The backstory: Crisis conditions show the value of news media


The Backstory is an occasional column by Stuff Editor in Chief Patrick crewdson offering a behind-the-scenes look at stories and decisions from the newsroom. You can receive The Backstory as an email newsletter.

We all know people who are good in times of crisis. They keep their heads when others lose their senses. They are not subject to hysteria. They do the job.

With the Delta epidemic plunging New Zealand back into national lockdown, conditions of crisis have resumed. And, once again, the news media have shown that it’s not just good in times of crisis – it’s vital.

Over 2 million Kiwis visited Things Tuesday, as the lockdown declaration followed the emergence of a community case in Auckland. Even more visited yesterday, and hundreds of thousands of people heard from our newspapers, like The Dominion Post, Press and the Waikato time.

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As alert levels increase, journalism is granted special status as an essential service – the recognition that the flow of accurate and reliable information is crucial.

Whether our reporters are capturing evocative images of empty streets, questioning the Prime Minister at the 1 p.m. briefing, or testing the viability of New Zealand’s elimination policy, it is gratifying to know that our work is reaching an attentive audience.

We know that in times of crisis, Kiwis look to Things en masse. Our busiest days have been the Kaikōura earthquake, the Christchurch Mosque terror attacks, and the announcement of last year’s Level 4 lockdown.

Journalist Sophie Cornish, left, chats with a worker outside a Wellington Covid-19 testing station.


Journalist Sophie Cornish, left, chats with a worker outside a Wellington Covid-19 testing station.

It is perhaps an obvious observation that people trust the media in an emergency. But in an age when disinformation is spreading across social platforms, it’s worth considering that the qualities that make news media so valuable in times of crisis are in fact present all the time.

Our job is to answer the questions of what, when, where, who, why and how. We deliver the news accurately and quickly, then help you understand the latest developments with analysis, context and explanation. We try to anticipate the needs of our audience and reflect the diversity of our country. We adhere to professional standards and our own code of ethics. And if we don’t get it right the first time, we correct our mistakes.

Throughout the pandemic, Aotearoa has been well served by its media. Not only Things, but 1 News, RNZ, Newshub, the NZ Herald, Māori Television, Newsroom, the Spinoff and many small outlets as well. The polarization and cultural wars that have plagued other countries have only scratched the surface of New Zealand, and part of the credit goes to a sane media landscape that relies heavily on all evidence and expertise. by holding the powerful to account.

Stuff political editor Luke Malpass speaks with chief health officer Ashley Bloomfield.


Stuff political editor Luke Malpass speaks with chief health officer Ashley Bloomfield.

When alert levels rise, our journalists go into action mode. We cover up and pound the streets to report on queues at test stations and supermarkets. Our political journalists camp in Parliament to interview decision-makers. Fact-checkers fight vaccine misinformation with our The Whole Truth project. And, just like in many homes, our staff juggle work and family responsibilities, whether it’s changing the homepage of a suburban kitchen or producing special editions of our daily quiz to entertain. the children.

Citizens may have a wide range of opinions on the progress of vaccine deployment, the effectiveness of the elimination strategy, or other aspects of Covid-19 policy. But opinions carry more weight if they are based on facts and evidence, not speculation and conspiracies.

Our promise to you is as follows: Things will continue to be a source you can count on in a crisis.

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