We finished a class exercise at Whitireia Journalism School recently, spurred by an article in the Dominion Post, which listed a range of negative outcomes expected from the (at that stage pending) Emissions Trading Bill. The negative outcomes were based on a report described in the article as independent.
Our class exercise was simple – to look at how the media had reported on the legislation; to find out more about how lobby groups had campaigned; to look at different party positions on it.
My part of the exercise was to investigate how independent the report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research which sparked the original article had been – and the short answer is, not so much.
You can read the article I wrote about the report here, on Whitireia’s site NewsWire, and there will be further articles from my classmates over the next few days. Media analysis in the week leading up to the bill being passed is here.
Quite apart from how disturbing it is to find out economic research these days is pretty much only available to those who can pay, my main concern from our class exercise is why on earth the media were describing this report as “independent”. Where was media scrutiny over who paid for this report, over what the history of the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research had been on this issue?
Every economist I interviewed was under no illusions the report was independent – so why hadn’t most media managed to dig this out? Imagine the resources of TVNZ directed at this for example.
I’m not claiming there is a “neutral” position on carbon emissions – far from it – I’m claiming I want the right to know who produces knowledge, who pays for knowledge, and why they might be doing that.
I want the media to perform its role as watchdog. Simple, really.