Sunday, February 14, 2021

Frank Newman: Maintaining high standards of local reporting


Let me talk you through the latest issue of the Whangarei Leader. It's Whangarei's only free community newspaper and part of the Stuff stable. It claims a readership of around 40,000.

This week there were 14 pages, plus a cover wrap - two pages advertising the Round the Bays fun run in Auckland.

Page 1. Article titled "The truth about Aotearoa's past".

Page 2. A generic money matters column appearing in all Stuff papers.

Page 3. Four articles, none local: "Challenging our country's history", "Segregation in the south", "Triple murders blamed on innocent Maori", and "Victoria Spa police raid: Law that destroys lives".

Page 4. Article titled "Grim welcome for island visitors", about a Maori urupa on Waiheke Island.

Page 5. Article titled "Anti-jewish hate speech that rocked Remuera".

Page 6. Article about a failed appeal against the Race Relations Act that took place in 1977.

Page 7. Half a page of "What's On" listings through to 29 April. Local news! Well, sort of.

Pages 8 and 9. Whangarei District Council paid advertorial. (The WDC is the Leaders largest advertiser. Hmmm, is that why the Whangarei Leader refused to print a paid advertisement containing the Maori ward petition organised by Democracy Northland?)

Page 10. Article, "Kiwi's knowledge of NZ history 'disappointing'", referring to research done by the Waitangi National Trust.

Page 11. Two local articles! One about a local GP going to work for the Navy, and the other about the new CEO of NorthTec listing her credentials as an experienced iwi and Maori development chief executive.

Page 12. A "nice neighbour" column. As it happens the nice neighbour is quite a distant neighbour as they live in Matamata. (Maybe there are no 'nice' neighbours in Whangarei!)

Page 13. Crossword and Suduko (which I am picking is the most popular page).

Page 14. Two more local stories! One encouraging people to buy tickets for the Whangarei matches of the Rugby World Cup tournament. The other one titled "Man fined for fishing offences", about a chap with a Maori sounding name appearing in the Whangarei District Court on two fisheries charges.

And that's the local news. Nothing about the largest paper petition ever presented to the three local councils signed by +14,000 locals demanding a referendum on Maori wards. I guess that's not big local news and does not fall within the meaning of what the Minister of Broadcasting, Kris Faafoi, referred to as "sustainable public interest journalism" this week when he announced a $55 million fund available to private sector media like Stuff, the owners of the Whangarei Leader.

This is what the Minister said in his press release:

"The Minister for Broadcasting and Media has launched a fund to support public interest journalism to ensure communities across the country are kept informed on issues that affect them and their communities.

“Grassroots public interest journalism, such as community reporting and investigative media enterprises, have been in decline or struggled for support in the past decade or more,” Kris Faafoi said.

“Given its importance, and the Government’s Manifesto commitment to support public interest journalism, we are investing $55 million over the next three years to provide on-going support for public interest journalism to be produced and shared through New Zealand media outlets,” Kris Faafoi, said.

“The fund will ensure this sort of journalism continues to play its vital role in sharing the stories that keep New Zealanders informed and engaged as well as supporting a healthy democracy by holding voices of influence to account.”

“COVID-19 and the lockdowns last year highlighted the important role our media plays in providing up-to-date, independent and trusted information to the public. We want to ensure that kind of coverage, is supported and developed across all community levels, where media operations have often cutback resources to reduce their costs,” Minister Faafoi said.

"It will be open to all media entities; from large media organisations through to small, local entities, Māori, Pacific and ethnic media."

$55 million of other people's money seems like a pretty cost-effective way to make sure community newspapers like the Whangarei Leader continue their very important role of keeping their local grassroots community informed and engaged on matters of concern to the local community.

But the one thing I do miss in the local papers nowadays is the book review. Perhaps I could provide one for George Orwell's book, 1984 but I suspect that, like the local Maori ward petition, may not reach the threshold of public interest set by Stuff or Minister Faafoi.

Frank Newman, a writer and investment analyst, is a former local body councillor. 


DeeM said...

Considering the appalling record most national and local papers have in attaining balanced reporting, I suspect that the $55 million fund to support public interest journalism is nothing more than a fund to promote the left-wing Labour party agenda i.e a propaganda fund.
Surely, if local papers were appealing to ALL their readership with fair, balanced and interesting reporting then they wouldn't need a $55 million fund to bail them out. Advertisers would be queuing up to reach this large pool of potential customers.
Bailout funds don't fix problems like these. Left-wing governments can't grasp the concept of supply and demand. Supply a product people want and the demand increases. This is typical of socialist economics which subsidises things that are not efficient or popular rather than improves them.
Government funding of bad products will not increase readership - it will only waste taxpayer money. This is something this government excels at and in this case has the added advantage of promoting their half-baked policies.

Robert Arthur said...

