The Press seems to love Councillor Jamie Gough. His billboards feature a ringing endorsement from the newspaper - 'He sees the big picture' - and he gets preferential treatment in The Press as well. This week Gough was allowed to use the letters page to plead forgiveness for his uncritical devotion to Mayor Bob Parker. And for voting for Tony Marryatt's whopping $68,000 pay increase. James Dann writes that this is not the first time Jamie Gough has been allowed to use The Press as his own personal soapbox.
A couple of days ago, The Press reported the story about councillors who voted for Marryatt’s pay rise having their hoardings targeted. Jamie Gough was featured in the story, asking for forgiveness. You would have thought that this would have been the end of the story. But remarkably, in yesterday’s paper, he was given pride of place, with the first letter to the editor, which he used to grovel. He’s grown as a person, as a councillor. He’s made mistakes. He deserves a second chance etc. It’s extraordinary that a politician running for re-election would be given such a prominent place to put their views, without any editorial interference. But it's the not the first time in recent months that Gough has been given the run of the letters page to use as a soapbox.
The Press seems to be quite a fan of the Gough family.
Jamie’s uncle is Anthony Gough, the flamboyant property developer. Because of his prominence, Gough senior features readily in the paper. That’s fine, he’s a big part of the rebuild and thus very newsworthy. But that doesn’t mean they should be giving Gough junior such a soft run. A couple of months ago, I outlined what I believed were conflicts of interest. Before I blogged it here, I talked to a couple of reporters at The Press. They seemed interested, and thought there was a story. However, it was quashed by the senior news team, who didn’t think it was important. I obviously think there is a story there, and while The Press don’t think it’s an issue, would it hurt to run it, then let Gough respond to it? If there is no issue, he could put our minds at ease. That’s what the new, mature Jamie Gough, who believes in transparency and openness would do, right?
Far be it from me to level claims of bias at Christchurch’s only daily newspaper, but it does somewhat mirror a situation unfolding at The Press’s sister paper, the Dominion Post. High profile mayoral candidate and sexist dinosaur John Morrison has made what could politely be described as a series of gaffes, which seem to have been reported by anyone but the Dom. Interestingly, the WCC Watch blog links to a report in the NZ Herald. The two stories I blogged about yesterday – Bob Parker’s bubbly spend up and Marryatt quietly taking the money he said he’d turned down – also came from the Herald. The story about the bubbly doesn’t it make this morning’s Press. I can understand if the newsroom at The Press is stretched, but it does seem odd that wouldn’t even bother to run a story about the Mayor of the city putting booze on the ratepayer’s tab, then obfuscating for over a year to prevent the information getting out.
As I said before, I understand that newsrooms are under a lot of pressure at the moment; I just hope that that is their reason for ignoring certain issues, rather than laziness, or worse, taking an editorial line in favour of certain candidates.