TVNZ’s updated rethink on how it handles stories – a consequence of Radio New Zealand’s controversy over altered foreign news content – is a timely reminder that good journalism relies not only on trust but on checks and balances.
Every functional newsroom relies on trust: It is both top-down and bottom-up. An editor (or whatever newspeak title you wish to create for the person responsible for the overall editorial output) must trust the heads of each part of the editorial structure and, through them, the cascade of staff down to the most junior. Everyone from that junior up must trust the decision-making and stewardship of those above them.
Very occasionally, that trust is broken by someone who – through malfeasance, poor judgement, or human frailty – goes rogue.
That happened at RNZ in June when inappropriate editing of foreign wire stories was discovered. It led to an independent enquiry and a raft of recommendations for change within the public broadcaster. The RNZ enquiry’s report can be found here
No such breakdown of trust occurred at TVNZ. When the RNZ scandal broke, then chief executive Simon Power ordered a review of his own organisation’s handling of news stories. General Counsel (now interim chief executive) Brent McAnulty found no similar breaches of editorial policy but nonetheless made 11 recommendations to improve processes.
McAnulty’s report preceded the release of RNZ’s independent enquiry and TVNZ has now revisited its findings in light of recommendations in that enquiry. The result is a further series of recommendations by current TVNZ senior counsel Michele Lee that have implications for editorial news handling processes. You can find the updated report here
The update recommends refresher training on upward referral and on disinformation, reviewing software and systems, and re-assessing resourcing levels in the newsroom. Continue reading “TVNZ sends timely reminder on vital news processes”