Diversity in Reporting? A Study of the News coverage of the 2016 New Zealand Local Body Elections
This study offers an analysis of print news media coverage of the 2016 New Zealand Local Body elections, focusing on reportage around issues of diversity. This study builds upon a prior project by the Media Observatory group at Auckland University of Technology of the 2014 New Zealand General election that also examined issues of diversity. The function of news media in democratic societies is crucial. For a nation-state that is as cosmopolitan and diverse as New Zealand, issues of inclusivity and representation are critical considerations for news media. This study employs content analysis and examined news coverage of local body elections and analysed 198 Local Elections newspaper articles from the eight weeks prior to 8 October 2016 in one nationwide newspaper and four Auckland community newspapers. It focuses on The New Zealand Herald, East & Bays Courier, Manukau Courier, North Shore Times, Central Leader and the Western Leader. The analysis of the 2016 Local Election news coverage demonstrates a predominant focus on the mayoral candidates to the detriment of other aspects of local election voting, and a focus on campaign strategy over social issues impacting the electorate. The Local Election coverage placed particularly strong focus on “youth” as a social group in contrast to other classified groups such as Māori, Asians, Pacific Islanders, the elderly, and dependents. The Local Election coverage also represented a diversity of social issues, from housing, transport, to business and economy, environment, and law and order. The coverage provided ample space for words and perspectives from the electoral front-runners, local government representatives, and for public voices but it also paid minimal attention to non-mayoral voting categories, non-front runner candidates, and non-Auckland geographical locations, although this latter point was perhaps unsurprising, given the newspapers sampled in the study.
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