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Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

Along with ‘‘ the pa­per is full of neg­a­tive news’’, a com­mon com­plaint re­porters hear is that news­pa­pers pub­lish too much sen­sa­tional, one-sided news.

To the for­mer com­ment, Kapi-Mana News ed­i­tor Matthew Dal­las sug­gests read­ers count up the neg­a­tive and pos­i­tive news in our pa­per, and get back to him if their criticism still stands. They never do.

The ‘‘tabloid’’ com­plaint bears more dis­cus­sion, if only to clear up some mis­con­cep­tions about jour­nal­ism. Firstly, whether read­ers and jour­nal­ists like it or not, sto­ries about sex, death and celebrity are pop­u­lar. News­pa­per sales and web­site clicks prove that. But sala­cious sto­ries are not the usual fod­der for the Kapi-Mana News.

Sto­ries which might garner com­plaints in a small city like Porirua usu­ally con­cern al­le­ga­tions against a well-known or well-liked in­di­vid­ual. ‘‘Don’t rock the boat’’ seems to be the at­ti­tude of many to sto­ries that un­cover wrong­do­ing.

Re­porters cop it in the let­ters pages; we’re dirt­dig­gers stick­ing our beak in where it don’t be­long. It seems many correspondents be­lieve jour­nal­ists come be­low used-car deal­ers in hon­esty and morals. In fact, al­most ev­ery re­porter en­ters the pro­fes­sion with high ideals, a strong be­lief in the Fourth Es­tate, and a de­sire to im­prove New Zealand jour­nal­ism.

We might be cyn­ics to a man but most news pro­fes­sion­als are in the in­dus­try for love of truth and beauty – as in­cred­i­ble as that might seem to the let­ter-writ­ers.

At their best, news­pa­pers do us all a ser­vice in keep­ing the blighters hon­est. Scan­dal might be the re­sult of jour­nal­is­tic dirt-dig­ging but it’s not of­ten the aim.

Of course no­body is per­fect. Jour­nal­ists work in one of the few fields where a mis­take made in the work­place is broad­cast for ev­ery­body in the community to crit­i­cise. Good re­porters ap­pre­ci­ate the huge priv­i­lege and re­spon­si­bil­ity of putting peo­ple’s lives into print, and strive to get it right ev­ery time.

Where peo­ple can help to keep sto­ries fair, ac­cu­rate and bal­anced is to speak to the press. We live in a PR-blighted age where jour­nal­ists are of­ten faced with stony si­lence or bland weasel words from pub­lic agen­cies and elected of­fi­cials. The pub­lic de­serves bet­ter from those who ben­e­fit from our taxes or rates.

While jour­nal­ists sel­dom seek the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor, that is what the pub­lic gets when one side of a story is miss­ing. If a pub­lic fig­ure has noth­ing to hide, then the pub­lic de­serves to know that. We’re just peo­ple ask­ing ques­tions.

We don’t bite, es­pe­cially from the other end of a tele­phone line.

An­drea O’Neil, Re­porter.

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