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  • rmacculloch

Don't Trust the Biased AUT "Trust in the News" Survey. Why blame Winston for weakening democracy & defend RNZ manipulation of Ukrainian war "news"?

How can the Auckland University of Technology "Trust in News" report - which should be a dispassionate reporting of scientific survey results on perceptions of media bias - have an introduction based on a litany of quotes from biased journos all with the terrifying theme, "Trust us, we're from Big Media and We're Here to Help You How to Think". We don't trust them since nearly every outlet in NZ has gone strongly leftist, whereas the majority of NZ'ers voted for a center-right government. So of course people don't trust getting a one-sided diatribe about most issues when its not even the one we support. But no, the AUT report says that as a result of the demise of Newshub, "the country would be left with an even more concentrated media market, with less diversity". That's not true. Newshub - Stuff - OneNews - and most of the rest are certainly not diverse - they support similar left-views of the world. So who cares if one of them goes?  The crux of the problem is that NZ Big Media despises diversity. The journos say they support diversity but its only at a superficial level. Its not about supporting the diversity of beliefs. And that's what we're talking about.

The AUT report says that "Deputy PM [Winston Peters] questioned whether Radio NZ and TVNZ are "editorially independent .. I haven't seen evidence of that in the last three years”. It then counters Winston by quoting Newsroom editor Mark Jennings who says news media is at the heart of a democracy “yet we see some of the most important figures in democracy - politicians - attacking the media". Why argue that when an elected leader questions the independence of our journalists it is a democracy-shattering "attack on the media"? Isn't the problem that NZ's Big Media companies have become the true threat to democracy - first & foremost by ignoring the General Election outcome and trying to brainwash everyone so we never elect National-ACT-NZ First ever again? Who elected these journalists? What God-given right does Big Media have to argue that it should be able to hold anyone it so wishes to account but that no-one has any right whatsoever to hold them to account? Who the heck do these journalists think they are? Judge, jury and executioner?

It gets worse. The AUT report says "In June 2023, RNZ made headlines when it was reported one of its digital journalists had altered news stories from Reuters concerning the Russian invasion of Ukraine by inserting pro-Russian sentiment into news stories. It goes on to say "an independent inquiry found .. that the journalist responsible for inappropriate editing genuinely believed he was acting appropriately to provide balance & accuracy & was not motivated by any desire to introduce misinformation, disinformation or propaganda  .. it also noted that the leadership of RNZ had overreacted while commenting on the case". What place does mounting this defense of the journalist have in AUT's reporting of survey statistics on distrust in the media? I have personally had many stories manipulated by our Big Media outlets - they do it all the time - to the point I gave up writing for them and started this blog. When I tried questioning the "competency" of our Central Bank in a Big Media outlet for printing $50 billion in cash which was the primary cause of our present high inflation, that word was censored out of my article without my knowledge.

Furthermore, AUT's Trust in News survey has not been done by speaking to a single person, either face-to-face, or by telephone. It is online. The quality of results of such surveys, done because they are cheap, is controversial. The results in this report are drawn from a national online survey of 1,033 NZ adults who are members of Horizon Research’s Horizon Poll. Members of "Horizon Poll", eh? So straight away you're open to selection bias. This is not a random sample, so is "weighted on "age, gender, highest educational qualification, personal income, ethnicity & region to match the NZ adult population". Good luck to them doing that weighting, which appears to mean that if they only have 100 people from Auckland in their survey, which would be 10% of it, then they'd have to multiply the responses up by a factor of around 4 to better represent Aucklanders, even though they never surveyed 400 Aucklanders. I've used survey data for donkeys years & those kinds of manipulations explode the inaccuracy of the results. I'm dubious when they say that a 95% confidence interval for their results is just "plus or minus 3%". Even if it is at that level, this survey is about reporting trends, but never is a trend-standard error quoted in the report. So, for example, if the proportion of respondents to one of their questions drops from, say 43% to 38%, from one year to the next, which this survey reports as a fall, then it could easily be that within the 3% margin of error, the true proportion actually rose from 40% to 41%.

One of the authors of the report says, "Journalism has lost its authority as the main source of news and information. In general, people distrust the information they see, and they are increasingly checking their ‘facts’ themselves. This phenomenon is highly problematic". Why is it problematic that people are trying to find out facts for themselves? Is it bad we don't put faith in The Great Oracle, He Who Tell Us the Whole Truth, John Campbell, or The One Who Shows Us The Way, The Light, Jack Tame? Why shouldn't we search ourselves for where truth lies? More power to the people & less to Big Media - what's wrong with that? Why is it problematic not to trust strangers? So why do I think there's rising distrust of NZ media? It's for none of the reasons outlined in the AUT report: our journos just don't get that the problem is them. The best studies about how the media industry works argue that it's like any other industry: there are "consumers", most of whom want to reinforce their own views, so leftists tend to watch leftist outlets & rightists watch rightist outlets. Let's say over time Big NZ news outlets have gone from being half left and half right - to 100% left (which is close to the truth). Then whereas before we were once all pretty happy since we could find points of view supporting our own, now when we see the Big News channels, at least half of us are hacked off since they in no way reflect how we feel. That's why distrust has risen.



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