Sssh. Don't tell anyone, but Labour's actually building a coherent plan for running the country. Unfortunately for them, no-one can see past its repeated mis-steps

Pick your parable: from the Jews it's "Do not be wise in words — be wise in deeds". The Chinese say "talk doesn't cook rice". For Americans, it was Benjamin Franklin who declared that "Well done is better than well said". It all comes down to the same point – actions speak louder than words. And if Labour wants to have any chance in the election, someone needs to drum that into the skulls of the party leadership quick-smart.

The latest round of polls are looking dire for Labour and the left in general. They've come at the worst possible time in the cycle, with John Key having his moment of glory in the White House and David Cunliffe trapped in a Donghua Liu hell, albeit one mostly not of his own making. But they are what they are, and with Labour sinking below 30 percent in our Poll of Polls for the first time since early 2012, what they are is potentially fatal.

The smell of failure is hard to scrub off in just three months.

The tragedy for Labour is that in word at least it is looking more like a government-in-waiting than it has for years. Its Fiscal Plan released this week joined up many – but not all – of the dots in its economic policy. What we see is a cohesive and politically sound vision for running the country, one that few, if any, previous Oppositions can match in its thorough thought and costings.

It offers what National, for all its rhetoric, is not – a vision of how a government might grow out of recession and begin to rebalance the economy. On their own, there are good arguments against a capital gains tax, against increased taxes, and against the rush to pay off debt. There are questions around Kiwibuild. But put them together and you see a fully formed policy package that offer a mix of both the orthodox and the bold.

It's telling that National's budget this year was rightly described as Labour-lite, with its focus on social services and nudging up spending. So how fascinating that Labour's "alternative budget" is so blatantly "National-lite" with its author David Parker so eager to show his fiscal restraint, to minimise tax increases and stress Labour's economic cred.

National's "tax and spend" response sounded pre-recorded, as if they'd ignored the document and simply stuck to to the mantra of all good centre-right governments everywhere.

The subliminal message in the words Labour has written is exactly the one it needs the electorate to hear: "Thanks National for holding the fort during the GFC. No major harm done. But it's time for some leadership and action, so we'll take it from here. Frankly, you don't have it in you".

Problem is, while Labour thinks those are the words its saying, what voters are hearing – or more importantly, seeing – is "not ready, not ready, not ready". Labour's words make it look like a government-in-waiting, yet its deeds say anything but.

Why the disconnect? Sure, Labour can moan about how it's been harshly treated by some questionable reporting this week, but it needs to clean its own house.

While National's disciplined leadership sticks to its master-plan – education in January... health in the budget... tax cuts, law and order or whatever it may be at the conference this weekend... and so on, Labour seems to be reacting to one crisis or claim after another. It's swinging at low balls.

Leader David Cunliffe is all over the place. In 2011, Cunliffe was Labour's best campaigner – those who damn him for Labour's poor campaign that year at best aren't able to see it from the voters' point of view and at worst are ABCers determined to scapegoat him regardless. Yet he has regressed significantly since. The primary race was meant to provide the party with a new leader who was fighting fit and on the front foot. Yet for whatever reason he went into his shell over the summer and lost momentum; New Zealanders got their first impression then and weren't convinced. He's yet to force them to reconsider.

And when it comes to laying blame, it's hard to look past him and his team. Mistakes at the first big policy announcement of the year, over-reach with his "leafy suburbs" criticism of Key's wealth, repeating one-liners at stand-ups like a junior MP lacking the confidence to have a grown-up conversation, mis-filed letters and repeated uncertainty over policy. This week's mix-up over oil v dolphins is woeful, especially given it's not the first time he's stumbled over where Labour stands when it comes to environment v exploitation.

Is it poor backroom support? Too much advice? Too much time being spent on factions or internal issues? Too much gotcha politics and not enough time spent on how he'd help New Zealanders do that bit better? I don't know, but those deeds mean that even voters who might be interested in the policies, are struggling to see his incarnation of Labour as the right crowd to make it happen.

