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Salient. Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 1. Monday, February 25, 1963

In Search of Journalism

In Search of Journalism

New Zealand papers, daily press and university alike, seldom seem fully aware of their functions. And most New Zealanders, smugly satisfied that our Press does not follow the overtly sensational or political manoeuvring policies adopted by many Australian, UK and USA newspapers, ignore the many serious flaws in our journalism.

Briefly, some of these serious faults are:
  • The poor standard of writing and lack of stimulating editorial opinion. Wordiness, cliches and parochial dullness clutter up the editorial and local news columns of nearly every New Zealand metropolitan and provincial daily. One quotation from The Dominion, the worst metropolitan offender, will illustrate the point. The editorial suggests a 1963 Royal Festival for Wellington: "Let us work on it, so that in decades to come today's youngsters may look back on the Royal Festival of Wellington and in the fullness of their years, agree 'That was the city's finest hour." Few editorial writers offer new ideas or constructive criticism; most are content to languidly paraphrase what somebody else has already said or written.
  • The scarcity of properly qualified journalists. Few New Zealand journalists are taught to write or think. The pressure of day-to-day newspaper life leaves little time for instruction. The reporter's one chance for a journalistic education, the Diploma of Journalism, is a thing of the past. In New Zealand editors prefer "experience" to university education: in the United States journalists must be university graduates.
  • The absence of competition and the sameness of news. In the main New Zealand centres people have the choice of one morning paper and one evening paper containing almost identical news. Initiative and imagination are unnecessary when there is no competition. But more important is the fact that all overseas news and all nationally wired New Zealand news is channeled through the New Zealand Press Association's rewrite room. How can we ever be sure that newspaper reports are objectively written, and not specially vetted for New Zealand consumption?
  • The lack of Sunday newspapers. News comment is sadly lacking in New Zealand papers. Overseas editorial writers and Sunday editions analyse and give perspective to the news; here editorial writers the gentlemen from The Auckland Star. Christchurch Press and Evening Post excepted cannot, and Sunday papers are outlawed by parliamentary statute. The Sunday editions of London's Observer and New York Times give weekly studies in depth on important local and international social, political and economic questions. New Zealand papers print unconnected news statements day by day, contentedly ignoring the duty of providing for their readers connected analysis of the important issues involved behind the headlines.