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Speaker: Who are the news media?

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  • linger,

    One could say that Hager is a regular producer of investigative books :-)

    Possibly a more accurate statement of intent behind this condition could be that "the information disclosed is expected to be published within a reasonable timeframe" ... and possibly also "the informant should be informed in advance of the publication date". ("Regular publication" facilitates both of those conditions, but it's not really a logically necessary feature.)
    For a book, that "reasonable timeframe" could be of the order of years rather than days.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 887 posts Report Reply

  • Scott Chris,

    I see little point regulating the news media. (whom I understand to be any publication which generates revenue and provides a narrative of current events)

    The only practical regulation outside the normal constraint of the law that I can think of would be for any registered news media publication to be required to publish a constitutional declaration of intent so that they can be held accountable by those who subscribe to their version of “the truth”. At least that would create a *relative* standard by which to measure internal consistency.

    Presumably the more reputable publications would compose more explicit and aspirational constitutions.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2012 • 167 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Yes, good point. Other examples of book as journalism: Hood's A City Possessed, McNeish's Mask of Sanity, and possibly the biggest NZ one in my life time, Yallop's Beyond Reasonable Doubt.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2947 posts Report Reply

  • Law Commission, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Nicky Hager’s sources might possibly be protected under the “journalists’ sources” provision of the Evidence Act (s68) depending on how the court defined “journalist”; but if that didn’t work they might also be protected under the “Overriding discretion as to confidential information” provision (s69) which is not confined to journalists. But this example does not affect the need to settle on a definition of news media for other purposes – eg the right to stay in court when others are excluded; exemption from the Privacy Act principles; exemption from s9 of the the Fair Trading Act (which is currently confined to newspapers and broadcasters).

    Wellington • Since Feb 2012 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to merc,

    does Stuff fall into this category?

    the generation and/or aggregation

    Bear in mind that although Stuff's owners are customers of the company I work for, and most of my day job is doing technical things for Stuff, I do not and cannot speak on their behalf. However, I think the answer is straightforwardly and obviously yes. Stuff both generates content in its own right and aggregates content from its owners' newspapers. Stuff is a news medium under the definitions proposed by the Law Commission.

    In the online space I think a more interesting set of cases is the opinion heavy political blogs like The Standard, Whale Oil and Kiwiblog. Or Public address.

    See, when I read a phrase like:

    "a significant proportion of their publishing activities must involve the generation and/or aggregation of news, information and opinion of current value"

    I wonder how I should parse "news, information and opinion". What if a blog is more or less pure commentary (opinion) with no actual news or raw information? Is it necessary to have news and information as well to qualify? How much? What is a significant proportion?

    What about pure aggregators? Eg, suppose I write a program to more or less automatically aggregate news stories, and publish fair use snippets and links, or perhaps I syndicate stories under liences. One of my sources publishes something dodgy -- will my pure aggregator site be able to claim it's doing journalism? My instinct is yes, if the originator would be protected I should be protected, but I'm not sure how I justify that.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2947 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Scott Chris,

    I see little point regulating the news media. (whom I understand to be any publication which generates revenue and provides a narrative of current events)

    When North & South's editor refused to acknowledge that its 'Asian Angst' story was biased and hugely wrong in fact, it was the magazine's membership of the Press Council that provided vindication for those (including PA bloggers Keith Ng and Tze Ming Mok) who complained. An independent regulator found that the story was wrong -- and the magazine had to print that finding.

    Even where a publication (example: NBR) does not make itself subject to the Press Council, the council may still rule on a complaint, and that has similar value.

    The only practical regulation outside the normal constraint of the law that I can think of would be for any registered news media publication to be required to publish a constitutional declaration of intent so that they can be held accountable by those who subscribe to their version of “the truth”. At least that would create a *relative* standard by which to measure internal consistency.

    Wouldn't a common standard be a better measure of consistency that letting every publication write -- and interpret -- its own fine print? I think individual codes and in-house ombudsmen are a good idea, but there's no compulsion to do that. Do you stop reading the only newspaper in your town because it doesn't have an internal ombudsman?

    Let's say a newspaper publishes something wrong and harmful about you: are you going to mount a defamation action? Only if you have deep pockets, plenty of time and a strong stomach. The barrier for a Press Council complaint is far, far lower.

    Or perhaps a news media organisation has breached your privacy or acted unethically in a way that falls short of a breach of criminal law. You have few (or no) means of holding them to account without an independent regulator.

    Perhaps we're not talking about the same thing, though. The Law Commission is actually recommending an end to statutory regulation, as practiced to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, and I personally favour that. Independent industry regulation, as per the Press Council and the Advertising Standards Authority, makes more sense in a changing world.

