Unsurprised, new research shows trust in media at new low

by Jake Quinn

Radio NZ had a great little piece of coverage on morning report on some just published UMR research showing that public confidence in the media is falling.

It would seem Journalists, who generally kick around in the gutter with politicians and used-car salesman, are now delving to new lows.

750 randomly selected adults were asked to rate the news media on accuracy, balance, and willingness to admit to mistakes.

A quarter said the New Zealand media are inaccurate in reporting the news, only a third thought they were accurate, a third thought they’re one-sided, and half said the media are unwilling to admit to their mistakes.

These findings don’t seem particularly outrageous or surprising, at least to me, and nor was the bare-faced denial exhibited by the country’s news chiefs.

Keith Slater, TV3’s Auckland bureau chief, rejected the findings saying that he, working at the heart of the media… just cant understand them.

The Dominion Post’s new editor, Bernadette Courtney, is reported as saying she thinks the study is rubbish – based on the fact that the paper doesn’t receive “this level of complaints direct to the news paper”.

Bernadette says that corrections are run when they occur and are printed on page 3.  She says the figures don’t stack up “to what we actually see and hear at the paper”.

Her rebuttal, like Slater’s (at least as they were represented on morning report today), fails to falsify the research’s claim, criticise the research methods, questions asked, or any other methods that might typically be employed to undermine the research findings.

One gets the impression that the attitude from the news chiefs is that “how dare the great unwashed espouse such lies about our journalists, our omni-benevolent pillars of truth.”

Former TVNZ news chief Bill Ralston, however, no longer has a professional interest in staring down these research findings.

Unlike the others, Bill calls this “really worrying news for the mainstream media”.  He reckon’s people are becoming sceptical of the press because of the well publicised downsizing of newsroom staff – with less journalists and less sub editors they’re likely to make more mistakes he says.  I’d say he’s on the money. (he’s also blogged on it here).

Super-gold-card carrying journalist Jock Anderson, who’s been in journalism for more than forty years, says journalists need to pull their socks up. He says that some journo’s do make too many mistakes and don’t provide enough balance.

I wonder if any of Jock’s former colleagues at the once grand NZ Truth magazine, now New Zealand’s only pure tabloid (packed with page three girls, alien stories and ads for the sex industry), would fall into this category? And the award for best supporting irony by a senior journalist goes to…

Jock also goes on to rightly point out that this is all symptomatic of the blurring in the media of real news and entertainment.

He takes aim at television and Campbell Live in particular (referring here to the “fake” interview with the “fake” medal thief).

TVNZ doesn’t escape Jock’s criticism “I can think of better things for television reporters to be doing than making frocks” he gasps, in reference to TV1’s coverage of fashion week.  Jock thinks the press got off lightly in this survey and i’d be inclined to agree.

With the average age of journalists going down every year due to cost-saving-senior-sackings, and television newsrooms filling up with pretty-little-twenty-somethings (or “overdressed teenagers who can’t stop grinning” as the dimpost calls them), is it any small wonder that the respect Kiwi’s hold for their news media is dwindling?

And don’t blame the journalists, hell, they do what they’re told.  This is the bosses’ fault.  Their tendency towards US style infotainment is ruining news in this country and people are noticing.

Thank god for Radio New Zealand.

PS. It would seem there is actually quite a lot of resentment out there to the news media.  Check out the comments on this story on stuff:

“Big surprise, the NZ media is taking up more sensationalist rubbish which grabs attention and sells. Watch the close up show after the news and listen to the silly things asked “How did you feel when you found out your brother had been shot?” says Senthil.

“Maybe I’m getting old, but I remember when news reporting was about… news. I don’t want to see personality when people present the news, I want to see facts. Is it too much to ask?!” says Alain.

“The state of the media in NZ has been abysmal for many years now and it has gotten particularly bad over the last 5 years.” says Adrian.