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When Ethics Departs, Democracy Soon Follows

Apart from Judith Collins, the politicians seem to be almost out of the storm created by Nicky Hager’s book and the mysterious Rawshark has turned the publicity blowtorch to Katherine Rich.

Meanwhile the practice of journalism has been revealed to be even more lowdown, depraved and unethical than we thought it could be. As many have admitted, they were played. Others knew it and didn't care. Journalists were already among NZ’s least trusted professions. As Chris Barton wrote in Tuesday’s Herald

“We, the media, are not properly doing our job. If we were, the public faced with this massive Machiavellian network of lies and deceit, would give a damn. Instead, to paraphrase John Key's masterful direction to an emasculated 4th estate: At the end of the day the public will see this is nothing but a left wing conspiracy smear campaign.”

Journalism in New Zealand can only go upwards from here.

So how can we take journalism upwards? A royal commission of inquiry will help, a blogging code of ethics, stronger defamation laws, an industry watchdog with statutory power to discipline dodgy bloggers might work… but all will struggle to keep up with lawbreakers who’s lies take months to detect and can swiftly change website or twitter account. For example our friend, Whaledump has avoided the surprisingly dodgy Twitter suspension by moving to Whaledump2. Ultimately we can’t control bloggers and we can’t legislate for politicians or journalists to be completely ethical.

The only solution is to create journalism that doesn’t crave a headline, that isn’t under-resourced by a boss squeezing every last dollar from it, that is collegial, intelligent, experienced, knowledgeable, analytical and independent. It is no accident that none of Radio NZ’s reporters were recipients of Cameron Slater’s slander.

The National Government has waged an unethical war on its opponents. It seems only fair that ethically-minded Kiwis of all stripes fight back (when we get the chance) with a comprehensive public service broadcasting service including a strengthened Radio NZ, television AND print, as recommended by Nicky Hager.

The other option is that we accept Cameron Slater and others like him will continue. And they are. See Radio NZ’s Blogwatch to see how ‘dirty politics’ is still happening.

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