Inept reporting – a classic case. (an ODT Editorial).

The ODT, my local rag, has a Business and Political reporter of the senior kind, who recently blogged thus:

http://www.odt.co.nz/blogs/dene-mackenzie/146047/blogs-sidestep-journalism-rules

It’s a fair enough question, but for the fact that – in my humble opinion – the writer is as black as the kettle.

Here’s a recent ODT Editorial. Sure, Editorials are opinion pieces. Sure, the ODT spreads the task around (or someone is seriously in need of cranial assistance!).  

But:      you expect the  kind of journalistic standard, given that it’s the leader column, that Dene Mackenzie is claiming to have the moral high ground on. (I suspect he is the pen behind this one, but there are a couple of other possibilities, and I’m not privy to the interior of the edifice).

Here’s the full Editorial:

http://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/editorial/152662/deciding-service-priorities

I’m not concerned with the first part, here’s the section that fails :

Many, too, argue the council’s peak oil vulnerability analysis report is a time and money waster – certainly it would seem Minister of Finance Bill English holds it in low regard.

This document presumes to identify local government actions to prepare for high oil prices but Mr English, in Parliament last Wednesday, observed it was likely the report will not be particularly effective, judging from the title of it and the fact a local council has very little opportunity to actually influence the Western world’s vulnerability due to its use of oil.

Majorities on the council seem of a mind to regard such projects and reports as matters of great need.

They are not.

They are luxuries.

The council exists to offer services, and all its services must be rated in accordance with substance – if councillors truly are serious about cutting costs.

Let’s examine this piece of lightweight ideology, first the claim that “ certainly it would seem Minister of Finance Bill English holds it in low regard”.

What is Bill English savvy in?   Energy Studies? Physics? No, he’s an adherent to a philosophy that ‘the market’ will sort out all woes, and if he’s an expert in anything, it would be finance. A quick – and not requiring much cranial energy – piece of thinking would ask: What happens without energy? And the internal cranial reply would be: Nothing.

So – any reporter worth his/her salt, would immediately go consult an expert in the relevant field. Would you rate the opinion of a flower-seller  about the possibility of nuclear meltdown? A comedian about surgery? Ring about earthquakes? They might all have valid views, they might even all be right, but you’d start with the expert in the field, and use them as mirrors, surely? Not the other way around.

The failure continues:

and the fact a local council has very little opportunity to actually influence the Western world’s vulnerability due to its use of oil.

Seems to me, they aren’t being charged with ‘influencing the Western world’ – they’re charged with local leadership.

And then the hum-dingers:

They are not.

They are luxuries

This isn’t ‘opinion’. This is claimed fact – a quantum level above. It needs justification, defence. It get neither, just left there as if unassailable.

It’s horseshit, of course. If you’re not planning for the future, what are you planning for? And if you’re a Local Authority, all – REPEAT ALL –  of your activities, all  – REPEAT ALL – of your equipment, all – REPEAT ALL – of your infrastructure…………………………….is inextricably based on, using of, and made from………oil.

Indeed, to not ascertain whether it is available in the future would be a dereliction of civic duty, of the first order. (Is that an opinion? No, it’s just logic. You don’t plan to put out more deckchairs, if the ship is sinking; you ascertain whether the ship is sinking, and plan lifejackets and lifeboats. The writer is -seriously – advising the Councillors to ignore (whether and if) the sinking.

Finally –

The council exists to offer services, and all its services must be rated in accordance with substance – if councillors truly are serious about cutting costs.

In part, I agree – so how about letting them examine matters of ‘substance’? I’d have thought the future supplies of energy, and how they will impact a City, would have to be at the top of the list of ‘substance’. Whereas ‘finance’ is of no substance at all – merely and provably a man-made construct evolved to facilitate trade in?  Things of substance!

This Editorial is a long way from good, logical investigative reporting, and a long way from the standard we should expect. Sure, it’s the norm, and appraisals of reality are the exception. Sure, the majority of NZ journos ‘accept and regurgitate’. Doesn’t make it right, though.

Worse than that, it means they divulge – and from an Editorial in this case – something other than the truth. The actual. The fact.

For the record, I went into Dene Mackenzie, years ago now, pointing out that Peak Oil would mean the peak of activity – although I probably wasn’t as clear then as I am now – about ‘efficiencies’ . He has yet to refute, refer, or anything, to that info – yet he continues with such nonsense as saying (front page, no less, although conveniently as ‘opinion’) that selling off our energy sources (energy is that without which nothing happens, remember) “makes sense”. I’ve also hassled the Editor – privately, I’m into getting the message out, not belittling folk (unless they continue projecting porkies, in which case eventually….) – but this is still the level of nonsense we’re getting.

In the end, this is a case of an ideology attempting to be fact.

Which is unacceptable, and in light of the blog mentioned at the beginning (and that’s on the ODT’s own site), a joke.

Sure, the ‘Editorial’ is an ‘opinion’, but it must justify it’s argument, and be an example of a good standard of thoughtful projection (some call this investigative journalism – I’d be happy if it just stayed with fact/logic

That’s in my opinion.    🙂

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