Editorial: Media can cop flak from all quarters

WARWICK RASMUSSEN, DEPUTY EDITOR
Last updated 12:00 29/11/2012

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OPINION: Were the media too friendly and too mean to Phil Goff in the lead-up to last year's general election?

Of course, it depends who you ask. If you did a straw poll of people, you'd get every variation when it came to replies.

Even though John Key won the race, some of his backers would still say he was portrayed negatively by the media, while Labour and Phil Goff fans would probably say the same about their guy and their party.

Massey University associate professor Claire Robinson has crunched the numbers, the words and the pictures, and has come to the conclusion that four of the largest newspapers in the country - APN's New Zealand Herald and Herald on Sunday and Fairfax Media's Sunday Star-Times and Dominion Post - were biased in favour of Mr Key.

Dr Robinson's statistics revealed that as far as images went the four papers ran pictures of Mr Key 138 times and Mr Goff 80 times. She contended that because we live in an image-saturated world that picture selection and use played a huge part.

It was an interesting exercise and she even went as far as saying there could be grounds for a Press Council complaint because the papers "breached the principle of fairness and balance in their campaign coverage". That statement is more provocative than anything else.

In reality, the incumbent prime minister will inherently garner more media coverage, simply because of their position, not because of any particular bias. And, what of the smaller parties? Should they also complain because they didn't get their fair share of coverage?

Media outlets are always fingered as being left-leaning, right-leaning and everything in between. It's the readers who matter most and if they are being informed as to what the prime minister and his main challenger are saying every day, all the better.

Picture use is important, but it surely isn't a contributing factor when it comes to voters. Surely, we deserve to give them more credit.

There was no escaping the world premiere of The Hobbit in Wellington yesterday. The event swamped all media outlets in New Zealand, and was covered worldwide.

For fans of the Tolkien books and the Sir Peter Jackson movies it was a special day. For people outside of that, the blanket coverage can tend to be a bit of a turn-off.

We should be proud of the work done in New Zealand and wish the project well, but apart from a boost in tourism dollars and our country now permanently synonymous with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, is there any really tangible benefit for most Kiwis?

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- The Manawatu Standard

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