We claim to live in a society where fair and balanced journalism is the way of the Fourth Estate.
However as nice as it is to think that the above is more than just a line of words in this blog, there unfortunately seems to be little substance to it when one considers how the media have (not)covered major events of the decade or so. Some of the events were natural disasters such as the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami 2004, the Japan earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima reactors. Others were man made such as the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.
Some had coverage that lasted for weeks, and involved those rare moments when the front page has a black border of mourning (The Press, 13 September 2001). Others such as the Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami had front page coverage that disappeared within a matter of days despite having much larger death tolls, and covering much more of the world than others. And some were simply not reported at all or were restricted to just a day or two worth of coverage in the international news section. Whilst it is true that there were certainly probably more New Zealand connections to New York at the time of the World Trade Center attacks than to Garissa University in Kenya, which was the site of an Islamic militant massacre earlier this year, the attacks were no less cowardly.
And the media rush to report the reaction of political officialdom following the attacks – President Francois Hollande is heard saying that this is an act of war by Islamic State. This is precisely the thing that Islamic State, which is not a nation or an ethnic group, but a religious militant group whose purpose is holy war (jihad), wanted him to say. Islamic State committed these acts of terrorism solely to get a reaction and the West is rushing to oblige. Like we have not learnt anything and the media are trumpeting it.
But how many times have the media looked at the other side of the coin, at what community groups are doing to stem the radicalization of young people? How many times have they sat down with ethnic groups and tried to get their side of the story, about why people of their ethnicities are wired like this?
I could go on and mention the political bias that is shown by certain New Zealand media establishments, but that is a bit of a loaded topic and depends very much on ones perspective. Instead I shall mention the lack of any indepth reporting on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement by any of the major outlets – One News, 3 News, New Zealand Herald, Fairfax Newspapers and Sky are all ignoring it as far as they can, only covering the protests and even then deliberately underestimating the numbers who turn out. I have been banned from 3 News on Facebook for asking questions about their non-coverage of the Trans Pacific Partnership. The role of the Fourth Estate is to report the news and not create it out of thin air by asking Justin Bieber stupid questions whose answer no one cares about. No one cares about whether or not Kim Kardashian is having a baby – though they might have sympathy for the baby being born to attention seeking parents. But I think many people would care quite a bit if one told them the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is completely devoid of any mention of climate change.
If the Fourth Estate of New Zealand were really doing its job, this would be a quite different country, and maybe our place near the top of Transparency International’s list of most transparent nations would be justified. But that is not now.