In the first of a new column in which Witchdoctor calls the media on its bullshit, GARY STEEL has a few words to say about last night’s bulletin.
Last night’s lead item on TV3’s Newshub 6 pm bulletin framed the Government’s decision to keep mask-wearing mandatory in supermarkets while not in bars as a big cock-up.
Political editor Jenna Lynch got going by making much of Health Minister Chris Hipkins’ fumbling and forgetting salient details during the press conference announcing the move from the red to the orange light setting.
This seems rich when Newshub’s newsreader Mike Roberts is a frequent flyer at flubbing his words. In fact, just a few nights before he’d announced that Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs had been recalled because salmonella concerns had come just in time for Christmas!
Would you like to support our mission to bring intelligence, insight and great writing to entertainment journalism? Help to pay for the coffee that keeps our brains working and fingers typing just for you. Witchdoctor, entertainment for grownups. Your one-off (or monthly) $5 or $10 donation will support Witchdoctor.co.nz. and help us keep producing quality content. It’s really easy to donate, just click the ‘Become a supporter’ button below.
Going by the relish with which Newshub takes in making fun of flailing political presentations, it doesn’t pay to be human or flawed. Perhaps they’d be happier if our Government officials were in fact androids.
But much worse was to come with Lynch’s contention that the Government’s new rules made absolutely no sense. “It does highlight the absurdities built into the system,” said Lynch. And the way the decision was explained, she seemed to have a point. Masks required in supermarkets but not in bars? How crazy is that? Where’s the logic?
Except that much, much later in the news hour, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was briefly interviewed about the resumption of air traffic from Australia. When asked by Newshub presenter Sam Hayes about the seeming contradiction in their decision about mask-wearing in bars vs. supermarkets, she was resolute and clear that it was completely logical. And it is.
The thing is, people can’t exactly wear masks while eating or drinking, can they? And in an unspoken extension to that line of thought, couples are not going to be slow-dancing in masks either. That would just not make sense.
Add to that the fact that the number of people who eat and drink and dance in bars is dwarfed by the number of people who shop at supermarkets daily, and the Government’s decision becomes blindingly obvious and yes, logical.
In this instance, it’s the framing of the bulletin that’s hugely concerning. Like it or not, we now live in a highly emotive environment where anyone who feels hard done by over the last two years of the Covid-19 pandemic will use any fuel they can get to stoke their hatred of our Prime Minister and the Government. So, why lead with an item about the change from red to orange setting that makes such flagrantly ignorant claims?
[This morning, Newshub’s AM show at least partly addressed the issue by allowing Chris Hipkins to further explain the Government’s reasoning, but once again, the headline on their website story – “Chris Hipkins defends keeping masks mandatory in supermarkets but not nightclubs” – came from a provocative assumption that the decision needed defending.]
Part of the problem with Newshub’s political segment is always opinion-driven rather than simply giving us the news. This is how television news has devolved into something that’s no longer reliable. It’s called ‘news’, so the main part of it should be simply factual. Editorialising traditionally belongs to current affairs programmes where the protagonists can argue their points. But when there’s a political segment that’s opinion-driven and only one observer’s opinion at that, and that political segment becomes the lead item of the day, then it easily becomes dangerous propaganda… especially when it’s so clearly geared to provoke.
In the past, Lynch has proved herself a sharp and astute journalist, so it’s sad to see her seemingly shoehorned into a post-Tova O’Brien approach.
If mainstream media really want to be fighting fit in the war against social media misinformation, then it must get real and to do that, it needs to deal with the elephant in its own newsroom.