Mike Hosking: Why it’s important to get the facts right

A day of real celebration this time last week at the Newstalk ZB headquarters.

The year’s first ratings results were in and we were up.

In fact, we had reached an audience the size of which Newstalk had never before achieved.

Another survey was out at the same time…AUT’s Research Centre for Journalism Media and Democracies work into media trust.

New Zealand’s media scored a 48, which was down overall and indicated that 52 per cent of New Zealanders, in other words the majority, don’t trust what they see read and hear.

Tying these two results in, to perfectly give us an insight as to why things are the way they are, was an article on Stuff on the aforementioned radio ratings.

To me, it was a mixed piece of vitriol, snark and inaccuracy.

The first two aspects didn’t bother me, I was the partial star of the article and a lot of smack is written about me so a bit more wasn’t of any consequence (say whatever you like about me, I stopped caring about 25 years ago).

But here’s the claim that needs addressing and correcting.

Once it had waded through a theory about demographics, the article arrived at a startling claim.

“Newstalk ZB’s numbers shifted very little in any audience bracket in either share or listenership.”

Wrong.

“That tells us while Newstalk ZB’s audience, most of them over 55 are loyal, the station is not gaining much new audience and the one it has is not commercially desirable.”

Wrong again.

The station overall increased its audience by more than 29,000 people. That’s essentially Forsyth Barr Stadium, packed with new listeners.

The Mike Hosking Breakfast increased audience by 25,364 listeners.

Theyare major increases, especially when those numbers are heaped on to the total audience, which, as I pointed out at the start of this, sits at their highest level in the history of Newstalk ZB.

In other words, they’re record-breaking audiences.

As regards revenue, without giving anything commercially sensitive away, it is safe to say ZB is far and away NZME’s biggest radio revenue earner, and the Mike Hosking Breakfast is the biggest revenue earner on ZB.

How you get all that wrong when the numbers for NZME’s radio revenue earnings are publicly available, and any number of people at NZME would’ve been more than happy to correct the assertion or confirm the figures by answering an email or a phone call.

But sadly, it is why the media in part is in the parlous state with so many punters that it is.

Making it worse is that Stuff trumpets the claim on its website that: “It is our mission to provide trustworthy reporting for all New Zealanders.”

Dare I say it’s not worth making the claim, unless you actually do it.

Now if I might offer an observation from almost 40 years in this industry, it’s that some journalism is not what it was, nor indeed anywhere close, when it comes to professionalism, fact-checking or balance.

As a result of that, trust has fallen by the wayside.

It’s made complicated by the partisan members of the game, and I include myself in that, so you have ended up with a lot of choice as to where to get your news and information from.

Choice is a good thing and overall we are better served by choice, but it does require an element of work on behalf of the consumer as to where they choose, and what weight they put on the provider.

Those who profess to be diligent, upfront, honest and fact-based, need to do a better job, because the survey at AUT tells us standards have slipped.

The Stuff example of the ZB ratings in the grand scheme of things is hardly the end of the world, but it is part of the problem.If an article that wrong can be published with no fact checking and no sign off of the facts checked, what else is put out that’s equally as wrong?

And unless the person on the receiving end of the inaccuracies — in this case me and my beloved radio station — say something, how many were left with the impression that what Stuff put out there was true, as opposed to what the truth really is?

The longer I am in this game, the more interested I’ve become in hoping and perhaps helping it provide a more valuable and polished service.

We all make mistakes of course, but we can all work harder, do better, want more — and as a first step get the facts right.

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