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Trustworthy media? First, people need to even think about Hackgate


Latest Pacific Journalism Review ... featuring Britain's Hackgate scandal.

Pacific Media Centre, Song Jingli

8 October, 2012

Rebuilding public trust in journalism is the theme of the October edition issue of Pacific Journalism Review. Journalists and media scholars discuss media’s credibility and accountability issues in the light of high-profile media inquiries in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom following Britain’s Hackgate scandal. Song Jingli reports.

Hackgate? The great phone hacking scandal? Death of the News of the World? What’s that fuss all about?

This was the response of many international and NZ students when PMC Online conducted a vox pops on the issue.

Like many others, one German student said he hadn’t heard anything about phone hacking.

“But it is possible in any country - like the internet hacking,” he said.

Six out of the 10 interviewees said they had never heard about the British phone hacking scandal.

Four of the six are new to New Zealand and they care more about their home country news.

Among four people who did know about the British Hackgate, three were born in New Zealand.

TatianaSánchez(who holds a bachelor’s degree on chemical engineering, who arrived in New Zealand two months ago from Columbia, South America, to study English):

She arrived at the AUT Library before the gate opened. She was listening to something when I said “hi” to her. Later, she told me she was listening to New Zealand news, although she could not tell exactly which radio station the news was from.

Sánchezsays she has never heard about the phone hacking scandal in the UK. She says she reads Columbian news but does not read New Zealand news.

But she says she can tell that the radio news is “real”, not fabricated news as percentages and facts etc are provided.

Amy Chen (18, moved to New Zealand from Taiwan for her education at 10):

Chen says she has never heard of the British Hackgate. When asked whether she believed there was phone hacking in New Zealand, she says there might be some but it “must be very little”.

She says she read New Zealand news online, sometimes from the New Zealand Herald. She says she believes New Zealand media is more honest than Taiwanese media.

“They don’t exaggerate; they don’t always report killings, suicide or fire.”

Nic Taubert(born in Germany, working as a car seller for years, who has lived in Australia for one and a half years before travelling to New Zealand six days ago):

Taubert says she has never heard of the phone hacking scandal in the UK. She says she didn’t even read or listen or watch news as much news was about wars or bombs and was really “sad”.

But she says her friends in Australia may tell her some news from time to time. She says once she was in a friend’s house and the TV news was about the war in Syria and she felt really bad.

Allan Picking(an Auckland reference librarian):

At first, Picking says he didn’t know about the phone hacking scandal in the UK.

He says he usually reads a local newspaper and he thought “news there is for selling the newspapers”.

However, he believes that news is news only when it is information that has real values and is connected with people and may influence people and make people think. He says it isn’t news that someone was killed in a car crash or five miners died in China.

But he believes the fact that that many people were trapped in a mountain during China’s National Day holiday was “news”.

However, after we have talked for some time, he says he could recall the British phone hacking scandal and mentions News Corporation publisher Rupert Murdoch. He says even if there was phone hacking in New Zealand, it wouldn’t worry him.

“But if there is a newspaper story that is important to me but the paper turns out to have provided false information, I won’t trust the other stories and will abandon the whole newspaper. “

This situation has not happened yet, he added.

Alexander Hamann (arrived days ago on a working holiday visa from Germany):

He says he had not heard about the phone hacking thing in the UK.
“But it is possible in any country, like the internet hacking.”

Jessica Smith (arrived two days ago, from the United States):

She says she hadn’t heard about the phone hacking scandal in the UK but thought this was “absolutely possible” - and could happen in any country.

“It is a bad thing, but we can do nothing about it”.

She says she didn’t trust the government or the media in the US.

“It isn’t possible that the government will regulate the media as they are tied into each other.”

Michael Sprague(65, calls himself an “Auckland boy”, a property valuer):

Sprague says he knows about the British Hackgate and considers the scandal to be “disgraceful”.

He says journalists have lost a great deal of credibility for some time.

“They are more interested in selling the newspapers or products, rather than reporting the truth.

“They are besmirching their traditionally respected reputation.”

He says he didn’t know whether there was phone hacking in the New Zealand.

“But it won’t surprise me if it happens as well.”

However, Sprague still believes there are good journalists and he cited Brian Rudman, Paul Thomas and John Roughan.

“They do research and you can see the reasons why they make the conclusions although I may not agree with them.”

Andrew Coutts (born in New Zealand):

He is reading a newspaper when I approach him. He says he didn’t know about the British Hackgate.

He says he didn’t know whether phone hacking existed in the New Zealand.

“But if there is phone hacking, possibly in a small scale.”

He says he generally believes in New Zealand journalists and their stories.

He adds that British newspapers are under competition pressure while the New Zealand ones are not.

The New Zealand Herald does not have a competitor… it doesn’t have to phone hack.”

Arun Kumar Menon (an Indian, has lived in New Zealand for almost one year and has got a graduate diploma on Information Technology, is now looking for a job):

He was reading a newspaper in the newspaper room of the library when I approached him.

He says he had heard of the UK phone hacking scandal when he read news online.

“It’s awkward.”

But he says more about Indian news. He says he liked common-people stories in inside pages, rather than front-page “political stuff”.

Karl Smith (born in New Zealand, 36)

Smith said he knew about the British Hackgate. But he had not thought of whether similar cases would appear in New Zealand before I asked him.

Later, he said the Privacy Act 1993 could prevent the phone hacking but if theGCSB scandal was considered, the “big-brother” thing could happen.

“But I still believe New Zealand media is much better than the British media or the US media.”

Pacific Journalism Review on Hackgate

About the authors

PMC profile photograph

Pacific Media Centre

PMC newsdesk

The Pacific Media Centre - TE AMOKURA - at AUT University has a strategic focus on Māori, Pasifika and ethnic diversity media and community development.

PMC profile photograph

Song Jingli

AUT/China Daily Exchange Journalist

Song Jingli is brushing up on her journalism for a semester in the School of Communication Studies at AUT University.


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