This article was published at The Common Room
I’ve been a journalist and broadcaster for nearly forty years. I’ve worked in radio, television and print, in both the public and private sectors. Two years ago, I set up a new online media company called The Platform. It streams talk radio, long-form interviews and sports even. We publish commentary and opinion pieces from a very wide range of writers.
I’ve never been successfully sued for defamation, I’ve won a few awards and in hundreds of thousands of hours on air, I’ve only had one BSA ruling against me. Now I’d like to think that might make me an expert in NZ media and give me a perspective about its current state.
But I’m not. I’m told by mainstream media and those a little younger than me that I’m pale stale and male, a coloniser, a rapist, a misogynist and, of course, a TERF. I don’t take any of that too seriously, but it does seem to be indicative of the mindset of legacy media in this country, they seem almost universally interested in telling you what to think and what your opinions should be rather than informing you so you can make up your own minds. And really, they aren’t at all interested in what you do think, they turn off their comments section and declare they will not debate issues like climate change, co-governance, the Treaty, transgenderism and, of course, free speech.
The ironically (or perhaps appropriately) named Disinformation Project trot out dubious studies claiming cataclysmic levels of racism, violence and discord in our society and then demands we restrict our democratic freedoms and abandon free speech to correct our misdeeds.
It is, of course, all rubbish but it creates a climate of fear where rational open debate is abandoned in favour of a craven conformity with identity politics and the agenda of cry-bully extremists who claim they will be injured if anyone dares to disagree with them.
This problem isn’t confined to the editorial staff of our major media outlets, all of whom, in one way or another, have been compromised by taking government funds with strings very definitely attached. The same attitude is prevalent in major New Zealand businesses who provide money for the advertising that funds the media and the ad agencies that create and place those ads.
The end result is that we are fast losing faith in our fourth estate, increasing numbers of New Zealanders do not trust mainstream news media, who gaslight them and portray this country as a place so at odds with their real lived experience.
We are not a nation divided by race, we do not in any legislative way discriminate against any minority. We are open, friendly, tolerant, innovative, and practical, and like most, we know bullshit when we see and smell it.
It is important that we return to having a functional uncorrupted news media. That’s vital in a functional open democracy.
How do we do it? Well, we say no to those who would brainwash us. We don’t read, turn on or tune in to those who would manipulate us in pursuit of their woke agenda, and we tell them no more.
It means each of us as individuals must make choices and search for outlets and journalists who haven’t fallen down the propaganda rabbit hole.
Praise those who write objectively, report truthfully and stretch your horizons.
Ignore those who lecture you, are biased and unfair or engage in character assassination.
Be wary of those constantly reinforcing your prejudices too or feed you precisely what you want in their information echo chambers.
There are plenty of new media organisations being set up often by people like me with old media experience. And the way news is conveyed to you is rapidly changing, but the fundamental principles of what it should be are timeless. We no longer live in a world where the six o’clock news and the morning paper provide certainty and universal truth, but through the wonders of the digital age and by using our own common sense, we can discern a true picture of the world we live in and make up our own minds of how we react to and exist in it.
To fix our broken media is going to require some effort, you will need to complain and praise and search and comment, you’ll need to get involved, to think, to argue, to discuss and to speak up when you see something wrong.
This doesn’t have to be done with anger or hatred, I prefer humour and engagement, but there will be resistance from those who currently feel they control the narrative and, by extension you. I get the feeling right now that we have collectively had enough, and there is a mood to examine the failings of our media and change it for the better. I really want to be part of that change, and I hope you do too.
I’m Sean Plunket, journalist and Founding Editor of The Platform, for The Common Room.