Thursday, March 26, 2009

One side to every story

AIR NZ SCRAMBLING TO AVOID STRIKE CHAOS read the
headline over the front-page lead story in yesterday’s
New Zealand Herald
. ATTENDANTS’ WALKOUT
THREATENS EASTER TRAVEL FOR THOUSANDS
read the
subhead. The first half of the story itself was entirely
about the trouble the strike would cause the airline, how
staff would have to be redeployed, how it would disrupt
bookings already made, and what a bad time it was for
this to happen. In short, the story, by aviation reporter
Grant Bradley, was told very much from the point of
view of Air New Zealand management, and the strike
was consistently depicted as problematic and
disruptive. We were then told briefly what those
identified in the first paragraph as ‘some international
cabin crew’ were planning to strike about. In the
second half of the story, nearly twice as much space
was given to the airline’s version of this ‘sharp
breakdown in staff relations’ than was given to the
views of the union (the EPMU) and one crew member,
who had a whole three lines to herself at the very end
of the story saying she and her colleagues were sick of
being ‘treated as second-class citizens.’

This is such a tired old approach to news stories about
industrial relations. Time and again the emphasis is on
the problems for management and the negative
consequences for the public. They are factors, of course,
but why does the coverage invariably give them priority?
Would the Herald ever have the imagination to lead the
paper with a headline like WORKERS ‘SICK OF BEING
SECOND-CLASS CITIZENS’
and then tell us what the flight
attendants’ grievance was and why they felt they had to
take such drastic action—before putting the management
side? The inexorable tendency of this kind of coverage
over time is anti-worker and pro-boss.

I admire tremendously much of what the Herald does—
it's easily the country’s best newspaper, in my view—but
in this respect it has not bothered to think clearly and
independently; the result is a story that is unbalanced and
unfair. Since then, in fact, nothing has improved: the two
latest stories about the issue on the Herald website are
headed AIR NZ CUSTOMERS CONCERNED ABOUT EASTER
STRIKE THREAT
and AIR NZ STANDS FIRM ON STRIKE
THREAT
. Get the picture?

4 comments:

Giovanni said...

I admire tremendously much of what the Herald does—it’s easily the country’s best newspaper, in my view

"Easily" in more ways than one, really.

Mary McCallum said...

Yep, Denis. You are absolutely right. When I was in Ottawa recently there was a bus strike. People were having to walk for hours in the deep snow to work and were justifiably upset - the media was full of photos of and quotes by these angry people. It was clear they all (reporters and citizens included)blamed the bus drivers for this state of affairs not the bus company who for week after week refused to consider giving the drivers a pay rise.

Truth Seeker said...

I agree. The story is very much in the mold of struggling management, bad unions, and public inconvenience.

That the $25,600-ish base rate is below the $26,000 minimum wage ($12.50 x 40 hours / week) as of April 1st isn't mentioned.

That's US$14,606 / annum. Given ost of our own produce and goods are priced locally in prices converted from US$s, this comparison is apt....and demonstrates how very poorly these people are paid. They would do just as well in a cafe in Birkenhead - maybe better.

Sanctuary said...

When the Berlin wall came down, only on side stopped fighting the class war - and it wasn't the bosses.