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Uninsightful journalism

By Steven | July 23, 2012

Maybe I’m being overly nitpicky in objecting to this headline in a story on nzherald.co.nz:

Harawira’s asset sale comments ‘insightful’ – BSA

The Broadcasting Standards Authority was rejecting a complaint from Family First over a 3 News story that mentioned John Key’s assurance that asset sale share prices would be “affordable for a lot of New Zealanders”, and Hone Harawira’s response: “bullshit”.

The BSA said this did not breach standards concerning taste and decency or children’s interests.

The BSA never used the word “insightful”. Isn’t that a good reason, right there, not to put the word in quotes?

Nor did the BSA suggest that Harawira’s comment was any sort of insightful analysis of the PM’s statement. Isn’t that what the headline and first paragraph suggest?

It’s only if you read down into the story that you realise that the BSA was saying that the use of the language offers insight into Harawira’s character:

The word “bullshit” was used by Mr Harawira to convey his opposition to a major Government policy that had been the subject of much controversy. In this respect, the comment provided viewers with information about a political response to the issue, as well as insight into the characteristics of a political figure in terms of the way he chose to express himself. We consider that this was of high value in terms of the right to freedom of expression, and we should be cautious about interfering with its broadcast and its reception.

The BSA also noted that children were unlikely to be watching the news unsupervised, and that its own research did not find high levels of objection to the word “bullshit”.

The BSA and TV3 got this one dead right, I think. This is a very good example of the Bill of Rights being used to put a thumb in the scale to reject the penalisation of a story with political significance. What I find in poor taste is the rest of the media twisting the decision to oversell its story.

Topics: Media ethics | 37 Comments »

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