Fake news, fake ads, busted by the Press Council

The NZ Herald and Stuff have been slammed by the Press Council for their fake ads masquerading as fake news:

The Press Council has issued a rebuke over the publication of sponsored content on Stuff and nzherald.co.nz that masquerades as news stories, noting that this practice is a breach of the professional standards expected of a trusted media and that some of the ‘stories’ published are simply inaccurate.

What a slap down, not just inaccurate in many instances but simply fake.

The Press Council has undertaken consideration of this complaint on the basis that if material is being published in a way that makes it look as if it is genuine news it should, at least, be held to the same standards as news content.

The Council is also alarmed at the way news and advertising content has been mingled together beyond the control of news sites’ editors.

They sold out, and now their entire business is based on the delivery of fake news aka sponsored content. The Spinoff is even worse.

The decision relates to native advertising material that is dressed up as editorial content and placed at the bottom of each story page. In the ‘stories’ covered in this particular complaint, completely fictional characters – a Levin man, Paraparaumu kid and Christchurch taxi driver – were purported to have made considerable sums from investing in Bitcoin. Viewers were attracted to the material because it was localised to their hometowns and presented as news headlines. On accessing the supposed articles, readers were taken to Bitcoin promotional material.

Fake locations, fake people, fake ads, fake people. In other areas of business this is called fraud, and deceptive conduct.

While the publications argue the content is advertising and they use visual cues to distinguish this paid content from independent news, the Council has ruled those cues fall short of international best practice, as does the mixing of news and advertising. The content is so clearly intended to look like news that the Council decided to accept the complaint and consider its impact on journalism standards in this country. As a result, we are urging the news sites to harden the lines between news and advertising, to ensure transparency and protect the New Zealand media’s hard-won reputation for independent and high quality journalism. Readers deserve nothing less.

Well that’s screwed their business model, and the business model of The Spinoff.

NZME and the New Zealand Herald, like other publishers across the industry, rely on the revenue that advertising generates to ensure that we can continue to deliver the latest breaking news to its readership from the best journalists in New Zealand. Native advertising, when properly disclosed, helps us to achieve this.

They rely on fraudulently tricking their customers? What a curious admission. The problem is people can’t distinguish between their fraudulent fake news and the real news any longer. No wonder media organisations’ trust ratings are lower than hookers and politicians.

The Press Council should take a wider look into the practice and start applying some sanctions. Otherwise these organisations will just ignore it.


-NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.