Journalism is considered the fourth estate of society. Historically being placed alongside ‘the king, the clergy, and the commoners’. It’s role has been that of a watch dog of those other estates which have significant influence over society – resulting in itself also gaining significant influence. In more recent times, the increase in dialogue around fake news and click bait, the actual weight given to the media has weakened somewhat. If Trump we’re to be believed, all press would be known as liars and spin-doctors.
The way in which Donald Trump seeks to undermine the press could be explained by his frustration of the stories that are published about himself! The media is necessary to keep leaders and executives in check. This was very much the case from 2006 to 2012, when the senior manager of Auckland Transport, Murray Noone and roading contractor, Stephen Borlase were providing and receiving $1.2 million dollars’ worth of bribery. These are serious issues that deserve serious attention from the media. The affect that accurate and timely reporting can have on someone in trouble with the law can be devastating. There’s a reason individuals and companies work so hard to secure name suppression. The impact of having their name in the media alongside a potentially committed crime is incredibly detrimental. It’s also the reason that Trump doesn’t like the press particularly.
So while I have the utmost respect for journalism, the press, and freedom of speech, some articles make me want to puke. Articles such as this one, come across like those annoying children going out of their way to get the other kid in trouble, when really it’s just the tattle tale kid that is bugging you. Similarly, NZ Herald has gone out their way to investigate (note the official information request) the gifts provided to a range of senior council staff. This type of investigative journalism is not helpful. It just seeks to encourage a negative perception of our local authority and an attitude that the people who serve our city should have every second accounted for and not enjoy any rewards or benefits that may come their way. Should they be lucky enough!
While I can appreciate that some people may like to know who and to what value these men are being gifted and that the Herald are taking their role as the fourth estate very seriously. It also seems like much ado about nothing. Many people are invited to domestic and international rugby games as a part of their business relationships. I think this idea that council staff should get no enjoyment or perks from their work is outdated and unfair. While the article doesn’t go as far as to say this it is certainly the vibe I got.
It appears that everything the article outlines is well within the rules and has been dealt with according to proper protocol. I’m certainly not of the belief that Auckland Council is the saviour of our city. They are not without their faults. But when council staff are warned to be on their best behaviour while on the way to their Christmas party because journalists are waiting outside – which was the experience of one of our planners while they were at council – there is a problem. I think some council staff probably have it hard enough dealing with all of us whingers to be spared unnecessary journalist harassment.
A possible solution? An online forum where all major (and even minor) gifts given are listed and available to anyone who wants them. We often send members of the council planning team’s cakes to share with their colleagues after we get big consents through. The reason we don’t send bottles of wine? So they don’t have to be registered on the gift list. It’s good to know that Auckland Council and their CCO’s have been gifted some of the most coveted rugby tickets for the year. But from what I can see no wrong has been done. To write an article almost looking to vilify those attending one of the best rugby series our country has seen is dull journalism, not watch dog journalism.
The bureaucracy many residents face when dealing with Auckland City Council can be enough to make people blue in the face. Perhaps if there was less reporting on these superficial issues in which there has been no wrong doing, council would have more time to do things that actually matter. Like policing the SHA’s to make sure at least 10% of the homes are affordable! Let’s spend less time trying to vilify council for things they do by the book and start putting more pressure on them to provide results for this city. Even if it just things like a shorter wait time on the customer service phone!