Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Graham Adams: Stuff crowns itself the arbiter of truth

The media site’s grip on “facts and science” is selective and shaky.

Stuff appears to be taking its self-appointed role as the Ministry of Truth extremely seriously — despite its extremely patchy record on covering what it regards as science and facts.

On August 14, it launched Fire and Fury, an hour of taxpayer-funded agitprop that was designed to demonise anti-vaccine mandate protesters outside Parliament in February as being the dupes of far-right conspiracy theorists and white supremacists.

Its evident overreach was met with derision in some quarters — and even opened the door for Voices for Freedom, a group opposed to lockdowns, Covid vaccines, mandates and Three Waters, to thank the documentary’s host, Paula Penfold, for helping boost its subscriber numbers by 400 per cent.

Perhaps for these reasons, last week Stuff decided to take a different tack. Apparently, even mentioning the aims of the latest protest outside Parliament is now forbidden under new, refreshed standards.

At the beginning of the week, it published an article online under the heading: “'Significant' police presence planned for anti-government protest”.

A day later, it published another article: “Parliament protest concludes without arrests or incidents”.

What was unusual was that neither piece mentioned the concerns that the 1500 people gathered outside our House of Representatives wanted to voice. The reports in Stuff were never more explicit than using the phrase “anti-government protests”.

Longtime journalist Mark Henderson wrote to Anna Fifield, editor of the Dominion Post and Stuff's Wellington newsroom, to object to the fact there had been “no interviews with protesters and not a single word about the actual protest itself”.

Pointing out Stuff’s journalism is funded in part by the government, he wrote that its censorship of the reason for the protest “puts you in league with Burma or something like that”.

“Are you so blinded by ideology that you cannot see the problem?” he asked. “You work for this propaganda outfit.”

Fifield answered Henderson, copying in a dozen staff journalists: “Dear Mark — I'll ignore your insults and respond to the substance: In reporting on the protests yesterday, we made a deliberate decision to cover this as a disruption-to-Wellington story, and not to give a platform to purveyors of mis- and disinformation.

“We stand by our reporting on yesterday’s event, and on our adherence to facts and science.”

Who knew the job of the media was to censor news of what the public — including taxpayers who help pay for Stuff’s reporting — want to protest about?

In her reply, Fifield sounded high-minded but, in fact, how Stuff represents “facts and science” is dubious at best. Mostly, it reports only the facts that correspond with its ideological positions.

After all, this is a news site that uncritically promotes the view that a biological male can become a woman by wishing to be one, with the aid of surgery and medication in some cases. As a consequence, it avoids reporting scientific news that doesn’t fully support that position.

A search of its website shows nothing about London’s Tavistock gender clinic closing after a damning report into its practices, including the use of puberty blockers — despite the fact this could have major implications for New Zealand’s own transgender clinics.

Fifield’s claim of Stuff’s “adherence to facts and science” in this area alone appears to be a rather extravagant stretch.

Its coverage of the mātauranga Māori debate has similarly avoided reporting inconvenient facts. A year ago, for example, it was happy to tell its readers of the Royal Society’s dismissal of the seven professors who wrote to the Listener and argued that: “In the discovery of empirical, universal truths, [traditional Māori knowledge] falls far short of what we can define as science itself.”

Stuff even illustrated its article with a screenshot of a tweet by Professor Joanna Kidman of Victoria University that described the professors as “shuffling zombies” — complete with an embedded GIF of, yes, zombies.

But when the society back-pedalled furiously in May — and came as close to making a formal apology to the professors as it could without actually doing so — Stuff simply didn’t report its statement.

And when it has reported the mātauranga Māori debate, it has repeatedly made grotesque errors.

In March, the Media Council lambasted it for publishing a column written by Dr Siouxsie Wiles that falsely asserted that some of the professors had intimidated “junior colleagues with lawyer’s letters”. It also chastised Stuff for its slow response in correcting that “inaccurate and significantly damaging statement” when it had been warned it was false.

A week later, showing no sign of having been chastened by the council’s condemnation, Stuff published another completely misleading story about the professors.

One of its journalists reported on the Royal Society’s decision to drop disciplinary proceedings against two Fellows among the “Listener Seven” — Professors Robert Nola and Garth Cooper — after complaints had been made about the letter they had signed.

Stuff’s first paragraph claimed: “A controversial letter signed by seven University of Auckland academics about mātauranga Māori and science is not worthy of a full Royal Society investigation, the body has said.”

This assertion was simply wrong. The “body” never said — or even implied — that the professors’ letter was “not worthy of a full Royal Society investigation”.

In fact, what the society said was that ‘the complaint [about the Listener letter] is not amenable to resolution by a Complaint Determination Committee, including by reason of its demanding the open-ended evaluation of contentious expert opinion or of contested scientific evidence amongst researchers and scholars.’”

That is manifestly not the same as stating that the “controversial ‘Listener letter’ was deemed not worthy of Royal Society investigation”.

In fact, the society concluded the professors’ views and others raised in relation to the Listener letter “are of substance and merit further constructive discussion and respectful dialogue”.

Somehow, we are now asked to believe Anna Fifield’s claim that Stuff supports “facts and science” when it appears to not be able to even report a Royal Society decision about a major scientific debate accurately.

