their fault. The 24-hour news cycle, shrinking newsrooms, increasing pressure to meet revenue and sales targets, and the never-ending barrage of news releases and information pressed onto our under-resourced journalists means there isn’t necessarily time to investigate every claim of alleged wrongdoing. And maybe people would rather read about a wine bottle than an undermining of democracy.
This week’s issue is the Speech issue. We wanted to peer through the looking glass and see what the media is really like. Feature writer Penny takes a look at what Hager’s book means for us as students. We interviewed past Salient journos over Twitter to find out whether social media is revolutionising the news.
When the Minister of Justice messages a blogger to say “Oh dear. All this open government thingy”, we need the fourth estate to be strong. On the one hand, it’s depressing to think that we could have cleaned up the government years ago. On the other, these revelations can give us hope that the media won’t be fooled again. And there’ll always be Salient.
Duncan & Cam