    I'm also inclined towards the Commission's proposal to avoid the expense (for both sides) and grief of full defamation action in favour of a tribunal system for less significant cases. Although that would have to be carefully designed to curb the obvious risk of vexatious complaints.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18815 posts Report Reply

  • merc, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    Thank you heaps, all good stuff ;-) I wonder also if a blog simply provides links to say, Stuff articles with no corresponding

    information and opinion of current value"

    it falls outside the definition of being a news media publisher?
    The Standard and Kiwiblog must be defined as news media publishers surely? Especially KB with it's founder having also an additional blog directly in Stuff?
    I wonder if all this is leading to the need to police KB and The Standard as far as the Electoral Commission is concerned?

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to merc,

    I wonder if all this is leading to the need to police KB and The Standard as far as the Electoral Commission is concerned?

    And on that note ...

    Referral of alleged breaches of the Broadcasting Act 1989 and Electoral Act 1993

    On 27 February 2012, the Electoral Commission referred the following matters to Police:

    Mediaworks for the broadcast of The Jono Project on TV3 on 4 November 2011, which in the Electoral Commission’s view was an election programme, contrary to section 70 of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

    Five comments posted by members of the public on social media on election day, which in the Electoral Commission’s view were advising or intended or likely to influence any elector as to the candidate or party or referendum option for whom the elector should or should not vote, contrary to section 197(1)(g)(i) of the Electoral Act 1993.

    As these matters are now with the Police, the Electoral Commission will not be commenting further.

    I hope the police can give us more detail soon. This is quite interesting to some of us.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18815 posts Report Reply

  • merc, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Very indeed. Mr Key as well no doubt (Radio Live DJ spot). For me the issue as to whether social media are indeed news publishers, should be defined. As well as the need to define the term journalist working for news media, or indeed contractor (Mr Key again, teapot tapes), and indeed Producers - TV3 hires Producers of current affairs programs who are not journalists, does this put them outside the requisites of law?

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Matt Scheurich, in reply to Law Commission,

    It was about 5 months after I finally found the Press Council complaints form (http://www.presscouncil.org.nz/complain.php) and I also wasn't confident my complaints were sound enough to be carried through (plus it felt there was an added complexity regarding internet articles and the archiving of the various versions). The initial "damage" had been done anyway; I felt a bit helpless regarding the whole situation.

    Wellington • Since Feb 2012 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    To all of the above: once again, the Leveson and Finkelstein Inquiries offer some useful pointers, and the Law Commission report could form the basis of a NZ version. Additionally, Britain has Ofcom, and Australia has the Department of Broadband, Communcations & Digital Economy. The Clark Labour Govt had a similar agency on the cards, until Key scrapped it in favour of the status quo.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4226 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Law Commission,

    But this example does not affect the need to settle on a definition of news media for other purposes – eg the right to stay in court when others are excluded; exemption from the Privacy Act principles; exemption from s9 of the the Fair Trading Act (which is currently confined to newspapers and broadcasters).

    The simple point is:

    if engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct in trade is necessary for what newspapers do, then the exclusion shouldn't just apply to them. Any person trying to break a story who needs to use deceptive conduct in trade should be able to do so, even if it's the first and last time they're involved in such a wanton act of journalism.

    likewise, if an exemption from Privacy Act principles is required so as to not unreasonably limit the free expression of those involved in breaking news, it should apply to the activity. The exemption should not apply only to the class of persons who usually undertake that activity.

    And (although I recognise this will be the most difficult in practice), if a person is fulfilling the role of a journalist in watching court proceedings, the ability to stay in a closed court should not rest on the existence of credentials, but, like everything else so far listed, it should apply to the activity, and any person undertaking that activity should be able to benefit.

    The activity of news, and the activity of journalism seem to be important. These should be protected. But the protections should apply to the activities: is what this person doing journalism ? If the answer is yes, they shouldn't have to jump through another hoop before getting the protections we feel that engaging in such activities requires.

    Thus far, I'm not convinced we need a definition of news media. Every example that has been listed of the privileges that apply to news media should apply to everyone when engaging in the activity that, until recently, news media were the exclusive providers of.

    [p.s. what misleading or deceptive conduct in trade do newspapers actually want to be able to undertake? Particularly when it appears magazines get along fine while prohibited from undertaking misleading or deceptive conduct in trade.]

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2999 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    That's something I was trying to work out a way of saying. It should be the activity, not the status that, gives somebody journalistic protections.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4439 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Here's a thought.

