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Speaker: Who are the news media?

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  • Pete George,

    "More controversially perhaps, we argue that those who engage in this type of publishing must exercise their powers responsibly, and be accountable to the public on whose trust they rely."

    This shouldn't be controversial, it should be the core focus.

    The media is as big and as influental a part of our democratic process as any other group - probably more influential than any other group.

    Particularly in the modern age of rapid news cycles and the established pattern of a volatile electorate in the last two weeks of an election campaign for accountability to be effective it needs to be as immediate as possible.

    Ratings, ego and 'hit' driven media 'personalities' promoting their own agendas, framing the coverage and choosing and exluding participants are major issues for which there seems to be zero effective accountability.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2011 • 139 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    Maybe a Leveson/Finkelstein Inquiry isn't as distant as we thought.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4304 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    One way to resolve some of the issues, might be to give us all more rights: why on Earth can't I take notes while sitting in the back of a court? Or while seated in the public gallery of the House of Representatives? Why should these things be limited to any class of persons at the whim of a Judge or the Speaker? It is difficult to believe these limits can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

    News media may be given more rights, but isn't at least part of the problem that (some of?) these rights are seen as special privileges, instead of rights available to all?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3004 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Perhaps the salient question is rather,
    Who owns the news media?

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Adding further to my comment above:

    what additional rights do the media have that other New Zealanders do not?
    why is each of these rights limited to media, and is the denial of these rights to other New Zealanders justifiable in 2012?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3004 posts Report Reply

  • Matt Scheurich,

    Speaking as a person who was recipient to a traumatic event and extensive media coverage as a result, I can honestly assure that a majority of mainstream news and publication outlets would sell whatever limbs, organs and grandmothers readily available in order to better their financial position. I saw my story twisted through various forms of fiction within New Zealand and abroad and was appalled by the lack of respect to myself, my partner at the time, the people whom we lived with in the jungle and the general public audience as well. Some of the reporters' conduct in Australia and New Zealand were also shameful in attempting to obtain interviews with myself and harrasment of my family and their constant pestering at a time where respectful space would have been more appropriate.

    I understand the quick news cycle is key motivator, as is a juicy exploitable narrative and best leveraging it to sell advertising, however I feel that from my experience that all victims of traumatic incidents be granted some basic respect for their human rights and dignity. One thing most people aren't knowledgeable or taught is how to handle rabid news media -- I can honestly say that it further compelled a very hard period in my life that wouldn't have been so had the actual truth been communicated and for myself to have been allowed the time to process my experiences and recover from my ordeal. I'm still having to explain my story to family and friends thanks to rushed, erroneous and exploitative reporting.

    I would like to give a shout out to Campbell Live and TV3 for hiring producers and reporters whom respected my space, didn't push me for tears and allowed the story to speak for itself, rather than dressing up a bunch of mostly wrong facts and conjecture gleaned from a poorly written overseas article. Integrity and respect are important factors contributing to news media gravitas, and going off my experience I'd say that it is the thing lacking in a lot of mainstream NZ and overseas news media agencies.

    Wellington • Since Feb 2012 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Pete George, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Fair questions - if the media used their special rights responsibily, were more accurate and more balanced than other groups and the general public, then they might justify special rights. They are merging with wider social media, and merging with personalityism, populism and entertainment so maybe their rights should also merge.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2011 • 139 posts Report Reply

  • Law Commission, in reply to Matt Scheurich,

    We would be interested to know whether your experience led you to complain to any of the news media outlets whose coverage you thought was inaccurate/overly invasive - and if so what the outcome might have been ? Equally if you did not complain, can you tell us why not?

    Wellington • Since Feb 2012 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    One right of recognised media is to be present observing and taking notes of such events as, e.g., parliamentary debates.
    (Assumption: space is limited at such events, and so not everyone who could conceivably have an interest can physically be present. Further assumption: one purpose is to facilitate access to the maximum possible number of potentially interested parties, and live feeds, etc, would not allow sufficiently equitable access.)
    The concomitant duty of the media would be to represent the events observed as accurately and objectively as possible, to the widest possible audience.
    The immediate problems, once the pool of potential individuals is expanded – as it should be – beyond recognised media outlets of long standing to J. Random Scribbler, are that it is not possible to decide in advance if (or, to what extent) a given individual will discharge that duty, and nor would it be desirable if government officials were to have sole discretion as to which individuals are permitted to be present at government events (or similarly for any event impacting on the public). So two principles need to be in place (as they pretty much are for existing media):
    (i) in principle, everyone wanting to be present as journalists should be assumed to have the intention to legitimately fulfil journalistic duties – until some body of contrary evidence is available;
    (ii) judgements of such evidence (potentially leading to revocation of journalistic rights) should be made by an independent referee.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    My first instinct is that if there were a compulsory legal regime, with privileges and responsibilities, it could simply be opt-in. If I, as an independent writer, wish to be a journalist and gain special access, then I should simply be able to declare that in some reasonably low-key way. In doing so, I'd be accepting that what I wrote might be subject to more constraints as well. And you would have some sort of mechanism for saying "my cat picture blog is not part of my journalism activity".

