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Are Govt spin doctors writing Stuff’s headlines?

May 3, 2012

Another day of leading headlines begs the question…

Despite finally putting the John Banks farce on the front page of yesterday’s Dominion Post – after almost a week of sustained pressure from critics – Fairfax Media were back to treating readers to the usual dose of John Key-friendly headlines today.

While yesterday’s front page may have looked hard-hitting, with political editor Tracy Watkins listing five questions John Banks needed to answer, it looked to me like she was simply giving the Prime Minister some sensible advice.  After all, if I was giving PR advice to John Key, I would be telling him the exact same thing: cut your losses, cut Banks, and get ready for a fight you will probably win in Epsom.

Today’s developments were treated with the same Government-friendly angles Fairfax have been using since this debacle began, as noted on this blog just two days ago.  Revelations that Banks got a significant discount on a Hong Kong hotel suite, allegedly due to his association with Kim Dotcom, were presented, once again, from Banks’ point of view, using the exact spin he himself has applied to the situation in the headline, which reads “Banks: I never pay full price at hotels“.  The intro goes on to say “ACT leader John Banks says he negotiated the price of a Hong Kong hotel room which Labour claims was discounted because of his association with German billionaire Kim Dotcom.” 

Well, thanks for dutifully telling us only what John Banks wants us to know in your headline and intro again Fairfax.  As anyone associated with journalism will tell you, most readers won’t read any further.

Even that standard of the Right, The New Zealand Herald, have reported this as “news”, rather than as Government spin, as Fairfax Media appear to have done right from the start.   In the Herald’s version, the guts of the story appears in the headline and the intro, exactly as journalists are taught to write: “Banks confirms HK hotel discount“, followed by “After last night denying it, Act leader John Banks this afternoon confirmed he got a discounted deal at Kim Dotcom’s favourite Hong Kong hotel during his stay there last year but says he negotiated the discount himself.” 

Spot the difference folks.  One of these looks like a “news story”, the other looks like a press release.  Guess which is which…

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/6849634/Banks-I-never-pay-full-price-at-hotels

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10803276

In yet another misleading headline today, stuff.co.nz told their readers that “Eighty march against asset sales“, in what looks like a clear attempt to marginalise and underplay the majority of New Zealanders who are opposed to state asset sales.  The headline, which contradicts Radio New Zealand’s report of well over 100, possibly 200, makes the protest look to readers like a small, irrelevent, even pathetic gathering, well below the psychological 100 mark; hence the use of this lowly figure in the headline.  Opponents of state asset sales – most of us – should be extremely weary of Fairfax Media’s coverage if this innacurate, propagandist headline is anything to go by.

Sure, Radio New Zealand’s figures could be wrong, but that organisation has a long established history of providing professional, impartial reporting to the very highest journalistic standards.  According to the data gathered by this blog over the past three years, the same cannot be said of Fairfax Media.  I know which report I trust.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/6850646/Eighty-march-against-asset-sales

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