    The Press Council and analogous bodies are justified, it seems to me, because the industry participants have disproprotionate clout in communication -- they are not just media, they are *mass* media. They are self-regulating as part of an informal deal with the public that in curbing their own excesses, they can be excused legal regulation.

    So, suppose that I, a nobody, do the kind of thing that would justify a complaint were I North and South magazine. Well, who cares? I don't have disproportionate clout and the evil I can achieve is very limited in scope.

    Now suppose that I'm no longer a nobody. Perhaps I'm David Farrar. Well, at that point, I'd probably be willing to join and abide by the rules of a Press Council equivalent. Perhaps right now, the bigger players in terms of online audience share ought to be coming up with a voluntary regulatory regime, with entry criteria based on readership.

    If you are with me this far, then you might agree that there is no need to regulate online publication with respect to the kinds of things are the domain of the Press Council, the BSA and their brethren -- a suitable vehicle will arise in due course if it is needed.

    This is orthogonal to Graeme's point directly above, which I agree with.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2947 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    That wasn’t all that simple, so perhaps an example:

    in the definition of agency in s 2 of the Privacy Act 1993, I would change paragraph (xiii) from the current:

    agency means any person or body of persons, whether corporate or unincorporate, … but … does not include–

    (xiii) in relation to its news activities, any news medium

    to the more neutral:

    agency means any person or body of persons, whether corporate or unincorporate, … but … does not include–

    (xiii) in relation to its news activities, any person or body of persons, whether corporate or unincorporate

    If we wanted to broaden it beyond news to current affairs or beyond, we can have that discussion as well.

    Relatively simple law changes can be made to the other statutory protections mentioned.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2999 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Final (?) summation:

    What the news media do in a democracy is special and worthy of protection. This protection arises because of what they do, not who they are. When others do the same things, they are just as worthy of protection, and that protection is just as important to our democracy.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2999 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    What about pure aggregators? Eg, suppose I write a program to more or less automatically aggregate news stories, and publish fair use snippets and links, or perhaps I syndicate stories under licences.

    Having to divulge your source as an aggregator could never be a problem because you are revealing previously published material, I think if you said "The Herald told me" would absolve you of any wrongdoing, other than, perhaps, plagiarism. ;-)
    I think though, that if you wish to be considered a journalist you should double check your facts and stay away from gossip. So perhaps an aggregator should be held to greater standards than what we have served up to us as News.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4772 posts Report Reply

  • jasonbrown.avaiki, in reply to Law Commission,

    ...

    this example does not affect the need to settle on a definition of news media for other purposes – eg the right to stay in court when others are excluded; exemption from the Privacy Act principles; exemption from s9 of the the Fair Trading Act (which is currently confined to newspapers and broadcasters).

    News media should be defined as those who employ journalists. A definition of journalists, for modern purposes, should start and finish with those who abide by a code of ethics. A further definition could be defining news media as those organisations that adhere to independent media accountability systems, such as a Press Council, or other regulator.

    If something is written outside a code of ethics, then it's not journalism, and the person responsible should not be able to claim protection as a journalist. If an organisation is not answerable and independently accountable for what it publishes or broadcasts, it's not news.

    ...

    Auckland • Since Mar 2012 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Ping, in reply to Matt Scheurich,

    Matt, as one of the print media reporters who emailed you asking if you would talk to me, I have to say, it wasn’t an easy email to write.

    However.

    Here’s the thing. On the one hand you say you saw your story “twisted through various forms of fiction” and some “respectful space” for you and your family would have been appropriate given the circumstances.

    On the other hand you say that that time wouldn’t have been so hard had the “actual truth” been communicated.

    How are the media supposed to get the story right, if they don’t ask the person/people involved what happened? Where are they supposed to get the “actual truth” from?

    It’s a genuine question Matt. I’d love some ideas about how to tread carefully/with respect while still getting the story straight.

    Regards,

    Imogen

    Auckland • Since Jul 2009 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • HamishFraser,

    Sensationalism combined with brevity is not news - it's advertising.
    Classic current example is the current headlines "$220,000 a month living expenses" re the Dotcom story. Tvnz.co.nz right now is running a poll "What do you think about Dotcom's claims for $220,000 a month living expenses?".

    This isn't about news or opinion - it's about page views for advertising driven by sensationalism at the expense of an individual (I don't care how wacky or rich - it's certainly not the real story right now in this intriguing and complex situation).
    This sort of "news" (abusive profiteering) is not worthy of the name or any form of protection or privilege.

