Since Winston Peters’ return to power, one of the big talking points from the new Government has been around the relationship between media and politicians.
Peters’ used several early press conferences to take aim at state-funded broadcasters TVNZ and RNZ, the Public Interest Journalism Fund, and other government-funded initiatives to support journalism, calling the latter fund “$55 million of bribery”.
It sparked differing views from politicians; former Labour Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson defended the fund, while Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said it was something many New Zealanders were concerned about.
Speaking to Thomas Coughlan on the NZ Herald’s politics podcast On the Tiles, former RNZ political editor Jane Patterson spoke about how that relationship has changed over her 20 years in the Press Gallery. She said the rise of social media has played a big role in changing the landscape.
“They also have the option of bypassing us and going direct to the audience with social media, which is incredibly effective, and they are not bound by the restrictions of going through a third party or fact checking or anything like that.
“And even in this election, we’ve seen the use of social media from all parties. It was pretty sketchy and in some cases to be charitable, but it’s a very, very powerful political tool.”
Coughlan said politicians taking to social media could drive anxiety about media.
“Politicians go on social media and some sort of quite implicitly - sometimes almost explicitly - but usually implicitly are saying ‘I’m bypassing the media because they’re all liars and I want to talk to you directly and unmediated’.”
Patterson said public trust is one of the media’s biggest challenges, and the industry needs to rise to that.
“The media need to respond not by being defensive, but by being better and by showing that we can be trusted and by maintaining our own standards and expectations and actually delivering what the audience needs.”
Listen to the full episode of the On the Tiles podcast for more from Jane Patterson on her time in the Press Gallery, including which election was the most exciting to cover.