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HomeViewpointsPeter BarclayA question of balance and intrigue

A question of balance and intrigue

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TVNZ’S Sunday programme interview with James and Suzy Cameron certainly raised the flag and shone a positive spotlight on the whole food debate but it was also curious and perhaps more interesting for another reason as well.

One of the earliest issues we’re taught about in journalism covers the question of and the problem of balance. How do you balance a story?

This is particularly important for print media at times, especially around election time when politicians are given (often free) a chance to have their say. Obviously, a politician from one party is going to be biased against another. How do you deal with the problem of balance?

The short answer is that you try to equalise by allotting everyone the same word count – then do your best to make sure the final presentation covers an equal amount of space. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.

The same rules can’t be as easily applied when making say, a piece of film or a voice-recorded interview, for instance.

You see, the problem of balance isn’t always a matter of time or space it has a lot to do with impact as well.

Farmer Jim down the road can have one opinion for instance but if say, the Prime Minister contradicts him it carries more weight. And in this case, what about Beef + Lamb?

I’ve often found New Zealand journalists to be less probing where some issues are raised and more likely to accept comments from a Prime Minister or Minister of the Crown without knowledgeable counterquestions that draw them out.

Somehow, I wonder if the compilers of this programme let the “Oh Wow, it’s James Cameron” factor get to them.

The Cameron’s made a good case on where they stand, but the programme’s creators hit them with a sledgehammer by including a piece from the Prime Minister and then came the arrival of “Lee-Ann Marsh from Beef + Lamb New Zealand.”

What television didn’t point out was that Lee-Ann Marsh isn’t just a spokesperson for Beef + Lamb; she’s also their Global Market and Innovation Manager.

Leanne isn’t only quoted here on the potential impact of plant-based eating on beef. She also gets to make a statement on health.

“If you enjoy meat it’s a really great and easy way to get all your vitamins and minerals and very few calories, and it packs a big punch for a small amount,” she said. These remarks were left unchallenged.

More seriously, however, what the programme overlooked is that Beef + Lamb is in the midst of an active campaign to separate what it sees as “the hype from reality” with “transformational projects” that look into “disruptive forces across the value chain.”

That Beef + Lamb is proactively engaged in creating events that present opportunities to push its message is not something many are aware of.

Of course, there is no evidence that the creators of TVNZ’s Farmer Jim fell victim to this, but there can be no doubt that tonight’s Red Meat Debate at the Northern Club in Auckland is certainly part of Beef + Lamb’s new campaign.

Organised by Beef + Lamb in conjunction with the Food Writers Guild of New Zealand, the panel discussion includes Beef + Lamb’s Chief Insights Officer, Jeremy Baker.

Turning back to Farmer Jim, I think the programme gave a reasonably fair opportunity for the Camerons to explain their case, but it also contained a more subtle and unchallenged effort to discredit the value of alternative proteins.

Peter Barclay
Peter Barclayhttp://www.wholefoodliving.life
Has a professional background in journalism, photography and design. He is a passionate Kiwi traveler and an ardent evangelist for protecting all the good things New Zealand is best known for. With his wife Catherine is also the co-owner of Wholefoodliving.
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