I cannot understand Stuff. It seems that in their local papers they are going to ostensibly present NZs history by raking through minor events of the past in a protracted series re-examining events from a fashionable current PC viewpoint. And milking to the limit all injustices perceived in that light. For some strange reason they seem absolutely determined to stir up race based division.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr Newman's comments. I live in Kerikeri and the local paper (also owned by Stuff) is exactly the same. No local news covered - the adverts are predominantly for Whangarei businesses. The paper is now only good enough to be used as toilet paper when the supermarkets run out.

Anonymous said...

It makes you sick does it not? Dee is right its a propaganda fund. Boycott this paper . Boycott also the very biased NZ Herald, TV1 & TV3.Blatantly fake news. Vote with your dollars. We and many others we know about are now getting their international news only from the EPOCH TIMES & SKY NEWS Australia. "You can't fool all of the people all of the time."

Charles said...

This rag is also posted in the Waikato. Nothing of relevance and yes, the only page worth any consideration is the quiz and crossword. I saw the front page about NZ's history, rolled my eyes and turned the page, more leftist propaganda. The publishers need two pages of public comment since in any periodical these are inevitably the most interesting. It is appalling that so much tax payer funding goes into this worthless trash.

Anonymous said...

We used to receive the Piako Post. When they started apologising for misrepresenting maori in their news items, we assumed that all their reporting was misrepresentation. So, we have a big sign outside our home "No Piako Post". I suggest we all do that, let them know we don't want their trash through our post boxes. The newspaper isn't fit even for the comport heap.

Dave said...

I spent most of my working life in the Media, Radio then Newspapers.
Originally we were trained to report and a balanced report on all news and current affairs. In RNZ News we were proud of the organisation that produced top quality unbiased news and current affairs. Fast forward to 2021 and all our media has been overtaken by left wing, woke radicals who unashamedly push their leftist and racist views with an encouraging and complicit government.
An example since leaving APN the producers of the Herald and many local community newspapers I used to write the odd opinion piece which were printed. My views were more to the "right" of the political mainstream but always fair and well researched. However suddenly my articles were not printed any more when I enquired why to the Editor at the Herald I was told "we don't have to give a reason, that's our decision and its final" says it all really.
Free speech has gone, we have a population being brainwashed willingly and I fear for our future.
NZ, I still call it that, needs a charismatic new leader and a political party to contest parliament seats but they had better be quick because even that democratic institution is threatened.

Ross said...

I have said for a while now, the centre right people in NZ politics missed a golden opportunity. They should have got a few wealthy people together to pitch in and buy Stuff. They could have used the money to completely revamp the business and give a more balanced news outlet. The two main papers --the Dom Post and the Chch Press paper could have been merged into one and made into a NZ version of the Australian.

Now we are all subsidising the left wing propaganda news outlets.

Don said...

Our local rag,"Hutt News", is little read since it is merely a reprint of local news from the "Dompost." One feature I always read is opinion from two MPs about a current topic, Labour v. National. This week it was, "Learning history teaches us to think critically." I was saddened to see Arena Williams begin by recounting a myth learned as a 12-year-old about "men,women and children burned in their church" at Rangiaowhia. The church is still there and the lie long discredited.If this is an example of the indoctrination planned for our children I weep for my country.

Frank Newman said...

Anonymous February 16, 2021, at 9:00 PM refers to a Kerikeri publication. I assume the reference is to the Bay Chronicle. It used to be a very good community paper in its day but not now.

Like the Whangarei Leader, the Stuff owned Bay Chronicle refused to accept paid advertising from Democracy Northland which was little more than a petition form calling for a binding referendum to be held about the introduction of Maori only seats on the Northland Regional Council.

I personally made a formal complaint to the editor about their refusal, receipt of which was not even acknowledged. Fortunately, there were some papers prepared to publish the form, we used direct mail, and we had a great team collecting signatures at local events and door-knocking so we were able to gain the required number of signatures (and by a significant margin). That of course, was before Big Sister stepped in and trampled on the democratic rights of the +15,000 signatories.

Howard Harris said...

I find the "leader" very useful, because I cook and heat water on a wood stove. There is just enough content to read before screwing it up to loght the fire. I think the ink makes it more flammable.


Rob Wigmore said...

I live in Whangarei and find the local Advocate and Leader becoming so Maori biased they are hardly worth reading. No balance to their stories and every Maori name mentioned has to have their tribal affiliation. I'm ok with this if the article is about Maori leadership etc. but if a Maori kid scores a try, or a Maori fisherman catches a marlin, their tribe is always added . To what purpose?? Perhaps I should start signing my name adding (Irish, English) as i too am proud of my heritage.
The article on Segregation at Pukekohe was total garbage. I grew up in Pukekohe from 1958 to 1972 and attended High School there. Pukekohe was very inclusive then with Chinese, Indian Maori and European all together in schools and in sports clubs. None of my friends, some of whom still live there, have ever heard of the "Reservation" they refer to, so where did this come from.

Rob Wigmore (Irish, English)