Yesterday’s HB Today ran a press release — you might have mistaken it for a news article — presenting the views of the Maori representative on the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s dam project stakeholders group.

There was no reportage … indeed no value or insight added at all by HB Today. They simply re-published, with a bit of editorial re-arranging, a media release issued by the Regional Council … or more officially, its creature, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC).

I have no problem with HBRC/HBRIC promoting the views of one of its dam salesmen (although I know several Maori who have examined the dam issues more carefully than Dr Maaka, and have arrived at opposite conclusions). That’s the job of the well-resourced HBRC/HBRIC communications team. Next I expect will hear ‘news’ via HBT from stakeholders Sam Robinson, Jim Scotland, and Andy Pearce regarding how thrilled they are with the project.

I do, however, take issue with HB Today presenting media releases as though they were reporting something. Maaka’s piece should have been properly labeled as a opinion column. No reporter interviewed him; no reporter pushed back against his command of the facts or his interpretation of them.

This is standard practice at HB Today. Every professional and most amateurs working in communications in Hawke’s Bay know how easy it is to spoon feed the paper.

In fact, all of us ‘newsmakers’ could get together sometime, send our releases in on the same day, and effectively write the paper for them!

Like every other communicator in Hawke’s Bay, I and projects I’ve promoted have benefited from HB Today’s eagerness to fill column inches as easily and cheaply as possible.

But is that the ‘journalism’ people in Hawke’s Bay deserve?

Personally, I’m happy to make a case for any coverage I seek on behalf of any issue or cause … and just as happy to respond to any push-back or cross-examination.

If more of that occurred regarding HBT’s news reporting, with a level playing field for everyone seeking coverage, Hawke’s Bay Today would be a better paper, more respected in the community, and more read.

Better to focus on that, as opposed to what size the publication is.

Tom Belford

P.S. Here’s HBRIC’s Roger Maaka Media Release, if you want to make the comparison yourself.

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1 Comment

  1. Disappointing and lazy of HB Today once again, and particularly given the significance of the ‘dam’ proposal.
    But let’s be honest here, you are dealing with a newspaper that has very little ‘up and go’, investigative journalism is non-existant, with the prefered option of just tugging the old forlock to the ruling blue bloods who believe Hawkes Bay’s existance is for their benefit alone.
    The turning point for many was in 2005 when the then Editor used the full weight of the newspaper to personally attack and deride the then Labour Government led by the Rt Hon. Helen Clark.
    Debate was certainly expected, challenges demanded, but dictating to the populace the way they should vote was little more than the rantings of a media despot. His legacy is now what Hawkes Bay has for its daily rag.

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