And there's another issue, and that's the fear of coalition. How much are the poll problems Labour's own and how much are they concern over the role Internet-Mana might play? While it's impossible to tell cause and effect from raw data, Labour's drop in the past month coincides with the appearance of Internet-Mana on Labour's left. 

For all that the new party might boost turn-out and eliminate wasted vote on the centre-left, there's a risk that centrist swing voters are wary of Internet-Mana's place in a Labour-led government; Labour might want to work out a strategy on that rather rapidly.

Because in brief, it can't afford many more horror weeks; time is short. It needs to marry its deeds to its words and somehow convince voters to take a second look at the party with a fresh pair of eyes.

 

Comments (35)

by Kat on June 27, 2014
Kat

"For all that the new party might boost turn-out and eliminate wasted vote on the centre-left, there's a risk that centrist swing voters are wary of Internet-Mana's place in a Labour-led government; Labour might want to work out a strategy on that rather rapidly."

Why would that be any different a conundrum for 'centrist swing voters' than Nationals strategy with Act, or United Future or the Maori Party or the Conservatives?

by Andrew Osborn on June 27, 2014
Andrew Osborn

Tim: Its Fiscal Plan released this week joined up many – but not all – of the dots in its economic policy. What we see is a cohesive and politically sound vision for running the country

You're kidding, right?

What exactly did we get from Parker?

> A small tax increase for the rich that is just going to generate endless tax avoidance schemes. This was just a hat-tip to the far left whose thinking still runs along the lines of punishing the successful will aid the unsuccessful. A meaningless gesture.

> A half baked capital gains tax proposal that is not fully fleshed out, will have to include many exceptions to avoid burdening the middle class and will also generate endless avoidance schemes. A nightmare for IRD to implement.

> Compulsory Kiwisaver contributions, which for many people is an unwise move - they'd be better off paying their mortage faster

> Some kind of half baked dream about taxing Google.

This is not a government in waiting

 

 

 

 

by Alan Johnstone on June 27, 2014
Alan Johnstone

"Why would that be any different a conundrum for 'centrist swing voters' than Nationals strategy with Act, or United Future or the Maori Party or the Conservatives?"

Because with the excption of the NZCP, all of the above are known factors in govvernment and don't appear to have exerted any noticeable influence.

Greens and IMP bring a fear of the unknown factor. 


by Lee Churchman on June 27, 2014
Lee Churchman

And when it comes to laying blame, it's hard to look past him and his team.

I'm calling shenanigans on this. It's hard to recall a week in certain news organisations in which there wasn't yet another trivial issue manufactured into a breathlessly repeated Cunliffe beat up. It's got to the point where the wife and I will speculate on what this week's on will be. Yet John Key can obfuscate and contradict himself and doesn't get called on it. I can't recall a NZ election in which media bias has been so blatant as this one. The Liu ridiculousness is just the latest episode.

To cap it all we had Patrick Gower pontificating last night about how Labour was having trouble dealing with political smears, as if we wouldn't notice that he's one of the chief culprits. You couldn't make it up.

by Richard Aston on June 27, 2014
Richard Aston

Bang on Tim ,Labour is a bit of a train wreck right now .
"Is it poor backroom support? Too much advice? Too much time being spent on factions or internal issues? Too much gotcha politic"

All the above but it seems their comms people in particular are not up to the task .  They handled the recent  mudslinging badly , it should have been shrugged off and not engaged with so studiously. Cunliffe projects ernestness but not confidence. He projects what he thinks people want but loses authenticity.

Turning it around is possible at this stage but how and with who ?



by Andrew Osborn on June 27, 2014
Andrew Osborn

Here's a suggestion to fix some of Labour's woes:

Their kneejerk reaction to any National Party policy statement or outcome is to reject it outright or propose exactly the opposite. 

Now, it may surprise many of you but the National Party has a lot of smart people on its side, plus a swag of civil service analysts to assist, so quite often they're actually doing the correct thing. In many cases they have even maintained previous Labour Party initiatives for the same reason. 

