OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Wrong. Wronger. Wrongerest.

69 Responses

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  • Andrew E,

    And a lot of the stories you read that have a political dimension are not written (or otherwise reported) by reporters with accreditation. They're reporters whose only interactions with Ministerial offices or Departmental comms units are via phone and email.

    Agreed and understood - also about the accreditation to the Press Gallery. Perhaps then the question is broader, about the standards required to be met by people seeking to pass any national journalism training scheme. And whether news outlets (be they print, TV or radio) should be hiring people who can't demonstrate that they've passed this kind of assessment. Op-ed is different - people can be as pig ignorant and biased as they want there. Loathe as I am to cite the <i>Guardian</i>, C.P.Scott's dictum that 'comment is free but facts are sacred' isn't a bad place to start from for any news organisation.

    174.77 x 41.28 • Since Sep 2008 • 197 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Just don't assume anything you read in the paper is true unless you have other evidence.

    A sensible person like myself would assume that nothing in the paper was "true" in the sense of being reliable and fully accurate, until proven to be so. They're interested in breathlessly publishing as much as quickly as possible, as is their right.

    Unfortunately, most people don't take this attitude and take what they read as factual.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    This particular fact really irks me. Do we actually need to have "it's wrong to hit girls" enshrined in our law? Can't we just agree that hitting *anyone* is wrong?

    I think it's a product of its time.

    At the time of the Crimes Act (1961?), to record statistics about domestics was probably ahead of its time. There may have been other reasons for the separate crime of course.

    It's since been taken over by changes to ways the police approach domestic violence in the 1990s. All domestic incidents are recorded as such, and each police region (at least they used to in the mid-90s) has a Domestic Violence Coordinator that tracks these things. There's an additional form that the police have to fill in which gets added to the file which covers the domestic violence aspects of it.

    It could probably be removed from the Crimes Act, but a major rewrite of the Crimes Act would be a serious job, and I'm not sure anyone is convinced that overall it's so out of date to make it worthwhile. Also, it's proven much easier to tack things onto it via new sentencing bills that target the political issues of the day.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6204 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Just don't assume anything you read in the paper is true unless you have other evidence.

    But it would be nice to have the expectation that almost all that was reported in the newspaper or on the TV news was 'true', just by nature of being news.

    I'm a healthy cynic when something sounds dubious, and I'll check elsewhere to find out if that's the case. But "don't believe everything you read/hear" seems like not putting the onus on the media to do a pretty important part of their job.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6204 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    And Keith: are there any crash-courses in stats I can take to avoid being this problem in the future? I don't want to be the journalist who makes a fuck-up like this. And my maths is terrible. I did touch on stats in journalism school, but we touched on them in much the same way as the reporters/senior Herald staff did in this case.

    What Haydn said. The problem here was that they took the numbers and decided that they meant whatever they hell they needed it to mean. When there was a definition right there, if they'd just looked. There's no excuse in not reading it to understand *exactly* what you're looking at.

    And then, you can do this journalistiky thing of asking people. There are plenty of people who can and will explain this stuff.

    Instead they call Bob fucking McCroskie for a rent-a-quote. They really should stop doing that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 535 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    I wonder if "Recorded Offences in Schools and Other Educational Institutions" includes arson attacks and vandalism?

    Yes, but they were not requested in the OIA.

    The Herald only asked for Drugs, Sex and Violence.

    Ahem.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 535 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    The problem is that the damage is already. It might be worth taking a complaint to the Press Council but, in my experience, it is rather a toothless old dog.

    I am heading to "The Future of Journalism" conference at Cardiff University later this year but, given the latest Herald transgressions, I sometimes wonder whether the profession deserves a future.

    Very good work , Keith (this posting and the Media 7 critique)

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2316 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    I run on this principle: make it very VERY simple to read. The problem, I feel, tends to be caveats and definitions. Nearly all data comes with them and they aren't the easiest things to make palatable.

    On a constructive note, it might be helpful to make actionable caveats. i.e. Instead of saying "these figures also included universities", say "You cannot use them to describe schools."

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 535 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    I also thought the paper's "correction" was inadequate. It was buried at the bottom of the online version of the original story, where very few people were likely to see it.

    And wronger!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 535 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    Don't just phone up the editorial desk - respond quickly and officially to the inaccuracies in the comments under the story, issue your own press release which will be picked up by Scoop.

    In this case they did. And they got it wronger.

    But a little sympathy here: Public sector comms people are not in a position to rip into the Herald, or to embarrass them the way that we can.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 535 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    It sounds like the people who understand the gravity of the mistakes aren't allowed to speak to the media.

    No, I don't think that's true. There might have been a statistician behind the scenes who was going ape-shit, and true, the comms guy wasn't going that far, but he knew how wrong it was. Well, the first story, anyway.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 535 posts Report Reply

  • dc_red,

    photo of the wrong Korean student on its front page

    It doesn't really matter which one ... the important thing is it's time to send some back.

    Oil Patch, Alberta • Since Nov 2006 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Eade,

    Good work Keith. There's an immaturity to that paper that's just bizarre. It's written by adult looking children, generally big boys but children none the less.

    I can't help the suspision that the herald is trying purposely to help a certain community out; it's just not the general community.

