After the Three political debate, Newshub brought in analysis from right wingers and lobbyists Jenna Raeburn and Matthew Hooton. There was Left wing pundt Morgan Godfrey, and one journalist, Fairfax political editor Tracey Watkins.
I’ve been thinking about media coverage of the election – the good the bad and the ugly.
Media have made impressive attempts to focus on policies and sensible analysis, and in my opinion, we have been pretty well served. There has been plenty happening and media coverage of the 2017 campaign was not hi-jacked the way it was in 2014 with “Dirty Politics.”
For two or three weeks. media were fawning over Jacinda Ardern and it seems that the personal enthusiasm of some reporters managed to slip past the eyes of TV sub-editors. Meanwhile, TV coverage focused on the views of partisan pundits.
The worst example was in the MediaWorks coverage of the second leaders’ debate where two of the three “commentators” were lobbyists and Right-wing pundits. One – Jenna Raeburn – was later seen on Facebook dancing the National Party campaign bus with deputy PM Paula Bennett. One was from a union Morgan and only one was a journalist, Fairfax political editor Tracey Watkins. Elsewhere as a participant in Three’s “The Project” Ardern had been soft interviewed by the team including her pal, Jesse Mulligan. The Project is clearly aimed at a liberal audience. It’s relationship with Ardern is too cosy, in my opinion,
For two or three weeks. media were fawning over Jacinda Ardern and it seems that the personal enthusiasm of some reporters managed to slip past the eyes of TV su-editors.. Meanwhile, TV coverage increasingly focused on the views of partisan pundits. The worst example was in the MediaWorks coverage of the second leaders’ debate where two of the three “commentators” were lobbyists and right-wing pundits. One – Jenna Raeburn – was later seen on Facebook dancing the National Party campaign bus with deputy PM Paula Bennett. One was from a union (Morgan), and only one was a journalist- Fairfax political editor Tracey Watkins. Elsewhere as a participant on Three’s “The Project” Ardern has been soft interviewed by her pal, Jesse Mulligan. The Project is clearly aimed at a liberal audience and its relationship with Labour is a bit too cosy.
Who we trust with political coverage? It’s a personal thing. People will see media bias at both ends of the political spectrum with journalists accused of all sorts of malfeasance.
Who can we rely on? My starting point is far from exhaustive, and it reflects my age – and my centrist personal politics. It also reflects a view objectivity and neutrality are valuable traits in journalism. Here are my reckons on some of the mainstream commentators who try hardest to remain neutral.
Corin Dann, political editor TVNZ
Dann has always impressed as unrelentingly and palpably neutral in his coverage of politics. This was particularly the case when his “Three” counterpart Paddy Gower became infused with his tabloid styl, campaigned against Labour. But he also avoids tabloid tricks – placing voters and not voters at the centre of his interviews. TVNZ Q & A interviewer Jessica Mutch has also established a strong reputation remaining straight in her coverage of politics.
NZME head of business, Fran O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan is clearly focused on the business world, so, naturally gets lumped in as a commentator from the right. She comes with a clear perspective on how politics affects the sector. But she has been around long enough to know that there are nuances in issues like overseas trade, Her political and economic columns in the NZ Herald have taken a non-partisan perspective and reflect on issues like trade. She has been fair at handing out brickbats and bouquets, Other business writers mentioned in despatches include NBR political writer, Rob Hosking.
Duncan Garner, Mediaworks The Dominion Post.
Duncan Garner’s positioning as a journalist and commentator appears to be as a swing voter sat between the Left and the Right. That means he has detractors from both extremes can both bay for blood. I like the fact that he attacks political coverage from the perspective of ordinary people and in my opinion has a handle on what is important to New Zealanders. He is vigilant and like all good journalists, an equal opportunity stirrer. Also mentioned in despatches is The Nation presenter Lisa Owen, who may be our best political interviewer overall.
Guyon Espiner, RNZ Morning Report co-host.
Espiner has not really got the best voice for radio, but he has shined this year covering the election. A close friend of Garner he has a reputation for remaining politically neutral, and not backing one side or the other. RNZ Caucus podcast series paints him and fellow political broadcaster, Tim Watkin and Lisa Owen as insiders. But he is persistent and supremely confident up against politicians. Espiner’s recent interview with Winston Peters will go down as one of the best altercations ever between a politician and a journalist. John Campbell clearly has a great talent, but I have trouble separating him from the political views he espouses.
Finally a postscript for what for me was the most disappointing aspect of the campaign coverage so far. A tendency for media companies to allow journalists to editorialise . The political reporter came close to PR puffery, in my opinion.
Stacey Kirk hosted a cosy chat between Greens founder Jeannette Fitzsimmons and candidate Chloe Swarbrick. This might be okay six months out. But it was a poor show eight days before an election.