So Labour's kneejerk 'opposition to anything' more often than not paints it into a corner. They'd be far better off to accept a good idea, regardless of its source and say "we'd do something like that too". It would show a level of maturity so far lacking.

The latest example is the processing of wind fallen trees on the West Coast. So utterly stupid was their opposition that they forced two of their own to cross the floor. It makes them look like school children. Those trees will provide employment and income for the working class - isn't that what Labour is supposed to be about?

 

by Kat on June 27, 2014
Kat

"Those trees will provide employment and income for the working class - isn't that what Labour is supposed to be about?"

Labour is certainly not about pillaging and looting and in this instance the 'working class' as usual would only end up the poorer. National however sees windblown native forests as money lying around waiting to be picked up, as it will only go to "waste" if left to rot. The fact is the nutrients from these fallen trees are a vital part of the natural processes in these forests, which need to be protected if we want them to survive, especially on a conservation estate.

On the economic front, flooding the already struggling market with windblown logs will most likely force down prices and could seriously threaten the existing industry.

But hey, 'brighter future' for someone.

 

by Lee Churchman on June 27, 2014
Lee Churchman

Now, it may surprise many of you but the National Party has a lot of smart people on its side,

Where? Name one!

by Kat on June 27, 2014
Kat

"Turning it around is possible at this stage but how and with who ?"

Richard, its pretty obvious, and to even the most partisan National supporter, that the MSM commentary is 90% biased against Labour at the moment and its no point pretending that it is all Labours own doing. National have done there best to turn NZ elections into presidential races. What we are witnessing is American style electioneering.

I suggest Labour by way of upfront wealthy donor(s) starts its own newspaper, ressurect say The Standard as a daily publication mouthpiece for the left to be pitted against The Herald the daily publication mouthpiece of the right. That would make it fair and neither paper would have to pretend to be unbiased. May the best paper win the most subscribers.

 Oh, and a TV channel wouldn't go amiss either!

Forward to a 'blighted future'.........

by Andrew Osborn on June 27, 2014
Andrew Osborn

STOP PRESS!

According to Grant Robertson (on 1ZB) we're going to be paying capital gains tax on our compulsory Kiwisaver accounts.

 

 

 

by Andrew Osborn on June 27, 2014
Andrew Osborn

Kat: Richard, its pretty obvious, and to even the most partisan National supporter, that the MSM commentary is 90% biased against Labour at the moment and its no point pretending that it is all Labours own doing.

You're living in a state of denial.

Like a feral dog, the press smell weakness and attack. All of Cunliffe's problems are own-goals. Do you want me to repeat the list, in case  you've forgotten...starting with his dodgy CV...?

by Lee Churchman on June 27, 2014
Lee Churchman

Like a feral dog, the press smell weakness and attack.

Pants. They're just rehashing Karl Rove's strategy against Kerry. Some of us more wordly folks have seen this before and recognise it for what it is.

by Tim Watkin on June 28, 2014
Tim Watkin

Kat... because voters are familiar with the gaggle on the right, Conservatives excepted. They're a known quantity and I-M isn't. The Conservatives however are what I-M is to Labour - a risk that voters are wary of. Which is why Key is keeping them at arms' length for so long and sniping at them a bit. (Knowing full well the odds are he'll hand over East Coast Bays).

Andrew - you need to read the document. But the point is that many of these things work together. On its own a CGT would have limited impact, agreed. But tied in with 100,000 new homes, monetary reform, cutting tax incentives on rentals, upping support for small business etc, it offers a clear picture. You may not like it, but it's coherent and fits together.

by Tim Watkin on June 28, 2014
Tim Watkin

Lee, you're going to have to provide evidence for the 'more biased than ever' claim. Sorry, but I hear that every election. And from both sides. National was saying the same at the start of the year with Oravida, Antoine's, Maori Party funding and so on (all of which Paddy either broke or led). So really...

