OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Did you know we're in a recession?

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  • Matthew Poole,

    Kieth does a fine job of explaining why he feels those are not valid measures and that the government is spinning for Africa, and I agree with him - but that's a job for a commentator/analyst, not a news reporter.

    The job for a reporter would be to find someone to explain how B'linglish is spinning, not just parrot his words ad nauseum. Which is, I think, what people are getting at.
    I like that journalists (supposedly) don't write their opinions as fact, but they do a very poor job at getting someone like a statistician or economist to comment on the pontifications of gummint misers. That is balance.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3731 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    But English isn't flat out lying - he's bullshitting. Inflation IS low. Real after tax wages ARE higher.

    The lying comes in statements about what those facts mean - for instance, that low growth rates mean people are 'saving' rather than just poor.

    By all means, report the claims - but also the other detail and reasoning that allows the public to make properly informed decisions.

    That does not mean a hands-off free market where you must wait for someone else to say it - an approach that works really well if you're the person who happens to have the megaphone. As Russell said, truth to power was part of the trade-off for the privilege of owning a printing press.

    I agree about the poor quality of opposition, but that's not the whole picture.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15715 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    The job for a reporter would be to find someone to explain how B'linglish is spinning, not just parrot his words ad nauseum. Which is, I think, what people are getting at.

    Yes. And - like I keep saying - that is the role of the opposition. If you link to the Herald story at the top of Kieth's post we read standard pablum from the Labour Party:

    Labour finance spokesman David Cunliffe said the CPI reflected increases in basic costs and were a further blow for those left behind by National's tax switch.

    "The Government claims it is rebalancing the economy, but any rebalancing it is doing is making it tougher for Kiwis who already have it far too tough and easier for wealthy Kiwis who already have it good," he said.

    The core problem is that we have an opposition who are really terrible at communications.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 894 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    The core problem is that we have an opposition who are really terrible at communications.

    No, the core problem is that we have an opposition who are unable to entertain New Zealand's facile media.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2078 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Kieth does a fine job of explaining why he feels those are not valid measures and that the government is spinning for Africa, and I agree with him - but that's a job for a commentator/analyst, not a news reporter.

    Just checking ... commentators and analysts aren't journalists?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2968 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    The core problem is that we have an opposition who are really terrible at communications.

    Open question: What would happen if my blog post was sent out as a press release from Goff's office? How much traction do you think it'd get?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 522 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    What would happen if my blog post was sent out as a press release from Goff's office?

    [If they'd been timely enough] then in the news story to which you link, Phil Goff would have been quoted saying smart things instead of (or in addition to) David Cunliffe saying what he said.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2968 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    <sigh>

    I mean, is anyone in the media actually bothered that they've ran big fat headlines that are patently ludicrous? Do they care about telling their readers that "Oh hey, that's actually the opposite of the truth."

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 522 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I like that journalists (supposedly) don't write their opinions as fact, but they do a very poor job at getting someone like a statistician or economist to comment on the pontifications of gummint misers. That is balance.

    Which brings us to another mainstay of modern journalism -- the expert commentator, who will, ideally know their stuff, and have media skills.

    I remember back when I did Mediawatch, we used Chris Frampton several times. He's actually a heath statistician, but he turned out to be gold for statistical analysis in general. And you're never short of material if you're looking at statistical abuse in the news.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17938 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    How much traction do you think it'd get?

    Well, you'd have an article which said - English says this is true. The opposition disputes this.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2078 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    But English isn't flat out lying - he's bullshitting. Inflation IS low. Real after tax wages ARE higher.

    Danyl please read the OP again.

    What you have missed is that English stated wages are higher. What a journalist should have done was note that English has used average wages which are distorted and the better measure is median wages. When both numbers are shown it is obvious that average wages are only higher because low wage earners have lost their jobs.

    It should not require a blogger/columnist/opinionist to point this out. ANY journalist should understand the data. It is a simple and clear fact that a journalist should consider part of their job to identify and report. Instead what you seem to support and what we have now is people who forward on the PR e-mails to the public.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3108 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    is anyone in the media actually bothered that they've ran big fat headlines that are patently ludicrous?

    The headline of the NZPA/Herald story is:

    "Govt claims credit for six-year inflation low"

    How is this not true? Doesn't your piece make an identical claim?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2968 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    What would happen if my blog post was sent out as a press release from Goff's office? How much traction do you think it'd get?

    Given the high profanity count, quite a lot.

    Let me make one more point about the PAS fantasy model of journalism.

    Let's say you're a reporter in the press gallery and the Finance Minister puts out a press release and you decide to fisk it, because you know a lot about finance. Ten minutes into your fisk you're going to get your web editor calling up and demanding to know where their copy is. And when you publish the fisk you're going to get the Finance Minister's - very smart, very knowledgeable - press secretary calling you to debate each point in the piece, and if you've made any serious errors in your (quickly written) fisk you're going to get the Finance Minister calling your editor.
    And then the Attorney General puts out a press release on treaty negotiation. And then a report is released on maternity care. And then there's a story about building regulations in Christchurch. And under the PAS model of journalism you happen to be an expert on all of these diverse subjects, so you can take on the relevant Cabinet Minister or opposition spokesperson on this subject without making any mistakes and you have all the time in the world to do so. But back in the real world these are complex subjects and they take time to write about intelligently. There's a reason most columnists only write a couple of columns a week, at most.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 894 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    But this isn't about a journalist's expertise in the content. It's about synthesising and analysing how the information is presented. Those are two different things.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3582 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Oh Keith! You and your fact checking and analysis!