You might even think the article amounted to what she described in her email to Mark Henderson as “mis- and disinformation”.

And its record on reporting about Covid vaccines and public health measures has been just as patchy.

As Henderson put it in his response to Fifield’s email:

“Ah, disinformation. Like Stuff reporting that [Covid] vaccines would prevent transmission?

“And how do you know [the protesters at Parliament] are peddling disinformation when you refuse to talk to them?

“And is ‘disinformation’ never peddled at other protests?

“Orwell indeed.”

Stuff’s Orwellian inclinations have now been extended to exposing people in public life who have incorrect thoughts or allegiances.

It has mounted a witch-hunt to ferret out local body election candidates suspected of holding the “wrong” views on issues such as vaccination.

Last weekend, journalist Andrea Vance expanded that campaign to include barrister Lisa Hansen, who holds the role of Chief Gambling Commissioner.

Hansen, Vance said, had demanded “an immediate halt to the country’s vaccination programme, citing wildly inaccurate claims about nanotechnology in Covid-19 jabs”.

She reported that Hansen was a lawyer for Voices for Freedom and New Zealand Doctors Speaking Out with Science (NZDSOS) — while her very part-time job as commissioner requires her to decide on casino licensing applications, and hear appeals against regulatory and licensing decisions made by the Department of Internal Affairs.

A spokesperson for the Department of Internal Affairs told Vance that it “does not monitor the activities of appointees outside appointed duties ‘unless these are seen to be a direct conflict with their role’.

“There does not appear to be any connection between the work of the Gambling Commission and any work for Voices for Freedom.”

Unfortunately, that obvious distinction appears to be of little importance to the Witch-finders General at Stuff.

Pillorying even part-time public servants for their views on topics unrelated to the performance of their jobs is extremely dangerous territory for a national news organisation to enter yet Stuff’s editors and journalists seem completely unaware of the viciousness of the tiger they have by the tail.

It is beginning to look very much like they are embarking — wittingly or unwittingly — on an antipodean version of McCarthyism.

Graham Adams is an Auckland-based freelance editor, journalist and columnist. This article was originally published by and is published here with kind permission.


Kiwialan said...

I cancelled my subscription to the Christchurch Press a couple of years ago because it was so left wing, woke and racist I could no longer waste my money. I wrote letters and comments that were never published so luckily I found this site to try and express my views. If it wasn't for Hosking in the morning and Heather in the afternoon I probably would have gone insane reading all the bullshit news and watching TV news on mainstream media. Stuff are still trying to vote for Hilary. Kiwialan.

Anna Mouse said...

Not too oddly enough, I wholly agree.

I cancelled a long standing Stuff paper sub outright.

They sent me a letter saying how sorry for me going they were....not a Te Reo word in that letter.

Weeks later I got another saying how really really sad they were....Te Reo word in that letter.

Weeks later the third letter saying how really, really, really sad they were and I could rejoin with a MASSIVE discount just for me......not a Te Reo word in that letter.

Now let me be clear Stuff are literally doing themselves in, having taken a side, taken the red queens coin and as such aligned itself to the PJIF (Maori/TOW) criteria.

But to spend and inordinant amount of public and subscriber money on their web (news?) site promoting, enboldening and lionising Maoridom and Te Reo to then send me not one, but three letters with not one word of Te Reo sends me a clear message that the PJIF (Maori/TOW) criteria are set aside as a virtue signal when it comes to garnering a subscriber back.....

In short they are virtue signalling the entire thing, taking the money and alienating almost their entire readership. For what and why is anyones guess.

I am done until they prove that accurate, unbiased, reasoned and reasearched journalism is at their core.

I sadly doubt they can win back the trust however.

The same goes for all media companies TV, Print and Radio who have taken PJIF money.

They have sold their souls to an ideology like cult fanatics.

DeeM said...

Stuff would be stuffed without Labour's taxpayer handouts.

People who still use their own money to buy the rags peddled by this thoroughly biased and disreputable Left-wing activist movement are either raving Lefties, naive and gullible or are in line for a brain transplant.
The first and third options are definitely NOT mutually exclusive.

Mudbayripper said...

Stuffs ability to be honest And unbiased is about all its worth. One dollar. I Believe from memory.

Martin Hanson said...

it is now blatantly obvious that the NZ print media are controlled; only the government narrative is allowed - anything else is 'disinformation'. This is 'soft' totalitarianism. How long before dissenters are sent to 're-education camps'?

Anonymous said...

Yes, good on you Graham for calling them out. I recently posted something on Neighbourly because I wanted to inform and motivate people on what was happening behind the scenes using material posted on this site. Because it ran foul of the current woke narrative espoused by this Government and endorsed by Stuff (due to the PIJF) it not wholly unexpectedly got taken down. (Of course they didn't say that was the reason, just that I'd posted on a similar topic recently and needed to give other 'neighbours' a shot.) If the general populace only appreciated how much we are being controlled, both overtly and subliminally, in what information we are being fed I think they'd be shocked. Naturally, those following sites like this are more aware of what's going down, but still we need people like you calling them to account. Do keep it up and thanks.