Misinformation has always been with us. During the European dark ages (500 to 1000 AD) everybody was fed nonsense. To make matters worse, the vast majority could not read or write, so precious few had any inkling that they were receiving nothing but bilge.
Now, we’re hyper-literate, and able to gorge on a smorgasbord of view-points. Anyone with a hobby horse to ride, can easily access the world. There’s far more material on any topic, than any one person, can peruse. If news consumers want to be better informed, they need to be selective.
The news sources that I give my attention to, are the Guardian newspaper, Stuff, and Radio NZ.
For two years I read Guardian articles for free. Each had a trailer which said “Please support us so we can continue to provide quality content. In other words: Keep on reading, but please contribute if you are able.
‘The Guardian’ started out as The Manchester Guardian in 1826. It was associated with the Anglican church from 1849 until 1951. In 1959 its name was changed to ‘The Guardian’. It’s now owned by a trust whose purpose is to protect its independence.
Once satisfied that Guardian was, indeed, ethical and trustworthy, I committed to paying $20 per month. For that I get nothing more than knowledge that I’m contributing about 0.1% of the cost of another journalist.
Sinead Boucher, the owner of Stuff, can’t be blamed for the awful name ‘Stuff’. It already had that name when she bought it. Two years ago, the dead and dying of print media were strewn across the Covid ridden landscape. Australia’s Nine Entertainment were relieved to off-loaded Stuff, and its multitude of newspapers including the Nelson Mail, The Christchurch Press, The Dominion, and Auckland’ Sunday Star-Times. Stuffs journey from Australian ownership to where it is now is a chronicle of New Zealanders protecting journalistic integrity. Here's the story:
2016: Fairfax (Australian owners of Stuff) & NZME (New Zealand owners of the New Zealand Herald, a few other newspapers, and a host of radio stations) apply to the Commerce Commission for permission to merge their New Zealand operations.
May 2017: The Commerce Commission says no.
Dec 2017: NZME appeals the Commission’s decision through the Wellington High Court.
June 2018: The Wellington High Court upholds the Commission’s decision.
June 2018: NZME & Fairfax appeal the Commission’s decision at the NZ Court of Appeal.
Sept 2018: The Court of Appeal upholds the Commission’s decision.
Oct 2018: NZME and Stuff is abandoned their bid.
Dec 2018: Fairfax merges with Australia’s Nine Entertainment.
July 2019: Nine Entertainment attempts to sell Stuff, but doesn’t get any adequate bids.
Nov 2019: NZME is negotiating with Nine Entertainment to purchase Stuff, and submits a proposal to the New Zealand Government regarding a "possible transaction." Involving a proposed "Kiwishare" that would ringfence Stuff's editorial operations and protect local journalism.
26 March to 27 April 2020
COVID LOCK DOWN
11 May 2020: NZME offers to purchase Stuff for one dollar, on the basis of saving jobs during the Covid 19 Pandemic.
Nine Entertainments Response: Termination of further discussion.
Shortly After: NZME files for an emergency injunction at the Auckland High Court to force Nine Entertainment back into negotiations.
19 May 2020: The Auckland High Court rejected NZME’s bid for an injunction.
31 May 2020: Nine Entertainment sells Stuff (less it’s broadband business and it’s Wellington printing press) to Stuff’s chief executive Sinead Boucher for one dollar.
June 2020 to today: Boucher has created a culture anchored in high ideals. Stuff is viable and growing.
New Zealanders stood fast to prevent an Australian controlled, near monopoly of New Zealand newspapers.
New Zealanders (Auckland High Court) thwart the creation of a locally based near monopoly.
I subscribe to a combo of the Nelson Mail and the Christchurch press. I like newspaper because you can slop your breakfast on it, and because newspapers compel you to read stuff that algorithms would stop from coming to your computer. I’m not interested in how to make a better Pavlova, but am likely to skim such an item if it appears where my eyes rest when eating my porridge.
It may be taxpayer funded, funded there is no way RNZ can be construed as a tool of the government.
Naturally the contributors hold views that may reveal themselves, but for the most part they commentate impartially, and are even handed in their interviewing. RNZ seems to be free of political or commercial influence. I hope and pray that it remains that way in the new PME (Public Media Entity) which will merge TV with radio.
Just before 1pm, 'World Watch' is a selection of the best from overseas.
'Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan' is wholesome brain food.
Kim Hill is a national treasure.
Biographies, autobiographies, and historical novels are news with a time lag. They describe the events which caused our present reality. They are helpful in working out the likely outcomes of current actions. For example: the humiliation of Germany after World War One, sowed the seeds of World War Two. Therefore, should we find ourselves able to humiliate Russia, we must not.
Autobiographies I have recently read have taught me that the rich and famous are just like you and me, possibly, brighter, but not necessarily. I become angry when good people who happen to have more money and fame, get vilified by conspiracy theorists. Reading the biographies of tall poppies, has taught me to be sceptical of all conspiracy theories.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of trustworthy news. Worldwide, truth is under siege, but that’s nothing new. It’s just that the internet, and social media have enabled so many different points of view, that it is more difficult to know what to believe.
In New Zealand, and other liberal democracies, it is, however, possible to disregard dodgy news sources and zero in on good reporting and thoughtful analysis.