A nation talking to itself

talking to self

Once upon a time, Arthur Miller said, “A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.”

These days, many media outlets are talking only to segments of the population.

For the New Zealand media, 2021 has been a year of cancellations.

Finance minister Grant Robertson cancelled his weekly MagicTalk interview slot with Peter Williams. Presenter Sean Plunket left the station before there was a chance to cancel him.

Recently, the Herald cancelled historian and former Labour cabinet minister Michael Bassett after publishing (and unpublishing) a column of his. And finally, the Prime Minister cancelled her weekly interview slot with Newstalk’s Mike Hosking.

Each incident is different, yet they all point to ongoing political polarisation.

You do not have to agree with Williams, Plunket, Bassett or Hosking to know that many New Zealanders do. That is why Mike Hosking reaches a large segment of society with his morning show.

Hosking’s audience will now miss out on the weekly interview with the Prime Minister. That is a pity for them and for Hosking.

But the greater damage is that this cancellitis creates more echo chambers in our media.

Where politicians only speak to audiences close to them, there will be no tough questions, no hard talk and little to learn. And where journalists only interview politicians they like, they are in danger of becoming acolytes.

It gets worse. As a growing segment of online and print news is now serving left-of-centre audiences, this leaves a diverse group to their right homeless.

Yes, these groups could still listen to Hosking. They could also resort to reading international newspapers like The Times, The Australian or the Wall Street Journal. But they would struggle to find similar written content here.

According to the mediabias.co.nz research project, all mainstream media outlets in New Zealand show a left-wing bias. Continue reading

  • Dr Oliver Hartwich is the Executive Director of the New Zealand Initiative
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