The penetrating review of Radio New Zealand’s “pro-Kremlin garbage” scandal by an independent panel has a clear message for all news media: Make sure your own houses are in order.
The expert review panel – long-time media lawyer William Akel, broadcaster-turned-lawyer Linda Clark, and former Australian Broadcasting Corporation Editorial Standards Director Alan Sunderland – found the sub-editor who doctored Reuters content had breached editorial standards. However, the panel also found a swathe of systemic issues within RNZ that could well be repeated in other news organisations.
To recap: In June, RNZ was accused of publishing overseas wire stories on its website which had been deliberately edited to include unattributed statements that were one-sided and contested. RNZ subsequently found 49 stories that were inappropriately edited. This included adding pro-Russian content to stories on the invasion of Ukraine. The RNZ board ordered an independent review.
The review found the journalist at the centre of the controversy “genuinely believed he was acting appropriately to provide balance and accuracy, and was not motivated by any desire to introduce misinformation, disinformation or propaganda.” Nonetheless, he breached editorial standards.
It could have ended there: A misguided individual who had since resigned and was no longer a problem for the public broadcaster. But the review panel did not stop there. It found that RNZ’s structure, culture, systems, and processes contributed to what had happened and sheeted home responsibility for that to RNZ’s leadership.
Other media might say it ended there: It was RNZ’s problem and a result of its unique way of doing things. But those ways are not unique, and other media organisations could face their own embarrassments if they do not audit their processes and, where necessary, make the sort of changes recommended to RNZ by the review panel. Continue reading “RNZ ‘pro-Kremlin garbage’ enquiry has lessons for all newsrooms”