Monday, 15 October 2018

Thinking about "The Rotting Corpse of Daily Journalism"

"But my real suspicion was this: the stench was from the rotting corpse of daily journalism after it had finally, and deservedly, carked it from overdosing on clickbait, reporting speculation and breathless beat-ups." -- Greg Dixon, "On the (Carterton) pong track," NZ Listener, Oct. 13 .., pp 94.

This posting  is not about Carterton or Dixon but his comment so well fits my topic that I could not help but use it. It is about another daily "pong": Mike Hosking and why he's given so much media space.

My purpose is not personal. Mike Hosking may be a decent person in his private life. 

But. publicly, he is constantly at the forefront expressing opinions that can only be damaging to NZ society, undermining our ability (and I quote /Maryanne Wolf speaking in another context*) 

"to discern truth, apply critical analysis, gauge inference, develop empathy, appreciate beauty and go beyond reach the knowledge and wisdom necessary to sustain a good society."

I start by defining the typical Hosking post, his expertise, his political and world views, his usefulness to his employers, and conclude by a quick look at his latest opinion (on the recent fuel price increase) and ask our media why they provide him with such a platform.

What's a typical Mike Hosking post? 

 It is published by the sometimes balanced NZ Herald; it appears under a sub-heading COMMENT — never analysis or news. Hosking does not do analysis and he selects his own news.

His comments are always opinionated, arrogant, conceited and dogmatic. 

He considers the most complex situations simple and easy to fix if done his way. I have yet to find any evidence that he has any expertise on any of the many topics upon which he has an opinion, and can only assume media, in promoting him, is more concerned with its advertising profits than its reputation as part of a Fourth Estate that should help "sustain a good society."

His avenues for self-promotion are endless. He has his own show on Newstalk ZB and open access to the NZ Herald, both of which are owned by NZ Media and Entertainment. NZME operates 32 newspapers, 8 radio networks and several websites in twenty-five markets across the country, and reaches over 3 million people. Hosking is a highly rated jockey in the NZME stable.

He is overtly right wing, describing himself as "a money person. I'm a capitalist. I'm to the right of Roger Douglas." (Wikipedia). He is decidedly anti-Labour-NZ First-Greens, but makes an occasional dig at National's Simon Brides, I suspect because he'd prefer another leader. He makes no effort to view issues from a more balanced perspective, and viciously attacks those with other opinions.

His recent article headings leave no doubt about his political orientation:

"A Government defined by Sheer Hopelessness"
"Is Winston Peters running the Government?"
"PM needs to wake up"
"PM forced to backtrack"
"It's simple. Pay nurses what they are worth."

  • He thinks our banning plastic bags a waste of time, and is not convinced about climate change and global warming. 
  • He is anti- most Maori and anti- most unions. 
  • He thinks the poor and disadvantaged should stand on their own feet and not rely on government handouts paid for by the taxpayer. 
  • He thinks Government should not support NZ on Air. If it can't pay its own way, let private enterprise take over. 
  • He's all for less government involvement in the economy and on social issues, and more for leaving it to the private sector or doing nothing.
In Europe, he'd be called Alt-Right.

High fuel prices

He thinks taxes and not exchange rates and fuel companies are responsible for our high fuel prices:

"What else is in line? Are we being ripped off on cars, or outdoor furniture, or toilet paper?"

Before excusing himself: 

"Of course this looks a bit like a defence of big oil which it isn't." before proudly proclaiming "I've got a 5 litre super-charged engine, I put 98 in, it costs $200 to fill, no one hates filling up more than me."

So much for the common man speaking on our behalf who recently sold his Remuera house for $9.9 million and invested $4.5 million in his Matakana property. Not bad for a boy who left school aged 16.  In America he could stand for President.

But beyond Hosking (and this is most important) we should be asking:

  • Why does the media give him -- and this sort of journalism -- so much publicity? 
  • Why do other, more reputable, journalists not challenge him? 
  • Why is there not a public outcry? At least from the more educated? 
  • Why have there been so few complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Authority? 
  • Are the BSA standards sufficiently stringent?** 
  • What are the public responsibilities of the Fourth Estate, and especially its owners? 
  • Is there a link between the types of media ownership and the quality of journalism? 
  • Why has our media "carked it from overdosing on clickbait, reporting speculation and breathless beat-ups?" 
  • What signals (and actions) can Government (any government) direct at media owners to ensure higher standards?

-- ACW

* She was speaking about the dangers to our brain development and thinking caused by the sheer volume of reading we are doing online and on digital devices. See NZ Listener, Oct. 13 .... p.14.

** I can trace only one, when he lost to the Maori Party BSA complaint, but this after damage was done which could well have been a factor in the party's parliamentary demise.)

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