Posted by BE on March 7th, 2014
We understand that, following the Shane Taurima embarrassment, Television New Zealand has employed a psychometric testing company to root out staff working in the news and current affairs areas who may be prone to bias towards a particular political party or party leader.
The test is a refinement of a similar procedure used by psychologists to identify paedophiles where electrodes are attached to the offender’s genitals and he (normally it is a ‘he’) is shown photographs of a range of people of both genders and varying ages. Signs of sexual arousal when shown photographs of children allow the testers to gauge the strength and direction of the subject’s inappropriate desires and, it is hoped, to devise aversive therapies to curb those desires.
Current and prospective TVNZ journalists and interviewers will from now on be required to undergo this ‘political arousal test’. Once the electrodes have been attached to their private parts they will be shown a rapid-fire, random series of photographs of John Key, David Cunliffe, Russell Norman, Meteria Turei, Colin Craig, Tariana Turia, Jamie Whyte and Hone Harawira.
It is understood that preliminary results from the programme (or ‘dry runs’, as they are called) have necessitated recalibration of the testing equipment. On being shown photographs of the party leaders, the libidos of all the TVNZ reporters and interviewers fell to such an extent that no reliable data could be extrapolated.
In an attempt to ‘de-inhibit’ the party leaders, the researchers sought their agreement to undertake the test naked. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this outrageous suggestion was rejected by all but one of the leaders, Mr Craig stating that he had ‘nothing to hide’.
In a news release late this afternoon, TVNZ has announced its intention to abandon the political arousal testing programme. This follows the leaking of pages from the testing company’s final report to the broadcaster. Despite the recalibration of the equipment, it transpires that, having taken a vow of journalistic celibacy, political reporters and interviewers are perfectly capable of repressing their personal attraction to a particular party or party leader. They are, in effect, political eunuchs.
Professor Hans Gluck, a prominent Freudian psychologist has nonetheless pooh-poohed the abandonment of the research. Claiming that long-term repression of one’s feelings and desires was impossible and that the journalists’ biases would eventually resurface in even more malign form, he suggested that TVNZ CEO Kevin Kenrick urgently read Franz Kafka’s short story The Metamorphosis, in which the hero, Gregor Samsa, wakes up one morning to discover that he has been turned into a beetle. Mr Kenrick ‘only had to watch TV3 News to realise that this was already happening’.
Media commentator, Dr Brian Edwards, who coincidentally wrote a Ph.D. on Franz Kafka, for once declined to spend an hour offering his views to our reporter. ‘I tried the political arousal test in the privacy of my Herne Bay mansion,’ he said, ‘and was horrified to discover that I am deeply attracted to a senior member of ACT.’
TV3 political editor Patrick Gower has issued defamation proceedings against Professor Gluck. Gluck had claimed that Gower was repressing a deep-seated attraction to Labour leader David Cunliffe.
Brilliant! Can we please have more of your wicked satire Dr Edwards…
As Long as its not Richard Prebble there is still a chance of recovery. Immediately forgo any dreams of selling NZ Rail to a scrapyard. This may help.
Ahhh… brilliant as ever. B.E. should be on TV. Y is he not? PS: BE is an ideal name for his show, ok? PG
Very good! Love it! Perhaps a Tom Sharpe style book to follow expanding on this theme?
There may be something in Patrick Gower’s obsession with David Cunliffe. The precious moments Patrick has to expose his acumen on TV is squandered with gushing bright eyed dribbling focus on David. It is quite possible that during an interview Patrick will go down on his knee, clutch David’s hand and tearfully beg him to be his partner.
“David! David! I can’t get you out of my mind. I don’t really mean tricky. I really mean licky……”
This is a cease and desist letter on behalf of Mr Craig. We note the above post has no indication of being satire. Therefore any insinuations about the arousability of Mr Craigs image, or suggesting he would be more likely to expose himself than others, is an affront to his normality. This has caused Mr Craig to seek refuge in his kitchen closet, and resulted in many tedious phone calls from Mr Craig to ourselves, to the extent that our receptionist has now taken stress leave.
As Mr Craigs long suffering advisors, we would really love to get on with more serious stuff, like proving the existence of chemtrails or the moonlanding conspiracy or finding out the PM’s preferred brand of tea. Therefore we beg the reader to please cease and desist. We appreciate any cooperation on this most serious matter.
I act for Dr BE. Dr BE has forwarded your letter to me for response. It is our client’s view that your letter is much too sensible and coherent to have been written by Mr Craig and is in the nature of a hoax aimed at extracting money from god-fearing residents of Herne Bay. He thinks you may have better luck with a complaint to Fair Go.
Sue, Grabbit & Run
All commentators should reveal their political stripes.
I don’t agree. My politics are my affair and it’s unacceptable for an employer to ask me which party I support or who I have voted for or intend to vote for. This is private information. The work of journalists and TV and radio interviewers and commentators could not be more public. It’s there for us all to observe. We will soon spot the bias of any journalist who consistently favours one side of the political spectrum in his/her work. IF you know that X is a Labour supporter or Y a National supporter, your perception of that person’s work will be coloured by that knowledge, however neutral his/her interviewing or reporting is. Journalists are thinking people; the idea that they could be political neuters is simply preposterous. We have to trust them to separate their political opinions from their work. And in my experience they almost invariably do. In fact, they may overcompensate. Norman Kirk was convinced that I was out to get him. He mistrusted me as an interviewer. He may well have had grounds. I was certainly determined not to allow my strong Labour Party allegiance to colour my interviews with him.
BE: “We have to trust them to separate their political opinions from their work. And in my experience they almost invariably do.”
