Low trust in media has underlying cause

Trust me, I think I know when I’m wrong.

For a very long time I have advocated quality journalism as the antidote to declining trust in news media. Three reports last week convince me that doing a better job is not the cure I thought it would be.

Of course, better reporting and analysis will always contribute to improving the regard with which journalists are held by the public. And it can always be done better.

However, a new survey by the Journalism Media and Democracy ((JMaD) centre at AUT and the latest Acumen Edelman Trust Barometer on New Zealand, together with further analysis by the Reuters Institute’s Trust in News project, have led me to conclude that journalism is not the cause of diminished trust but a victim of a deeper malaise. Continue reading “Low trust in media has underlying cause”

Journalists do not play piano in a brothel

A decade ago, a renowned Spanish editor wrote a book on the future of journalism. For its title he drew on a popular saying: “Don’t tell my mother I’m a journalist. She thinks I play piano at the whorehouse”.

In The Piano Player in the Brothel, Juan Luis Cebrián (a former editor of El País) wrote of the restoration of democracy after Spain’s repressive fascism ended with the death of Franco, and journalism’s regression in the face of ambiguities that are part and parcel of the globalised Digital Age. After a long life in the trade, he concluded: “Although I have stated that our profession has low-life origins, it also aspires to a higher truth, where honesty and transparency play an essential role.”

The vast majority of journalists that I know aspire to that higher truth. Unfortunately, the public doesn’t seem to recognise that reality.

Instead, their view of New Zealand journalism is like plaque: A nasty build-up, caused by the things they shove down their throats, that only gets worse the longer they neglect to clean their teeth. Continue reading “Journalists do not play piano in a brothel”

Change must be highly contagious

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought much-needed and urgent changes in journalism around the world, with more to come. New Zealand has so far been shielded from the worst effects of the contagion and this year will determine whether our media have been lulled into the same dangerous complacency that stopped the country’s shoppers from using contact-tracing scanners while infection rates skyrocket overseas.

Continue reading “Change must be highly contagious”

[Don’t] read all about it!

mastheads
The latest readership survey shows New Zealand newspapers are very good at reporting other people’s bad news but not their own.

Last September the New Zealand Herald bragged that its Nielsen readership statistics had “soared to record levels” and this year ran an extensive story about NZME titles increasing readership in the February Nielsen survey, which it claimed was “highlighting Kiwis’ love affair with print”.

TUESDAY COMMENTARY

Last week Nielsen released its latest survey. It received no coverage in the Herald or in the Waikato Times or in the Dominion Post or in The Press or in the Otago Daily Times. Continue reading “[Don’t] read all about it!”