Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 5. 1965.
Sirs,—In his letter headed "Incompetent" (Salient 4), Geoff Palmer asserts that "Reporting is concerned with fact, with events, with news—not with comment, interpretation and analysis."
One of the instructions to reporters contained in the Salient style book issued when Mr. Palmer was Editor was to put the most important fact in the first paragraph of any news story. A reporter cannot do this without exercising Judgment. Likewise, if a report is not to be unlimited in length, the reporter must omit some facts—also requiring judgment. The reporter must choose the words that constitute the report—and his choice of words obviously affects the meaning of the report. All these choices are personal—no two reporters will make the same decisions, so a news report will contain the Interpretation (intentional or otherwise) of the reporter, editor, sub-editor and anyone else who works on it.
The myth of editorial impartiality seems to have led Mr. Palmer into the fallacious implication that another source of national news would be a Bad Thing. Another source of news would simply contain another set of judgments, or if Mr. Palmer prefers it, distortions. It would also give readers an opportunity to discover some of these distortions by simply comparing reports. This is possible at the moment only in the case of local news and some national news.
Apart from his criticisms of Salient, which I support, the remainder of Mr. Palmer's letter is poorly reasoned or irrelevant. The NZBC's application to join the NZPA does not prove that the Corporation thinks competition in news gathering undesirable. The Corporation may only think it more expensive. And how does the fact that overseas news comes into NZ from a wide number of sources affect the issue of monopoly, when as Mr. Palmer says, "all this news is assembled and edited in Australia"?