How can we hold the MSM to account?

by Gavin

We are living in an age where journalists who don’t know the difference between Kepler and Kevlar, yet hold public opinions. When they think the microphone is turned off, they describe people as heifers and lardos then, when out, apologise profusely and move on to the next item. Yet these people want to guide public opinion and moral narrative on important issues.

The traditional TV and newspapers are dying media with declining revenues and reader / viewership as they are overtaken by new media options where people can find narratives and opinions that are different from the standard MSM fare offered as reality.

The decent into clickbait and Kim Kardashian’s side boob does not solve the desire for many people for meaningful dialogue on national and global affairs. There are blogs like this one where people can gather for some alternatives but this is a small place that exists outside the general debate that most people see. This may be the biggest blog but the existing MSM at best, ignore the blog and, at worst, try to subvert and sabotage it.

I also notice the online Herald has a serious reduction in the number of articles and opinion pieces that readers are able to comment on. Is this because contrarian opinions might undermine the narrative or is it because they can’t afford proper moderation services to weed out hate speech etc? Or, are they afraid that contrarian opinions might indicate that they are so far out of touch with ordinary New Zealanders that it may become too visible to ignore?  

The fundamental problem remains though. How do we hold politicians, journalists and flawed decisions, like the discharge without conviction for the Stephen Dudley murderers, to account for their actions?

We have Facebook, twitter, blogs and other online media. But, again, they are powerless to hold people to account, which is meant to be the purpose of the fourth estate. Andrew Little has had to apologise for his outburst about Sherwin, I suspect under the threat of legal action. If you have enough money, like the Hagermans, you can use the legal system for redress. But, for most of us, we don’t have the resources to seek legal responses. So, who goes into bat for the ordinary person?

We know who it should be, but the lack of objective reporting and selective questioning to avoid asking the important questions seems to be evident. We have the pimping-the-poor stories where their tales of woe have been paraded before us daily. We are expected to swallow the contents without question. But, where were the questions about the family of 8 who were kicked out of 3 houses due to P issues? Say, for example, where was CYFs for the children of this family? Why are they having 8 children and expecting the taxpayer to support them whilst they continue using P? How much of the Auckland housing crisis for social housing is due to houses being polluted by P use making them uninhabitable? The list could go on.

The Press Council appears to be a case of the poacher also being the gamekeeper, with no substantial sanctions to keep things honest or censure shoddy journalism. This may explain the lack of objectivity in reporting anything Nicky Hager chooses to say, on any topic, even when he is wrong and his hit jobs have no substance re Judith Collins and dirty politics. Interestingly, it was Phil Goff who lied to parliament, but there was no sanction about that. I think the Dirty Politics book where he stated giving the left-leaning journalists the chance to repent and reform without the same level of scrutiny as the right-leaning ones is at best dishonest and at worst just plain corrupt. But he is untouchable and unaccountable. Why?

I don’t have the answer, but I am looking for it. I am looking for a media process that is interactive and allows the addition of facts, backed up by evidence from people who have expertise in the field under discussion. I would like to see media that can be commented on, offers more than one person’s opinion and encourages debate on issues that face us; a media that reaches out further than the blogosphere.

Most importantly, I would like to see a media that demands answers to questions around discharge without convictions for violence leading to death; for politicians who oppose charter schools because the unions do, without having visited one until recently so he can tick the box; for journalists describing a homelessness crisis, without offering something more in depth than just repeating the complaint of the selected person;  and for the journalists who condemn Israel on their visits to Gaza or the West Bank and then return to Israel to write their poison from the safety of Israel’s democracy because they don’t feel safe enough to stay in Gaza, especially the openly rainbow ones.

I would like to hear what other people think about this. What can we do?

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