2 March 2023
Analysis of Media Coverage of Parliament Protest 2022
A new report has reviewed the media coverage of one of the most significant events in 2022 – the Parliament Protest which lasted almost four weeks, and finds that the media failed in its duty to present the Protest in a fair and balanced manner.
The report which reviewed 599 news and op-ed pieces over a 22-day period concludes: “The coverage was curated to focus on the fringes and avoid the key questions at the centre of the protest. The public were never invited to draw their own conclusions but were fed a pre-determined diet of anti-protest content. We believe the majority of politicians were equally remiss, and responsible for creating the environment for this approach to prosper. Finally, the protestors must acknowledge that opting for a ‘grassroots’ style event made it harder for the media, and made space for the wrong voices to dominate.”
Key findings are:
- 72% of media coverage made no attempt to report the concerns, and many of those articles which did mention their concerns reported them alongside critical commentary.
- around 20 stories (just 3% of the total 599 reviewed) featured quotes from protestors, many of whom were happy to be named. There were only a couple of stories that profiled protesters in any depth.
- the direct coverage of the protests focused on the more controversial and possibly fringe elements of the group. Little effort was made to report the impact mandates had had on the lives of the protestors or the validity of questioning the use of mandates.
- the media failed to do a true assessment of what kind of people made up the protest and their motivation to be there. Most protesters were motivated by opposition to mandates, support for freedom of choice, concerns about children being vaccinated, and the loss of jobs.
- just under half of all coverage of the protesters’ concerns was by those speaking about the protest rather than to the protestors directly. Nearly all the commentary was negative and critical, at times derisive and dismissive.
It is our view, and we believe the view of most New Zealanders, that when significant social issues are being discussed and debated in our nation, the mainstream media should report the full debate – not lead it – and leave the public to come to their own conclusions. The media should present both sides, actively seek out those countering viewpoints, and refrain from focusing on the fringes which are rarely representative of mainstream viewpoints on the key issues. Sadly, many of our recent social debates have shown that it is difficult to trust the mainstream media to participate in social debates in a non-partisan way.
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