Media ignore rules | The Jackal

29 Jun 2014

Media ignore rules

As the dust settles on the Donghua Liu scandal it's worthwhile taking a closer look at the rules that many media outlets appear to be oblivious of. These rules are pretty straightforward and have been in place for a very long time. It is therefore concerning that they've been in many cases blatantly ignored and in some cases scoffed at by some journalists who appear to be determined to decide the upcoming election.

No matter what your politics are, journalistic integrity is important because without it we the general public cannot hope to be properly informed on important matters that will effect our lives. Being properly informed is an issue that transcends political beliefs and is an integral part to a democratic society. Even the Australian right wing politician Malcolm Turnbull thinks that an independent press is highly important, saying in 2011:

The most effective check and balance on government has been an independent press which maintains its credibility by ensuring that its criticism is balanced and based on fact - based indeed on solid journalistic work.

Turnbull also highlights the issue of how time and staffing pressures lead towards shriller and shallower coverage. This appears to be exactly what happened with the NZ Herald’s recent coverage of the Donghua Liu debacle whereby a number of false allegations were made against Labour. But it was worse than that, because the Herald failed to apply some of the basic tenets of journalism to their reports, that of proper acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent balanced dissemination to the public.

Unfortunately the Herald appears to have gone out of its way to print untruths without any effort given to investigate and report on the actual facts. They also printed these untruths without providing those they were accusing any proper recourse to defend themselves, which completely ignores some of the basics rules of journalism: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance.

Are we to believe that the journalists involved in that particular smear campaign over at the Herald weren't aware of these rules? I don't think that’s a valid excuse. Instead it appears that those involved intentionally printed untruths and for that there should be a proper apology in a place of prominence and perhaps even some resignations.

The Press Council outlines the rules here, which I think that any journalist who wants to be taken seriously should at least have a basic understanding of. The Broadcasting Act 1989 (PDF) also outlines some simple rules for our media outlets to follow. The only reason they shouldn't be followed is if the mainstream media cannot read.