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Acrobatic semantics sidestep the “B” word

May 30, 2012

Embarrassing education backdown has Nats/Fairfax scrambling for a positive spin.

When is a Government policy backdown not a backdown?    Well, when it’s being reported by John Key’s mates at Fairfax Media, ofcourse.

Despite the National Party shooting themselves in the foot over their plans to cut teacher numbers, and then swiftly backtracking when it became clear that the New Zealand public wouldn’t accept it, none of their buddies at Fairfax were going to call it a “backdown”, or – god forbid – a “u-turn”.

In fact, while the New Zealand Herald were doing a great job of reporting the Government’s back-tracking debacle for what it was, Fairfax did their usual National Party PR job, publishing carefully angled headines that perfectly mirrored the Government’s spin.

So, according to, it became a “transition” rather than a “u-turn”, and Fairfax helped John Key to push the spin that this was all part of some complex and highly developed policy, rather than the embarrassing backdown being widely reported by less partisan media.  Once again, Fairfax Media insult the intelligence of their readers and show a staggering contempt for the New Zealand people, as well as a blatant disregard for basic journalistic principles.

Contrast Fairfax’s regurgitated National Party spin with the New Zealand Herald’s journalism.  Where Fairfax publish headlines telling us what John Key wants us to know, the Herald had “Parata is forced to redo her homework” and “Class backdown a mess of National’s own making”.  And, while John Hartevelt’s opinion piece on stuff posed as critical anslysis, a quick skim tells informed readers that he is actually just applying a Fairfaxian coating of the Nationa Party’s spin to the whole issue.  Over at the Herald, John Armstrong was taking a genuinely analytical approach, noting poignently that: “National is also contradicting its promise that its state sector reforms will not see front-line staff losing their jobs. You do not get more frontline than the classroom”.

The Herald also revealed that most cabinet ministers are sending their own kids to expensive private schools, rather than have them crammed into over-crowded state school classrooms.  The hypocrisy is hardly a vote of confidence in their own policy, but don’t expect to read about it any time soon in a Fairfax publication.

The whole fiasco is hugely embarrassing to a Government that is being accused almost daily of having no real plan.  The National Party are clearly in a flap and appear to be making policy up on the hoof, confirming the Opposition’s repeated accusations to this effect.  It is therefore in the Government’s interests for this sudden policy change to look like it had been intended all along, rather than the result of a sloppy, hastily-delivered u-turn.  And, as always, Fairfax Media were glad to oblige.  Funny that, when Opposition Leader David Shearer announced a policy change on super funds less than a month ago, the immediate headline from Fairfax ran “Labour in super fund u-turn”.  Enough said.

So, what can you do about it?   First of all, you can share this blog with your friends.  Secondly, you can join us on facebook!/groups/fearfacts/  

We are growing daily, we are putting the pressure on, and we will continue to do so until Fairfax Media start providing New Zealand with a genuine news service, instead of partisan spin and one-sided National Party propaganda.


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