The Liu story is your strongest argument; questions there about how it was run over the past 10 days. But if the man provides a signed statement after weeks of silence, no news organisation is not going to run it. And if the PM speculates, he's going to get coverage. Let's not pretend Clark didn't do the same, especially in later years.

And Key's also now getting questioned about what he got wrong on Liu and how appropriate it is for a PM to trade in gossip. And lookey here, it's Paddy who's doing that. So really...

by Tim Watkin on June 28, 2014
Tim Watkin

Andrew, you make a lot of sense in your second comment. They have looked kneejerk at times and are too often getting into a tangle.

And Kat, it always bugs me when people criticise journalists as poor reporters with wild statements like "MSM commentary is 90% biased against Labour". Pot kettle black. Do you have an analysis to support your 90% claim? I mean, because Oravida has been out of the news for a few weeks, do you just forget the relentless coverage of that? Or are you really just having a go at the Herald? 

by Katharine Moody on June 28, 2014
Katharine Moody

Seems to me that National are going to run a "fear factor" campaign. The five-headed monster;

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10539279

and the "name and shame" campaign;

"If Laila Harre, Hone Harawira, Pam Corkery, Kim Dotcom, Russel Norman, Metiria Turei, David Cunliffe, Matt McCarten, and John Minto..."

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11283768

 

Matthew Hooten repeated the same mantra on The Nation this morning two or three times ... as you do! :-).  Whenever there is talk of policy - this line will be trotted out instead. 

 

So perhaps the left needs a scare tactic as well - one they all agree on and repeat over and over in the same manner. I quite like the "dead rats" one - because as a third term government you are most likely to deal to the most offensive of the dead rats using the tried and true "we have a mandate".

 

This is my guess as to why we aren't seeing alot of new policy plans coming out of National - the forward plan is all about dealing to these "dead rats". Hence, Joyce's campaign strategy is not to focus the population on issues, but rather on fears. 

by Kat on June 28, 2014
Kat

Hello Tim, thanks for your reply.

My statement was “..........the MSM commentary is 90% biased against Labour at the moment…..”

It also bugs me when ‘journalists’ conveniently leave out the full story. And yes the Herald is abysmal and biased at the moment. If you want to really argue the point on that score then lets admit now that “We see nothing, We were not here, We did not even get up this morning.”

by Lee Churchman on June 28, 2014
Lee Churchman

Lee, you're going to have to provide evidence for the 'more biased than ever' claim. Sorry, but I hear that every election. And from both sides. National was saying the same at the start of the year with Oravida, Antoine's, Maori Party funding and so on (all of which Paddy either broke or led). So really...

The evidence is that I watch it. If you're expecting ordinary viewers to keep meticulous records of every single ridiculous attack on the Labour Party, that's a bit much. Nevertheless, people form an impression over time, and the endless run of trivial hit pieces on Cunliffe is something I haven't seen for a long time. It certainly wasn't like this in the last election. 

I would say that both sides complaining doesn't mean very much. It's in the interest of all sides to keep complaining about bias no matter what, since if the other doesn't, the natural tendency is for the bias to flow to your side. 

The Oravida thing was a sideshow, since it was attacking someone from the non-favoured faction of the National Party. I'm sure that many in the dominant faction of the National Party were very pleased at how that went. 

But the real problem is that you're all wasting everyone's time. This endless reporting of perceptions and the horse race does nothing for ordinary people. It doesn't even require much in the way of skill, and reporting of polls is boring. You're supposed to be informing the public rather than reporting what they think. It would be interesting if television journalism was banned for a month from reporting or commenting on public opinion or public perceptions and instead had to relate their own informed judgement. Could they even do it?

Can you explain why it is when I watch television political reporters that I get the distinct impression that they don't know very much about politics? I don't think I'm the only person who has this view.

by stuart munro on June 29, 2014
stuart munro

[Having been alerted to this particular comment by the good offices of David Farrar at Kiwiblog, whose own comment threads are an admirable haven of sanity and good taste, it has been redacted on the grounds of outright badness. Further such comments will see the author losing his Pundit speaking privileges.]

by william blake on June 29, 2014
william blake

I see Team Key has come out with its major election platform; more roads. Its a good metaphor for nationals thinking, pointlessly driving around spending money on things we don't really want or need, more heat than light. 