    The need for (advertising) revenue to fund reporting is the business issue at the heart of the matter - if our democracy is valued then we need news sources who aren't dependent on advertising and weirdly enough it's the part time blogs who depend on it less right now.

    My point is: if healthy democracy was the goal then the'd be a rule that news is only news if the supplier of it is not standing to profit from its presentation and that anything else can't claim to be "news". This would return some nobility to the role of a reporter and be generally healthy all round.

    Under such a model the TV One "6 O Clock news would have to rebrand as "6 O'Clock" which they've almost achieved already with their tag line: "It's 6 O'Clock".

    Since Mar 2012 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Withers,

    My concern about much of the media I consume today is the selective nature of much of the content. In many cities / towns we have one newspaper and across New Zealand two groups own virtually all of them. While many people do now seek out information online, many more do not. They do things the way they have always done them…and “buy the paper”.

    We have seen many examples of media outlets simply ignoring stories they don’t want to talk about. One example that comes readily to mind was the NZ Herald’s virtual blackout on stories supporting climate change in the lead-up to the 2008 elections…while they, almost daily, published stories highlighting the costs of the Emissions Trading Scheme to the public. This imbalance in the information had the effect of making the ETS look like it was all cost and addressing nothing. Meanwhile, climate science stories came and went in other media throughout this period. The NZ Herald re-discovered climate science after the 2008 elections.

    The same NZ Herald excludes the TVNZ7 program listings from its television page, presumably to support its editorial position that TVNZ7 should be shut down.

    The NZ Herald also used shonky ratings numbers (highlighted by Russell Brown recently) about TVNZ7 viewership to support its editorial line that no one watches TVNZ7 anyway. Attempts to highlight this error have (reportedly) been ignored by the Herald. They can do that with apparent impunity.

    These are just a few examples of how “the media” can very much get in the way of the “news"….and be more or less completely unaccountable for it.

    I’d like to see the Law Commission look at some process where people can at least lodge and accumulate examples like these and when they reach some critical point the status of the media outlet concerned could be reviewed – mainly as to whether or not they really are serving the public interest as opposed to their own. Maybe there would be no sanction….but they perhaps they could be graded, like restaurants, “A”, “B” or “C” for their journalistic integrity as measured by a set of agreed criteria. The examples I refer to above could be documented for any and all to see and decide for themselves how credible they were.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 280 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Good morning.

    Just to note that there's a new and more detailed post from the Law Commission, titled 'Who guards the guardians?', about what a new media regulator could look like and how it might act.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18815 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to HamishFraser,

    Classic current example is the current headlines “$220,000 a month living expenses” re the Dotcom story.

    Slightly off topic but those numbers are rubbish, they are apparently the total amount requested including one-offs to cover back payments to staff and other expenses. The ongoing amount is much less.

    William Akel, representing Dotcom and his business associate Bram van der Kolk, argued that a monthly payment of $28,000 for living expenses, $29,000 for staff and “one-off” payments were requested.

    There is a valid on topic part to this though. What responsibility does a news outlet have to not colour the public’s thinking in matters like this, in this case they are making out that Mr Dotcom is as bad as a finance company boss who stole from “Mums and dads”.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4772 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Law Commission,

    As someone who had a complaint to the press council upheld, I suggest that making such a complaint is a waste of time. It's right up there with reporting jaywalking to the police. The actual recourse available is negligible until the behaviour is so egregious as to justify court action. Giving them real teeth would be a useful step - and I suggest a presumption that equal time and prominence be the usual recourse would help. I would have liked to see (or write) an editorial piece rebutting the claims made about me, and the opportunity to publish the private contact details of the staff involved, since they saw fit to publish mine. Especially since the PC decided that compensation for publishing said details was a matter for the courts.

    I have repeatedly been told that requiring a right of reply would jam up the media with those replies, and would make it harder to publish critical stories. Insofar as I accept those arguments, I regard them as positive changes. With the proviso that truth should be a defense in the press council and in defamation/libel/slander cases.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 462 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    As a (former) indymedia reporter I am watching the definitions with interest. My experience on the ground is that looking the part and acting reasonably will get you into a lot of "media only" events. The legal protections available to media should, I think, be extended to anyone performing the role. Otherwise you can get interesting situations around contract employees and freelancers doing prospective work, where they may not be protected at all unless they can find a recognised media outlet who's willing to back them. Much better to err on the side of more protection, IMO. Even if the price is more gutter journalism.

    On that note, removing any protection media have against claims of harassment and trespass would seem to be a useful option. Especially since much of it happens in front of cameras.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 462 posts Report Reply

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