Editing The Herald – Badly: Yesterday’s Big Tobacco blunder


2008-01-26 (Editing a paper) - 31 by Nic's events.
[UPDATE: The online disclaimer has now been amended. If anyone from the Herald’s reading this, thankyou and please don’t file my CV in the shredder]

There’s a famous saying attributed to Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to look like bloody big chumps and confirm every negative perception of their industry”. Or something like that.

Anyway, shame on the New Zealand Herald. On Monday – the very same day they ran NZPA’s recap of the incredibly sketchy relationship between Imperial Tobacco and the Association of Community Retailers – they also ran an opinion piece by Roger Bull of the Association of Convenience Stores. You know, Glenn Inwood’s other pro-tobacco client. It’s an audacious if predictable piece of damage control:

The puritanical drive to rid New Zealand of tobacco products may well be labelled as “nanny state”, as it underlines a more ominous undercurrent.

And that is that a very vocal few end up telling adult New Zealanders what products they can or can’t buy, with complete disregard for the notion of consumer freedom or personal responsibility.

Add to this that any opponent to their way of thinking is labelled “in the pocket of big business” and therefore cannot be trusted.

Except in this case, the opponents are in the pocket of big business, and I don’t just mean the ACR – As Keith Ng found, Bull’s organisation even lists British American and Imperial Tobacco as “premier members” on their website.

Not that anyone told the Herald‘s readers. Here’s the disclaimer that accompanied the op-ed:

Roger Bull is chairman of the Association of Convenience Stores, which represents 769 stores across New Zealand.

That’s it in its entirety. It’s bad enough that the Herald‘s staff apparently did nothing at all to check a pro-tobacco group’s industry ties while printing a series of stories about a pro-tobacco group’s industry ties, but I emailed the Herald Online’s newsroom about this yesterday at 10am. A day later there’s been no response, no change to the online article and no clarification or correction in today’s print edition either.

Shameful. And by the way, feel free to let them know about it here or here.

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