Lots of support for spinning our wheels.

by Andrew Osborn on June 29, 2014
Andrew Osborn

Tim: You may not like it, but it's coherent and fits together.

I'll give you that. In many senses it's a me-too budget. For most of us it would mean no change. A few at the very top would rearrange their affairs slightly to avoid the additional couple of percent and the tribal Left would be left with the false impression that Labour is still waving a red flag. It ticks a box is all.

Issues:

There is the practicality of implementing CGT. I am informed that the IRD are in no position to to do this.  I'll bet Parker already knows this and if Labour gets in, they could quickly drop the idea when faced with another Novopay. That may be the plan all along.

Compulsory Kiwisaver is ludicrous. It doesn't survive even casual scrutiny:

> By excluding those below an (as yet undefined) threshold of income it fails to enforce saviings amongst those who most need to save. Most of those above are already in the scheme.

> For many, compulsory kiwisaver is a very poor financial move - they'd be FAR better off putting the money into their mortgage. Labour says it wants to improve housing affordability. How does undermining peoples ability to pay down their mortgage "fit together" with this Tim?

What clearly doesn't fit together is Team Labour. Too often they've had to run around after a policy statement making adjustments and qualifications when the media digs into the detail. In some cases Labour MPs have outright contradicting each other! It gives the lasting impression that they've not thought it through or briefed their team before going public. Is this the 'war room' producing policy without due consultation?

 


by william blake on June 29, 2014
william blake

Andrew you are spot on with the disarray the left seem to be in with different voices, but at least they have conviction of their differing position unlike the right that just have memory loss when called on wierd policy. (of course the right have convictions too, Banks etc.)

by Nick Gibbs on June 29, 2014
Nick Gibbs

Labour is rubbish as opposition. 

  1. Will they allow drilling in the Maui Dolphin Santuary? - yeah/nah.
  2. Will they allow extraction of native logs on the West Coat? - yeah/nah.
  3. Will they forgo an election coalition deal with IMP? - yeah/nah - we'll change the law after we use it for our benefit. 
  4. Is David Cunliffe the best person to lead the Labour Party? - yean/nah
  5. Are they of the left or the right?- Yeah/nah - that depends whose asking the question.

LOL

by Tim Watkin on June 29, 2014
Tim Watkin

So Kat, "at the moment" is your standard to judge by? Labour has been run hard this past week – in some ways unfairly – and that amounts a) to bias and b) a generalisation across all media? So presumably when the same journalists were hounding Judith Collins for months, the media was biased against National "at that moment"? Or the week or two that Cabinet Club was doing the rounds? For me, if you're going to use words like bias and suggest it is that widespread, you have to have more than one story (Liu) and one newspaper (the Herald) to go on.

Wouldn't you concede that was a little over the top?That maybe Labour has to look at itself to some extent? Otherwise what/who else are you referring to?

by Tim Watkin on June 29, 2014
Tim Watkin

Lee, I guess the question I'm throwing back at you is whether 'the impression you've formed over time' might not have something to do with your own preferences and politics, as much as the reporters? It's interesting that people seldom are critical of reporters being too hard on the parties they oppose. Journalists aren't perfect and are caught up in their work issues and own views just like anybody in any job, but given the size of the country, the resources available to media professionals here and the efforts made, I just don't think they deserve the kneejerk scorn. Do you make the same generalisations about doctors, plumbers or teachers? Or is it that because you see journalists' work in snatches on various days, it seems reasonable to be so judgmental yet shrug off a question for evidence? Is it like art – you just know what you don't like?

