Mark Richardson declares himself as a National supporter, does that matter?

Mark Richardson is a former test cricketer turned TV host.
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Mark Richardson is a former test cricketer turned TV host.

So, cricketer-turned-AM Show presenter Mark Richardson has declared on-air that he's a National supporter - a probably unwitting breach of a longstanding tradition among journalists that they don't reveal their political allegiances.

Does this really matter? Is Richardson a journalist or an entertainer? And could you argue it's a good thing we know where he stands and how he votes. 

Richardson could easily adopt the argument long mounted by Mike Hosking that he's a presenter, not a journalist, and not tied to journalists' rules; Hosking once said of journalists that "they claim to be impartial when in reality they're not, they just pretend to be".

Hosking said as a presenter, he had no duty to follow the argument that "balance wins the day, no editorialising should ensue, and having an opinion is out of the question".

The organiser of the journalists union says reporters should report "without fear and favour" and usually couldn't join political groups - but isn't surprised Richardson showed his hand. 

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E Tū union organiser Paul Tolich said while reporters were free to voice their opinions they had to be seen as objective and their code of ethics bound them to report "without fear or favour" and they usually could not join or be active in supporting political groups and traditionally kept their voting preference secret. 

"He's a shock jock," said Tolich. "But he is a journalist ... all journalists should be objective without fear or favour."

It should be noted Tolich's union has clearly stated who it is supporting in the upcoming election.

AUT journalism professor Wayne Hope said Richardson's comments were part of a trend for presenters to offer their opinions rather than remain objective. 

"It's absolutely standard on talk radio and it's seeped into television as well with the tabloid formats we have now," Hope said.

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Hope argued that partisan commentary was spreading from Fox News in the US, where conservative pundits often present news shows. Rather than Richardson being an anomaly in the news broadcasting arena, Hope said he was simply a sign of the times. 

"This is a trend that's been around for a while and I wouldn't have a go at Mark Richardson over this. It's a general trend that we have to keep an eye on."

Richardson had entered broadcasting as a celebrity rather than accomplished reporter, Hope said.

"This is part of furniture now, you have a celebrity culture with New Zealand," he said.

The real issue was the merging of news reporting and opinion, Hope said. And if that was to continue, he asked if each side would be given equal voice in news.

Richardson's political preferences emerged on air Monday, after AM host Duncan Garner delivered a cutting and blunt editorial against  National MP Simon O'Connor.

"As people know, I mean its pretty clear, I tend to be a National Party supporter, and when I heard that I hung my head in shame," Richardson said after listening to Garner's criticism of O'Connor's suggestion that Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was encouraging suicide by supporting euthanasia.

In 2014, TVNZ's then head of Māori news, Shane Taurima stepped down following accusations of bias. A Labour Party meeting had been held at TVNZ and Taurima was seeking election in the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti electorate for the party, a following TVNZ inquiry stated. Taurima then jumped ship to the Māori Party in the 2017 election.

Taurima wasn't the first broadcaster to foster political aspirations. Paul Henry also stood for the National Party in 1999, before taking on jobs at TVNZ and TV3.

Kris Faafoi​ worked on Radio New Zealand before moving to Parliament under Labour in 2010. And Labour nominee Willie Jackson hosted a news and talkback show alongside ex-Labour MP John Tamihere on RadioLive.

Richardson faced global criticism in August when he asked Labour leader Jacinda Ardern whether she planned on having babies.

He maintained an aggressive line of questioning when the newly appointed leader avoided the question, saying: "If you are the employer of a company you need to know that type of thing from the woman you are employing ... the question is, is it OK for a PM to take maternity leave while in office?"

On Wednesday, Richardson responded on-air, saying he wasn't a journalist. 

"I want to apologise to all journalists, actually, because they said I was a journalist. And that is so, disrespectful to you lot out there. So I'm not a journalist, a...."

He said Tolich's description of shock jock was "probably getting closer".

"I don't think there's anything wrong with people knowing what you stand for. What the hell's wrong with that?" Richardson asked.

Richardson went on to say that he had worked his "backside off to have an element of success".

* Comments on this article have been closed.

 

 

 - Stuff

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