Friday, 10 March 2006

When partly true is untrue - 'More FM' misreporting shows interview dangers

How many times have you been involved with events that have been picked up by the media, only to find that you barely recognise the story that was eventually reported? The more you see incidents you're familar with being changed into stories you barely recognise, the more you realise that when it comes to current affairs it's important to read between the lines -- that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is unlikely to appear on the front pages of the popular press.

Being interviewed by the media can be just as frustrating, and the results can be even further from the truth. Consider for example the case of Julian Pistorius, who was interviewed by More FM about burning his census papers -- an interview that became more wide-ranging as it progressed. After he woke up the next day he was astonished to find that More FM were reporting that "racism in Northland is acceptable according to the Libertarianz Party," and that his own 'racism' was being denounced by no less than Dover Samuels on behalf of all "fair-minded" New Zealanders who "would turn their backs on that type of policy."

Fortunately, Julian managed to obtain an apology from the radio station which clarifies his position and that was broadcast this morning:
More FM yesterday ran a story saying that the Libertarianz political party supported racism. More FM now accepts that this was incorrect. Libertarianz Deputy Julian Pistorius confirmed that his party does ~not~ support racism, but it does support people's freedom to believe whatever nonsense they wish. More FM sincerely apologises for any ambiguities associated with Thursday's story.
The apology has satisfied Julian, who I understand will shortly be posting clips and transcripts on his blog of both interview and news report. They will make interesting browsing for students of journalism.

There is a reason witnesses in court are asked to provide the whole truth. Words taken out of context are a way of being economical with the truth -- like for example having a lowlife tell you that just because you think David Irving has the right to peddle his nonsense that you're a holocaust denier yourself. Such smears suggest that the accuser has been unable to find anything else with which to accuse you, so he has had to make up something to fling in your direction.

Partial reporting is not the whole truth. The whole truth gives the whole context, something the media have a responsibility to present. As long as they don't, it behooves those giving interviews to be cautious in what they say, something I'm sure Julian will be bearing in mind in future.

UPDATE: Commentary slightly revised, and new link added to media files and story at Julian Pistorius's blog.

LINKS: More FM - Northland
Journalism Ethics 101- Julian Pistorius

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Racism, Libz

1 comment:

  1. it behooves those giving interviews to be cautious in what they say, something I'm sure Julian will be bearing in mind in future.

    It sounds like some have gotten Julian to thinking that he's to blame for the "Libz Racist" headline, and he's NOT!

    He did a good job of speaking for his party and made himself clear, saying that "racism is evil."

    MoreFM, the imperfection is yours.


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