Look, it's your opinion and that's fine. I'm not feeling especially defensive, but with your sorts of comments (and those by Stuart and Kat in this thread) I do feel compelled to defend a group of people who in most cases do the best they can amidst all the other everday pressures of modern life. (I'd be better off just going to bed!). While there are all sorts of weaknesses in the profession (in the same way that many professions in NZ have some world class individuals in them, but across the board are patchy for reasons of scale, culture, resources, talent pools and more), the criticism that journalists are all (or 90%) stupid or biased or trying to dumb you down deserves to be countered. As with so many things in NZ, I don't think we always appreciate how lucky we are. But that's just me.

I don't know what you do for a living. But here's a final question for you... perhaps ask yourself if your work would stand up to the quality and public scrutiny you demand of journalists day-in, day-out. Just something for you to consider.

by Kat on June 30, 2014
Kat

Tim, of course Labour has to look to itself. Cunliffe fell into a trap. Silly boy! But you and I know that is all it was. On the other hand the Oravida affair and Cabinet Club reflect blatant arrogance bordering on corruption from the National government. Surley on those two affairs you would support better scrutiny than just lip service 'hounding' from the MSM.

by william blake on June 30, 2014
william blake

Tactic #8: Sell an Adolescent Worldview.
"The Rove campaign machine sells an adolescent worldview that resonates
  with the American public"

* An uncomplicated world
* A world of immediate gratification
* A self-absorbed world

tax cuts anybody?
by Richard Aston on June 30, 2014
Richard Aston

It is interesting how much we project onto the media do you not think?

Lee "supposed to be informing the public rather than reporting what they think"
Kat "Main Stream Media commentary is 90% biased"

We seem to project very high standards on the media, they should be an unbiased public service dedicated to delivering the full story and nothing but the full story.

Lovely ideals but almost all media are commercial organisations not funded by tax payers or public donations. To be funded they need people to buy their service and that means in many ways they reflect what people want to pay for.

Print and TV media are struggling for commercial stability as they adapt to the internet. Blogs and web news sources produce volumes of comment. Younger people don't get all their news from mainstream media; hey older people like me don’t either. The information world is changing fast; the old idea of relying on independent and well-resourced journalists to "inform the public" is declining.  With the rise of PR companies and the shift of advertising dark arts into the public sphere, the lines between persuaders and informers are becoming blurred.

I dunno but my sense is it’s now up to us, thinking people, to figure out the story and perhaps even discern the truth occasionally.

Journos like Tim are doing the best they can in a strange and changing environment, at least he is talking about it here. As Tim said he could be "better off just going to bed!”

Personally I feel better informed when a TV producer like Tim writes freely on what he is thinking about.

by Katharine Moody on June 30, 2014
Katharine Moody

My goodness. Labour followers need to get off the idea that the media is going to sink their team. The media will report what you say. Labour's problem at the moment is that their policies may be intellectually and fiscally robust, but that's bureaucratic and boring.

Take the headline policy for CHCH - we'll build 10,000 houses, with a sub-text of and here is how we've costed it. Total yawn, just more bureaucratic promises - like the Nats new grand plan for the city centre. Christchurch people just want rid of the bureaucracy - they're presently smothering in it. How about this for an alternate headline policy:

Stop the bureaucracy - take the city back

And here's the sub-text:

 - overhaul of EQC (ie firings)
- suspend the licences of insurance companies who don't resolve outstanding claims within three months of the election
- immediate start on Belfast bypass and Northern Corridor
- moratorium on education restructuring

 

I can't take credit for those - it came from someone who actually lives in the place - but knowing a number of folks who have suffered through the Brownlee years down there, I suspect it would win it for the left.

by Kat on June 30, 2014
Kat

"Journos like Tim are doing the best they can in a strange and changing environment, at least he is talking about it here."

Fair enough Richard however Tim did appear to have taken my comments personally and focus on the minutiae of the percentage points I mentioned rather than the more serious issue of the rapidly emerging presidential style electioneering in this country that has, in my humble opinion, fostered MSM bias.

by Antoine on June 30, 2014
Antoine

So... should the general lack of condemnation for Stuart Munro's proposal to beat two journalists almost to death be interpreted as support for that proposal?

by Lee Churchman on July 01, 2014
Lee Churchman

@Richard

We seem to project very high standards on the media, they should be an unbiased public service dedicated to delivering the full story and nothing but the full story.

