Public not fooled by media's undermining of National

MICHAEL COX
Last updated 10:26 21/05/2012

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Michael Cox

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I think the correct word is dichotomy, but I had to look it up in the dictionary. It means when two parts are sharply opposed.

So it would be fair to say that a dichotomy exists between what I read, hear and see in our media and the regularly published political polls.

"Key has blown it" read one headline. "National self-destructing" said another.

The guts of the comments made under these strident headlines go along the lines of, "since the November elections John Key and his National Party seem to have gone down a path of sheer political madness".

"Their proposed partial asset sales, the deal-making with SkyCity, the ACC problems and the sale of the Crafar farms to a Chinese group, all spell political doom for this hapless Government."

Not so, say the polls. In fact, they have shown an increase in support for Mr Key and his merry band of politicians. This hapless Government now has more support than on election night. Obviously, the public likes strong and positive leadership and doesn't believe the media's interpretation of events.

So how can the press get it so wrong? Here I begin to tread carefully, for it is a writing sin to overgeneralise, but could it be that our reporters are hoping that Mr Key and his government have a serious pratfall?

My many years of experience with the media have taught me that, in general, most of them lean to the Left in their personal political persuasions. The job attracts that type of thinking, with a strong emphasis on social justice and a dismissal of capitalist necessities of day-to-day economics. Those who are professional put these leanings aside and publish what they consider is true and correct and do a fair job. Some just let all their prejudices hang out.

The relationship between politicians and journalists is a very delicate one. They both need each other to do their jobs properly. Both tread warily in each other's presence. I always felt journalists didn't like politicians and were envious of them.

I am aware of only two journalists who have become MPs: Fred Doidge in 1936 and Brendon Burns, who lost his Labour seat in the last general election.

Interestingly, in my time in that establishment, the members of the Press Gallery formed the strongest journalists' union in the country.

So I think it would be fair to say that the re-election of Mr Key's Government was not greeted with overwhelming joy and elation at the bar in the Press Galleries lounge.

The reporting since that time has been continuously against the Government. It's as if the professional reins have been loosened. There is a feeling that the proper Opposition has not fired under its new leadership, leaving a void that some journalists have felt they should fill.

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Our Fifth Estate is very powerful. While at present there is a dichotomy between what is reported and the polls, if the media are of a mind to attack Mr Key's Government over the next year or so, they will play a part in eroding its public support – they are that powerful.

Someone like Kim Hill with her three hours of interviewing Left-wing international personnel every Saturday morning has an ongoing effect on people's political views. It's a bit like Chinese torture: drip, drip, drip. She is the only woman I know who can consistently get me out of bed at 8am on Saturday.

Then on Sunday morning on National Radio we are gently badgered by former Labour MP Chris Laidlaw. He never pulls punches when the political Right gets in his way. Together, these two articulate and persuasive presenters are a concerted voice for the Left.

I've said it is dangerous to generalise and I should acknowledge some of the editorials that have been positive about the actions taken by Mr Key particularly over events such as the SkyCity deal, which has so much of an upside for New Zealanders.

Mr Key is a deal maker to the core and has been since I worked with him when he was a young foreign exchange dealer in a merchant bank in Wellington.

That can only be a positive for this country and I suspect that the public appreciate that and reflect their views in the polls.

- Waikato Times

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