If they were to disclose their political stance, it is then contingent upon them to be fair and balanced. The pitfalls of non-disclosure outweighs the benefits of transparency. We pretty much have an inkling as to their leanings, anyway — so why not make them known?
I believe, reputations can be enhanced by seeing how a commentator straddles the divide between two opposing political factions. They do their credentials no favours if they show how one-eyed they are by being a patsy to one party and a pit-bull to another. By declaring their political preferences, they put themselves on notice. Either: “Well, whaddya expect from that biased interviewer?” as opposed to an interviewer who tries to adopt a neutral stance by conferring fairness and parity to all the parties. There is nothing more galling to see interviewers/reporters/journalist etc., etc, parlay their trade under the pretence of being apolitical.
We all know, that Matt (NBR) is a dyed-in-the-wool Nat. supporter; in fact, he’s one of JK’s loudest cheerleaders. It will surprise no one, if he has a life-sized pin-up poster of JK in his office and a voodoo doll of Labour’s DC, to store said pins. So, why doesn’t he come straight out and say he champions National’s policies? All of his political commentaries are spawned from programmed internalised default settings. We know that, so that’s why we have a Tb of salt at the ready.
it is then contingent upon them to be fair and balanced.
That’s not good journalism. The idea of balance is easily exploited by people sophistically taking ever more radical positions in order to move the “centre” closer to their preferred position.
There’s also the problem of the conservative movement having taken leave of reason in the last 30 or so years, especially in the US (although to be fair it is a recurring problem there). Fairness and balance is of no use when your interlocutor is having his opinions beamed directly into his skull from somewhere beyond the orbit of Jupiter.
Colin Craig was prepared to consider that the moon landings never happened. The only “fair” treatment for such views is outright mockery, and that’s what he got.
BE’s comment that bias on the part of the interviewer is soon spotted is true as far as it goes, but there is another aspect, namely the opportunity to choose which stories to investigate and how hard. NZ is just not big enough to let us have the equivalent of Fox or CNN or Al Jazeera or BBC so that the reporters keep each other honest. It’s probably better not to have a TV which operates as a government’s PR
department but the constant push for bad luck hard luck stories leaves us with the focus on news from other than NZ.
Your old employers at TV1 seem completely unaware that there’s no “I” in “story”.This makes a joke of our political coverage and the resulting lack of focus on policies and aspirations must be at least part of the reason fewer people bother to vote
ps May I say I am pleased you have returned
Reading all these comments (not just yours, James) I’m coming to the conclusion that there is no viable or acceptable position for the interviewer to take – whether he conceals his political views or declares them. What also needs to be taken into account is the bias of the viewer/listener/reader. No-one really comes to an interview with an entirely open and unbiased mind. You’re considerably more likely to perceive left-wing bias in an interview if you’re a right-winger and vice versa. Knowing the politics of the interviewer will only increase your suspicion. Most interviewers will tell you that they receive more or less equal criticism from right and left. Most regard that as evidence of their fairness.
Of course equal criticism from left and right could simply be evidence of incompetence. All ideas and claims should be open to critical scrutiny. The issue is simply that such scrutiny be intelligent and fair in the sense of being evidence-based, complete and non-discriminatory.
Where a journalist is unable or unwilling to provide that fairness the editor or producer should ensure other contributions. There is nothing wrong with a partisan approach if it is intelligent, open and engaged by a comparable advocate from the other side.
Rather to my alarm I agree with you Alan. I have always thought that the proposition that a journalist who is criticised by both Left and Right must be getting it right is an extremely dubious one. It’s much more likely that the criticism is justified from all directions because the journalist in question has got it wrong and doesn’t know their arse from their elbow. This is very common in New Zealand where journalists by and large are not well educated about New Zealand, its politics, and its place in the world, and have no way of judging what events mean, so they just go with what the pack says is happening. Mostly the result is chatter and gossip not journalism. We do have one or two perceptive commentators writing about events e.g. BE but mostly their political views are clear enough and don’t need to be publicly revealed. When I was a journalist (in my youth way back long before the Treaty)the editors I suffered under thought anyone who took an unorthodox but informed view of the world must be a communist. The commentator A J Liebling long ago coined the dictum: “The editor bites the journalist’s lip otherwise the publisher will kick the editor’s arse>”
Is there political balance in TV programs which tries to explain how well our gov’t is functioning? Take Q&A and the Nation for instance, why does a right wing political element continually, year after year, try to influence the viewer with their guest puppets. It is always the Matthew Hootens and the Michelle Boags who turn to defend the John Key brand, and rubbish the opposition. How fair is this?? I would rather have the facts presented to me in an unbiased manner,so that I can make up my own mind. Instead, we are confronted with dominant (“I am taking over this show”) card carrying Nat members placing more spin on actions taken by John Key and his cabinet.
One of the things which has always fascinated me, Johan, is the way the nightly news on all the channels lists the prices of a random selection of stock exchange shares. This information is completely meaningless even to those who follow such things, and tells you nothing about the state of the New Zealand economy. It is nevertheless invariably accompanied by portentous music as if it is of high significance. It would be much more to the point to publish the daily number of those registered as unemployed which is of significance to many more people and will actually tell you something about the state of our economy vis a vis our politics and our society. But can you imagine the cries of rage from many on the Right if this happened, claiming no doubt that this was left wing propaganda and further proof that public television is run by a conspiracy of socialists?
I am not so concerned with interviewer bias, its usually fairly obvious, I am more concerned with their questioning and their ability to create that empathy bubble that allows the subject to talk freely.
It’s the bias that comes in at the editorial level that gets me.
One gets the feeling Paddy Gower is sensing he may have to lick a different pair of shoes after September 20. Maybe its his chance to be leader of the pack, for awhile.