Journalists are given significant legal privileges that the rest of us don't have (that's why Cameron Slater is currently arguing he's a journalist to a court). They are given these privileges not because we love them, but for the role they are supposed to play in enabling a democratic society to function properly. If they aren't going to do that job properly for whatever reason, be it commercial realities or whatever, then I see no reason for them to retain those privileges. No one would be impinging on their freedom of speech – they would be as free as any other pack of sophists or carnival barkers to say what they like, but they would lack any special privileges for doing so.

@Tim

Lee, I guess the question I'm throwing back at you is whether 'the impression you've formed over time' might not have something to do with your own preferences and politics, as much as the reporters?

I don't think so in this case, although I don't belong to any political party and haven't voted in a long time. I wouldn't have said this about the last election, and I wasn't resident in NZ for the election before that, but this one appears noticeably different to me. It reminds me of the 2004 election in the US, and National appears to be following the Karl Rove playbook to some extent. The steady flow of ridiculous beat ups about Cunliffe are daft (reminiscent of Howard Dean's scream). One report I recall had a go at Cunliffe because some random lunatic yelled at him from a car – is that news?

Do you make the same generalisations about doctors, plumbers or teachers? 

Why would I? There's no obvious equivalence. 

I'll ask again, why do the media spend so much time reporting public perceptions instead of informing the said public? Doesn't it seem odd to you that institutions charged with the task of informing the public shoulld spend a lot of time talking about the uninformed opinions of a public on subjects they're failing to properly inform them about? What would media look like if the news took a one month moratorium on reporting polls and mentioning public perceptions. Lord knows they might have to start looking at facts. How awful that would be.

I don't know what you do for a living. But here's a final question for you... perhaps ask yourself if your work would stand up to the quality and public scrutiny you demand of journalists day-in, day-out. Just something for you to consider.

I teach philosophy at a university (re: this topic, I've taught courses in media ethics, although it's far from my area of specialisation, which is far less practical). Not a glamorous or well paying job, but I enjoy the work and it pays the mortgage.

I can't get away with not answering questions, avoiding the issue, or not backing up everything I say, because the people I work with are trained in logic and argumentation and would immediately call me on it. When I give a lecture or a paper I'm responsible for what I say and I have to answer people's questions or respond to their objections. If I held to the standards of argument commonly observed on TV3 news, for example, I would quickly be fired. That's what responsibility looks like. It's no more special than plumbers being required to do work that doesn't leak or Doctors being required to actually treat their patients rather than giving them motivational speeches.

Such responsibility is far from such displays as the disgraceful episode in the Herald over the last week or so.

by Richard Aston on July 01, 2014
Richard Aston

Fair enough Lee I respect your idealism.

I guess I am more of a pragmatist but with an interest in the changing social landscape we are working and living in. I am trying to point out the widening gulf between the civic ideals of journalists "enabling a democratic society to function properly" and the reality of that changing society, which is all of us including the packs of sophists and carnival barkers.

I do admit to a fondness for carnival barkers though. Perhaps explained by one side of my family coming from a long line of circus people.

The original Sophists look interesting, pity the word has become derogatory.


by Katharine Moody on July 01, 2014
Katharine Moody

@Lee

Really good points about the social responsibility that media should understand and reflect on.

Hopefully you'll vote this year. I look at participation in democratic elections as a sort of duty to use my vote to counter social injustice, and indeed media bias is a major social injustice plaguing global society today. Not that I vote for or against the media darlings, just becuase they are the darlings - but when the media do display such bias, I often look more closely to determine what the people/parties they are biased toward are saying/doing that appears such a threat to the status quo?

I don't think these injustices are quite so awful/pronounced in NZ as in the US - but your comparative comments I find very interesting.

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