    But my considered feeling is that traditional news outlets in New Zealand are pretty poor at objectivity, taste or fact checking as it is, and the available remedies are weak, so a reform that reflected current reality would simply be to remove the monopoly traditional reporters enjoy on access to some information and make it available to everyone. Yes, some writers will distort what they learn, write things that are gross, or just lie. But that happens in the news media anyway and we only see action when someone notices and they care enough and are motivated enough to pursue a process of doubtful efficacy.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2963 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to linger,

    judgements of such evidence (potentially leading to revocation of journalistic rights) should be made by an independent referee

    State regulation of who may be a journalist? No thank you.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2963 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Where does a PR sit within this?

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    I said “independent”, not “government-appointed”.
    (Equally, you wouldn’t necessarily want a media body having sole control over who could come in off the streets, either.)
    A body composition that might work fairly well for decisions on any given event would be one representative for each of: (old-media producer); (new-media producer); (old-media consumer); (new-media consumer). Except that all of those lines are becoming increasingly blurred…

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Is this article calling for a re-definition of publishers? Do media publishers have to have a warrant? Do journalists have to be registered?
    How does the system work?

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Jan Farr, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    what additional rights do the media have that other New Zealanders do not?
    why is each of these rights limited to media, and is the denial of these rights to other New Zealanders justifiable in 2012?

    For me Graeme's question raises the issue of the decline of investigative journalism. How can the media serve the needs of readers when there is very little scope for reliable and objective investigation because, I understand, of staff reductions? In line with the cheap and easy 'reality show' principle that has taken over tv entertainment, investigation in the media seems largely to have been replaced by cheap and easy opinion.

    Carterton • Since Apr 2008 • 394 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Where, if at all does NZOnAir fit into this? Given that they appear to be the only documentary funders around. Are they a publisher? Are there categories of publisher?

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Another right formally accorded to journalists and not the general public is the right not to disclose sources (at the judge's discretion) in the Evidence Act 2006:

    informant means a person who gives information to a journalist in the normal course of the journalist’s work in the expectation that the information may be published in a news medium
    journalist means a person who in the normal course of that person’s work may be given information by an informant in the expectation that the information may be published in a news medium
    news medium means a medium for the dissemination to the public or a section of the public of news and observations on news
    public interest in the disclosure of evidence includes, in a criminal proceeding, the defendant’s right to present an effective defence.

    Assuming that we don't want, say, white-collar criminals or malicious bloggers to use it as a loophole to avoid answering questions or producing documents, this would seem to bring us back to the need to answer the question in the title of this discussion. We need to define who the news media are.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18884 posts Report Reply

  • Pete George, in reply to Law Commission,

    During the election I complained directly to journalists, and to a news editor by phone followed up by email (who hasn't responded yet, his attitude was very 'couldn't care less').

    I didn't go through formal channels because the time that would take renders it pointless.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2011 • 139 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Matt Scheurich,

    where respectful space would have been more appropriate.

    Hope you are doing ok now Matt.
    I think you are right too. Campbell Live seems to always come across as a show with integrity whenever I watch it. I think it helps that their frontman is genuine.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6201 posts Report Reply

  • merc, in reply to Russell Brown,

    journalist means a person who in the normal course of that person’s work may be given information by an informant in the expectation that the information may be published in a news medium

    This seems very vague.

    We need to define who the news media are.

    I was kind of hoping that the existing "news medium" who publish information therein sic, see above, are already defined in law?

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Assuming that we don’t want, say, white-collar criminals or malicious bloggers to use it as a loophole to avoid answering questions or producing documents, this would seem to bring us back to the need to answer the question in the title of this discussion. We need to define who the news media are.

    I disagree (on that example anyway). The right to protect a source could apply to anyone involved in the publication of such information to be weighed (as it currently is with journalists) against the public interest. Malice and crime could easily be weighed in the public interest exercise.

    I do not meet the test for “journalist” in the Evidence Act. My blog does not meet the test for “news medium”, but if I break a story on Legal Beagle, on the basis of information gained through a confidential informant whom I promised confidence, I like to think I’d tell authorities to bite me if they asked or told me to disclose. My right to do so could arise out of broader definitions, or it could arise out of changing the law so that it applies to situations, and not classes of people. Put me down as favouring the latter.

    I’m open to the possibility that we may need a definition of news media for some particular right, but none has been pointed out yet. The right to take notes in the House, and in Court, and protection of confidential sources, can and should be protected for everyone, not just journalists.

    Next media privilege, please :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3004 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Do Nicky Hager's books qualify as a "news medium"? A court would likely stretch the definition, but on a simple first reading of the definition, I'd say not.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3004 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to merc,

    I was kind of hoping that the existing "news medium" who publish information therein sic, see above, are already defined in law?

    The proposed criteria that the Law Commission is kicking around are:

    ...in order to qualify for these special news media privileges and exemptions, publishers must have the following four characteristics:

    * a significant proportion of their publishing activities must involve the generation and/or aggregation of news, information and opinion of current value;
    * they disseminate this information to a public audience;
    * publication must be regular and not occasional; and
    * the publisher must be accountable to a code of ethics and a complaints process.

    see section 4.169

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2963 posts Report Reply

  • merc, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    Thank you, does Stuff fall into this category?

    the generation and/or aggregation

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    publication must be regular and not occasional

    So the sources of evidence for Nicky Hager’s books are not protected? Try again, Law Commission.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3004 posts Report Reply

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