Knowing versus seeing – formal complaint to Radio NZ National

I write to complain formally about your reporting about the Department of Conservation (DoC) deciding to submit a short submission versus an earlier longer draft submission on the proposed Ruataniwha Dam in Hawke’s Bay. The final DoC Submission, unlike the earlier draft, expressed concern about Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s plan, or otherwise, to manage water quality as a result of cow manure.

You have breached the broadcasting standards: 4 (Controverisal Issues – Viewpoints), 5 (Accuracy) 6 (Fairness) and 8 (Responsible Programming).

My complaint relates to two phrases. 1. Your radio broadcasts and webpages have used the phrase “version of events”. You have stated variously that DoC or DoC’s Doris Johnson “backed Dr Smith’s version of events”. 2. You report that DoC or Doris Johnson say Nick Smith “did not know about the submission until Tuesday”. This is clearly spin in your reporting – knowing about and seeing a document are clearly two different things and you have no quote, to my knowledge, that any DoC representative said Nick Smith did not “know” about the longer draft submission. Your quote from Doris is “”He never saw the draft submission.” Lazy reporting to confuse the knowing and seeing. And not only lazy but a breach of standards.

This “version of events” reporting clearly sets up a dichotomy between differing versions of events, notably that of Nick Smith versus Russel Norman of The Greens.

Apart from it being lazy and inaccurate journalism, the phrase covers many items which comprime the “events”.

DOC or its spokespeople did not address their comments to all the “events” and so cannot be taken to support anybody’s  “version” above anybody else’s version.

Your reporting clearly leaves listeners with the wrong impression that Russel Norman is wrong and DoC supports Nick Smith’s “version of events”.

I understand that the “version of events” wording was used by your journalist Dean Bedford despite other journalists saying that such lazy phraseology was against your guidelines.


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