Our job to inform you
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.