Sunday, September 22, 2013
The screen grab accompanying this post (click to embiggen; red underlining added) is from the Herald website. They headlined their story on a new opinion poll taken for TVNZ’s ONE News: "Cunliffe fails to make dent in PM's popularity". Reading the story, we learn that David Cunliffe actually soared ten points in polling for preferred Prime Minister, but to the Herald, that’s apparently a loss for him because in the few days since he became Labour Party Leader, he hasn’t passed John Key in the polls.
The Herald reported that the poll was conducted September 14-18—yet Cunliffe was announced as Leader of the Labour Party only on the afternoon of September 15. So, a ten-point rise in polling—which is a 600% improvement for him, actually—is nothing to the Herald. Why would that be?
Meanwhile, TVNZ—for whom the poll was conducted—reported the same story very differently: “Labour's fired up attitude seems to be working for Mr Cunliffe in the latest ONE News Colmar Brunton poll.”
To some, this may seem like mere semantics: After all, Cunliffe didn’t take anything from John Key’s poll ratings. However, the reality is that since the poll was taken beginning prior to, and concluding soon after, Cunliffe becoming Leader, if anything it under-reports his poll strength. At the very least, the big rise for Cunliffe indicates that TVNZ’s reporting was far more accurate than was the Herald’s.
Still, Cunliffe himself knows this is early days. He told TVNZ’s “Q+A” programme that there was still a lot of work to do. This week, he announces his shadow cabinet, with an eye toward being a government in waiting.
Spinning the news to suit the Herald’s political ideology is nothing new for the paper, and this certainly isn’t the worst case of it—it’s simply the most recent. I’ll admit, though, I did get a good laugh at their expense.
A functioning democracy requires a free press. But a free press also requires a functioning democracy. So, we ordinary people have to hold the press to account just as we do politicians. We must use our freedom of speech and opinion to keep the press honest, and to point out when they’re not. This is such a time. It certainly won’t be the last.