    They don't seem to worry about national health unless the word "party"is inserted between the two words . It's bizarre.

    They are always looking for ways to roll back the power of our ELECTED committees as oppopsed to contemplating how fucking long it took us to get representational government. Buying the herald is a traitorous act to the city of auckland (and of course it's free online).

    auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 1112 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    Buying the herald is a traitorous act to the city of auckland (and of course it's free online).

    It's even more free by activating your browser's ad-blocker.

    The problem is that the damage is already. It might be worth taking a complaint to the Press Council but, in my experience, it is rather a toothless old dog.

    Don't waste your time with the Press Council. I'd say the only avenue left is the Commerce Commission.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4351 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    photo of the wrong Korean student on its front page

    It doesn't really matter which one ... the important thing is it's time to send some back.

    Heh.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2074 posts Report Reply

  • Rachel Prosser,

    This headline just up in the Herald

    Link: Survey finds 25pc of students sexually solicited online

    Anyone trust the "statistic" ?

    Christchurch • Since Mar 2008 • 225 posts Report Reply

  • Rachel Prosser,

    Link: Don't waste your time with the Press Council. I'd say the only avenue left is the Commerce Commission.

    Last time I looked (which, to be fair, was in about 1997) the press had an exemption.

    Once I could have cited chapter and verse, as my first "proper" job out of university was as the Fair Trading Enquiries Officer at the Commerce Commission, and I remember getting a complaint that a political party hadn't honoured its manifesto and that was misleading and deceptive conduct. (shock! horror!)

    Alas - I had to explain that political party promises were exempt from the FTA as the parties were not "In trade"

    The Commerce Commission at that stage enforced the Fair Trading and Commerce Acts. It's mandate has widened a little since then, but I don't think it encompasses either the Sale of Goods act or the Consumer Guarantees Act (except insofar as shops make misleading claims about their lack of liability through disclaimer clauses and so forth)

    So news articles being "fit for purpose" aren't covered. Although, they are probably fit for the purpose of creating outrage, making people feel insecure and yearn to consume more stuff advertised to make themselves feel better:

    It's a bad world out there - I need shoes! And alchol! And a 42 inch plasma screen.

    (Can you tell I've just been reading Affluenza?)

    Christchurch • Since Mar 2008 • 225 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    This headline just up in the Herald

    Link: Survey finds 25pc of students sexually solicited online

    Anyone trust the "statistic" ?

    It's an NZPA story linked to this interview on Nine to Noon today.

    It's from the forthcoming Convergence Generation report, which, according to NetSafe director martin Cocker, has found that "one in four [young people] had been aggressively sexual solicited" and analysed responses, including doing nothing about it.

    The PhD researcher, John Fenaughty, seems for real, and NetSafe is a good organisation.

    But it's interesting to note what Martin Cocker also said in the same interview (I paraphrase):

    When you boil it down, it seems that about four or five per cent of young people have had these experiences and are very upset and don't know what to do about it -- so it's definitely not just flirting or something.

    That last part isn't in the NZPA story, which has already gone as far as the SMH website:

    25% Kiwi teens sexually solicited online.

    Never changes, does it?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18960 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Eade,

    ""Survey finds 25pc of students sexually solicited online""

    This online thing sounds bad...jeez we need a herald poll to sort it out.

    auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 1112 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    It gets worse: the RNZ site has this- "Internet predators target 1 in 4 *children*" (my emphasis.)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    It gets worse: the RNZ site has this- "Internet predators target 1 in 4 *children*" (my emphasis.)

    So it does.

    I'd have put the emphasis around "internet predators" and "target", because both have virtually nothing to do withwhat has been revealed of the report the story is purportedly based on.

    Amazing. Watching misinformation in action ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18960 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    Last time I looked (which, to be fair, was in about 1997) the press had an exemption.

    If that's the case, then the law doesn't seem to have caught up with trends in media ownership consolidation. Or should that be media cartelisation?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4351 posts Report Reply

  • Joshua Drummond,

    Joshua: run immediately to the nearest library and see if you can borrow this book.

    Thanks, Stephen. That's exactly the sort of thing I was after.

    And then, you can do this journalistiky thing of asking people. There are plenty of people who can and will explain this stuff.

    Yes, I've been known to do that. Problem is, I find when I do that my cherished "stories" often evaporate under the light of actual information, and your find yourself with an unstory that you could never, in good conscience, print. Apply this dilemma to the mainstream and you can almost see why they persist with printing bullshit. A manufactured media feeding frenzy (XOMG SCHOOL VIOLENCE! TO THE YOUR VIEWS PAGE!) is much more saleable than "hey, you know what? This thing we got asked to write about? Turns out there's no story there." From what I hear from people who work in/have escaped from the MSM, they aren't paid to not write stories.
    I mean, who would buy the Herald if they didn't have any content?

    Hang on...

    Since Nov 2006 • 109 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Speaking of statistics, have we all seen xkcd 552?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1096 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    Survey finds 25pc of students sexually solicited online

    Surely that's just 25pc gone mad! <b'doom tish>

    Thank you! I'll be here all week, remember to tip your waitress.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2081 posts Report Reply

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