    That's so unfashionable. No-one does that anymore. Not even, as Danyl just pointed out, the opposition.

    Well, no... apparently the opposition's big economic policy idea of the week is preventing dirty foreigners from hazing all ur cheez. Or something.

    Rod Oram shed more light on the non-crisis of "foreign ownership" in 45 seconds on Nat Radio this morning than the rest of the media combined -- who are fixated on the politics (you'll never lose a poll point with economic xenophobia, apparently) than whether any of the assertions flying around contain less than toxic levels of truthiness.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    There's a reason most columnists only write a couple of columns a week, at most.

    Because all the "very smart, very knowledgeable" ones have found work as ministerial press secretaries?

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Let me make one more point about the PAS fantasy model of journalism.

    Danyl, don't patronise me. I've been in journalism for 30 years. I think I know a bit about it. And don't get sneery about my website either. It's rude.

    You have some sort of point, but you've run way past it. The fact remains that it would have been entirely proper for a news reporter to include the context to, say, the apparent rise in incomes announced by English -- the fact that it was a consequence of a sharp rise in unemployment -- rather than simply copy-pasting the government's version. And I don't think "objectivity" is the reason that wasn't done.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17938 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    But back in the real world these are complex subjects and they take time to write about intelligently. There's a reason most columnists only write a couple of columns a week, at most.

    Woah! And now you've jumped arguments. Originally, it was that journalists (well, actually, reporters) don't do that stuff because it's not objective and balanced -- and now it's a resource issue?

    Oddly enough, the reporters who are capable of that stuff are mostly at Radio NZ, which continues to benefit from the decision to employ correspondents who are expert in their rounds.

    When Keith debunked a crazily innumerate Herald story about school violence, the reporter who already knew it was duff was Gael Woods. Because she knows her round very well.

    The PEDA shemozzle was turned up by Richard Pamatatau for the same reason -- he read the relevant part of the Budget and he knew there was something wrong with it. And he kept saying so while Bill English was basically lying about the whole thing.

    Reporters don't have to be babes in the wild.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17938 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    Meanwhile, philosophers continue to assert that the "What shape is the Earth?" is meaningless because no one has definitively proved it exists and, that even if it does, whether we live there.

    Or, for that matter, what "there" means, and whether such a word is definitive or subjective.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 838 posts Report Reply

  • BlairMacca,

    But back in the real world these are complex subjects and they take time to write about intelligently. There's a reason most columnists only write a couple of columns a week, at most.

    Which explains Deborah Hill how??

    Wellington • Since Apr 2007 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Hey, it's world statistics day tomorrow.

    Make a wish!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1091 posts Report Reply

  • Max Call,

    On the topic of teachers' pay, I do wonder if they'd settle for the extra manglement units and hard caps on class sizes along with a minor pay increase. The impression I'm getting is that most of their gripe relates to class sizes and NCEA workload rather than rates of pay.

    For me personally - this is exactly how I feel. Especially the caps on class sizes. I think we could leave negotiating about pay until the next round when hopefully the recession has eased. Pick your battles and all that.
    This is also the impression I get from some other teachers. Though I have only heard the opinion of about 20 other teachers individually and directly on this so it is not very precise measurement!

    Fruit Bowl of New Zealand… • Since Jun 2007 • 152 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    How much of the inflation drop is actually thinly-veiled deflation?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 3896 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Woah! And now you've jumped arguments. Originally, it was that journalists (well, actually, reporters) don't do that stuff because it's not objective and balanced -- and now it's a resource issue?

    'Jumped arguments?' I made one point and then I made another related point.

    Not to knock your thirty years of journalism experience but the type of reporting we're discussing here and linked by Keith in his column is hard news journalism, not features or columns or blog posts. Maybe you've worked in the gallery or a newsroom in the past, I don't know, but the comments made here don't reflect the nature of the journalism being criticised - and since my wife and a lot of my friends work in the gallery, or in newsrooms I'm just trying to inject some second-hand reality. And that reality is that time pressure and objectivity are related - if the Finance Minister makes a statement about the economy and you have five minutes to turn around a story on it then you can (a) write it up, call the opposition for balance and file a proper objective news story or (b) go off and research the topic and write an articulate critique of the Minister's statement and miss your deadline by several hours.

    It's not as if we're starved for commentary and analysis - there are loads of economics and political commentators writing columns and blog posts - it's just that breaking news is presented objectively for reasons that are pragmatic as well as philosophical.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 894 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Hey, it's world statistics day tomorrow.

    Make a wish!

    That the men bogarting all the statistical sexual intercourse I've not had over the years give it back? Oh no... you don't get your wish if you say it out loud. Poo sticks.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

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