Why we need journalists

Let’s face it, we all know how little we can rely on the mainstream media for truth these days. On this blog, we are famous for ripping into journalists who just cannot resist that element of spin, even when reporting an actual news item. Think about how the first thing you heard about Brenton Tarrant was that he was a ‘white supremacist’, even though Islam is not a race and he is, by his own definition, an eco-fascist. Think about how we are constantly being told about the dangers of climate change, even though no one has proved beyond a doubt that climate change is real. The main objective of today’s media seems to be nothing to do with reporting the news. How can it be when so much news is not actually reported?

Journalists must be aware of this change of attitude towards them, because they have started coming out heavily in their own defence, telling everyone who will listen why we need them really badly.

What is it they say? Self praise is no recommendation? Something like that anyway.

The internet has been an economic threat to the business models of mainstream, commercial media companies and forms of journalism that have been practised for more than a century. That is hardly news. But the extent to which the internet distorts information as much as it liberates it, which was the original utopian hope of technology and social media companies, has only become clear more recently. 

As the economic balance shifts, truth-telling becomes even more difficult. In the same week that journalists informed us that Trump has lied 10,000 times as president, an equally depressing statistic appeared in another news story from the US. It was reported that, for every journalist, there are more than six people working in public relations. Twenty years ago, it was one journalist for two people in PR. 

The implication here, of course, is that journalists report the news truthfully whereas PR people are full of spin. Well, I have one question to ask in that regard. Whoever in the world can say that Tova O’Brien is not biased towards the Labour-led government? Or that she is completely neutral and unbiased towards Simon Bridges?

Give me a break. Journalists are some of the most biased people on the planet. They are much more dangerous that PR people because PR consultants are known to be biased towards their masters. Journalists are supposed to be neutral.

People in PR are not necessarily the enemies of truth. But they are tasked with promoting the interests of clients, which means accentuating the positive and sometimes obscuring the negative. In areas of local and national government, people who claim to be working in communications often appear to be doing the exact opposite. 

Journalists, by contrast, are not tasked with ‘promoting the interests of clients’, but they promote the interests of their favoured governments, and do it mercilessly. At least PR people are honest.

Despite these challenges, journalists in New Zealand and elsewhere continue to do extraordinary work. World News Day is one way of honouring that work and those who do it. It was founded by the Canadian Journalism Foundation in 2018 with sponsorship from Canadian media companies as well as Facebook and Google, which have both launched projects and initiatives to support journalism. 

One day a year to champion journalism will do little to ensure its long-term survival. But it is an occasion to recognise the value, as well as the fragility, of that which is frequently taken for granted. At a time in which lies can easily be dressed up to resemble the truth, we need it more than ever.


Journalists seem to understand that they are on borrowed time, but they fail to understand why. As we watch CNN slowly disappear, largely because of its incredible bias against a popular president, no one is trying to address the problem. If CNN journalists believe they have the moral high ground, then so be it, but it never seems to occur to them that the people who are switching off are doing so because of the bias and the lies. Nobody believes journalists any more. They are all just spin merchants for their own pet projects.

It is worse than that, of course. Journalists try to change the way people think. Journalists try to influence the outcome of elections. Remember this?

Katie Bradford NZ
Katie Bradford

Most people can see beyond the lies and the bias, of course, but not everyone. Time and time again, media polls have been proved to be incorrect. It may be true that some people choose not to admit to pollsters who they are voting for, but it may be also true that those polls are deliberately biased towards the outcome that the media outlet wants.

I believe we do need journalists, but we need journalists who do their job properly… who report the facts of an event without the inevitable spin. We simply don’t get that nowadays, and so people don’t bother with the news as much as they did.

Our local media has a number of other tricks too, such as producing puff pieces about the prime minister and her family every time the going gets tough. We are already expecting a September 2020 wedding, to coincide with the next election.

I may be being too optimistic, but I believe that most people are not fooled. I’m sure it will be a lovely wedding, but that is not going to put food on the table. I believe – or hope – that the media have overplayed this one. Just like the media in the USA have taken their hatred of Donald Trump to such extremes that no one respects them any more, most people here can see what the media are doing. It won’t matter how beautiful a bride she is. She is a lightweight and her government is incompetent. In the end, that is all that matters in an election.

It is the job of journalists to inform us of this. Until they do, the future of the journalist is very uncertain. What is it they say? You can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. In the end, if journalists really think that we need them, then this is a lesson they really need to learn. Fast.