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A response to Sandra Paterson from GayWatch

Take care in what you tell your public: A response to NZ Herald's Sandra Paterson from GayWatch

New Zealand Weekend Herald columnist Sandra Paterson said in her column of February 18th that “communication is what is understood, not what is said”. We could not agree more.

What GayWatch understands is that every time Paterson writes on moral values or homosexuality – which is quite often lately – she consistently fails to disclose her own personal religious commitments and affiliations.

She obviously does not want Herald readers to know that she is an evangelist with the Tauranga Worship Centre – or was at least until late last year when her name disappeared from its website. Up until that time, it was possible to use the “search for an evangelist” function on the site and come up with Paterson’s name, complete with a scorecard that media commentator Russell Brown described on November 29 last year as a “soul-saving league table”.

As a Maxim Institute-style stealth activist, Paterson has now well and truly earned her stripes, and plainly nobody in the present editorial hierarchy at the Herald could care less. In fact they have rewarded her with a weekly bully pulpit, perhaps grooming her to take over from religious columnist Garth George when he retires? At least George is open about his motivations.

Understand that what Paterson writes is not the issue, the problem is that her personal motivations for doing so remain deliberately hidden. Letters to the editor pointing this out – of which GayWatch knows several have been sent – continue to be tossed into the rubbish bin. The newspaper will simply not allow this subject to be raised. So much for the Herald’s regularly trumpeted commitment to freedom of speech. On this subject it is non-existent.

Why does any of this matter? Because if someone wrote regularly about Jewish issues, for example, it would be highly relevant if they were personally associated with the National Front. Wouldn’t it?

In our view these are fundamental matters of journalistic ethics, and every regular newspaper columnist should at least make some attempt to adhere to them. Disclosure of the facts is a bedrock of quality journalism, and when opinions are given free rein in the influential realm of mainstream media, the public has a right to know exactly where the argument is coming from.

GayWatch is an organisation and advocacy group which monitors and comments on coverage of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues in the mainstream media.

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