Partisan press

One of the huge shocks of moving to the UK many years ago was their partisan press.  I bought a paper the day I arrived and learned that Conservative John Major was certain to remain Prime Minister.

The next day I bought another paper, and found out Labour’s Tony Blair was a shoo-in.

Confusing indeed – of course, as it turned out the Guardian had that particular event down pat – but it really did put me off newspapers in the UK until I got a handle around their political leanings influencing everything they reported.  Commentator Roy Greenslade argues this may have changed:

Anyway, the days of newspapers identifying closely with single political parties have long passed. To use the phrase “the Tory press” is as hopelessly outdated as talking of “left” and “right” (though the habit of using them is harder to give up). That’s not to say that papers do not have identifiable political, social and cultural values that place them along a line from reactionary to liberal.

But what about here in New Zealand?  Journalist Gordon Campbell is unashamedly liberal-left in his political analysis.  His story last night about the final testimony of Brian Henry, Winston Peters’ lawyer, to the Privileges Committee ended with:

On the evidence presented this morning, Henry did not give Helen Clark an overwhelming reason to sack Peters. Mainly because as mentioned, the change of tack by Henry about the identity of “ my client” had been triggered by a prior and parallel change in Glenn’s testimony. If Clark was intent on sacking Peters, she would still struggle to present the events today as a compelling case of a bridge too far. 

But the DomPo today greets us with an entirely different analysis – the headline screaming:

Clark may fire Peters today

Winston Peters’ last-ditch bid to stave off dismissal over the Owen Glenn donation saga appears doomed after signs that Prime Minister Helen Clark is not impressed that his lawyer has changed their version of events.

Now my question for New Zealanders is – how partisan is our media? 

Gordon Campbell is a journalist not afraid to acknowledge his beliefs, which then influence how he analyses information.  But the DomPo’s coverage of the Winston Peters issue has been almost making the news rather than reporting it – we are left in no doubt that Helen Clark should sack Winston Peters – and this has infused both their news articles and been explicit in editorial comment.  And all this has been done under an umbrella of ‘objective neutrality’ – no acknowledged biases here.

I note as I write this that Stuff has posted a new, updated at 10.29am article much closer to Gordon Campbell’s analysis from yesterday:

Clark won’t sack Peters today

LATEST: Prime Minister Helen Clark today indicated she is unlikely to decide whether to sack Winston Peters as a minister before privileges committee and Serious Fraud Office investigations are complete.
Basically I’m unconvinced the DomPo is not equally partisan about this issue – though it’s good to see them self-correcting online.
None of which means I’m convinced by Mr Peters – or, for that matter, Mr Glenn.

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