Saturday, April 12, 2008

NZ Herald shows bias—again

The New Zealand Herald just can’t help pushing its right wing ideology. When they’re lucky, they get to do so with unsuspecting readers completely unaware of the game they’re planning.

Today the New Zealand Labour Party held its conference in Wellington. Protesters were there, as you’d expect, covering many different issues, not all of them rightwing. Allegedly, one of the protestors tripped the building’s fire alarm, forcing the delegates, including government ministers, outside where some were jostled by protestors. That much is fact.

Fairfax New Zealand’s Stuff news website accurately reported all this, but the NZ Herald chose to run an early report from NewstalkZB radio that began, “A handful of protesters have gathered outside the Labour Party conference at the Town Hall in Wellington to demonstrate against the Electoral Finance Act.” The story further reported that the protest was led by John Boscawen, who was indirectly quoted in the story. The report ignored all the other protesters, and NewstalkZB later replaced that story with a complete and balanced report.

The NZ Herald, however, didn’t update its website—for an obvious reason: Starting late last year, the paper ran a crusade against the Act before it was adopted, and it’s still pushing that cause. It also never reported the rightwing and far rightwing connections of the protest campaign organisers. Boscawen, for example, has ties to the right wing Business Roundtable, which supports the conservative National Party and the neoconservative Act Party, for which Boscawen was a major fundraiser. This makes the protesters motives suspect.

In addition to its crusade against the Electoral Finance Act, the NZ Herald has had a near vendetta among its commentators directed against the Labour Party and the Labour-led government. Their news reporting has, in general, been far more favourable to the National Party, and unfavourable toward the Labour Party, as even a casual content analysis reveals.

As New Zealand’s dominant newspaper, the Herald influences public perceptions. It has a duty to remain fair and to reveal its bias. If it actually ever does so, and stops picking stories to reinforce its political agenda, that will be front page news. That’s a front page I don’t expect to see.


Nik said...

Sadly, I agree. All papers are a bit biased in some way, but they're particularly inelegant in how they show it.

Arthur Schenck said...

To be honest, this is one thing that really surprised me when I moved to New Zealand. Maybe I just didn't notice it in American papers, but the openness of the bias surprised me.