New Zealand Herald criticised for 'hit piece' on independent media outlet

The Herald's senior writer David Fisher faced backlash for his article that targeted independent journalist Chantelle Baker and labelled her a 'conspiracy theorist' with inferred links to the 'alt-right'.

New Zealand Herald criticised for 'hit piece' on independent media outlet
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The New Zealand Herald has come under fire after a 'hit piece' article on an independent media outlet caught the attention of social media users for its blatant hypocrisy.

The 'big read' story penned by the masthead's senior writer David Fisher lamented NZ media personality Chantelle Baker's independent media website Operation People for earning viewer-funded financial support for its journalism.

"Chantelle Baker has turned the support generated at the Parliament protests last year into a donation stream that has funded her new career. But how did the 30-year-old become the queen of New Zealand’s alternate-reality ecosystem, asks David Fisher," the article's opening paragraph originally read.

However, to be able to read the story, the publication requires readers to subscribe to the Herald's paywall, put in place for readers to help fund its own reporting.

Baker responded to the article on social media by saying that Fisher had littered the report with 'lies,' including embarrassingly getting her age wrong in the opening paragraph.

"To give you an idea of how inaccurate today's @nzherald hit piece on me was - in the very first sentence they couldn't even get my age right. Journalism of such a high standard," she wrote.

"Far out. I've just read the whole article from @nzherald and the blatant lies to mistruths are astounding. From how many we have working with us, to how I'm funded, to our trip, to the water for Wairoa. What a hilarious, complete mess they made of trying to write about me!"

The Herald has since quietly updated the opening paragraph to remove the incorrect age attribution.

The publication has previously been called out for its dubious coverage of Rebel News reporter Avi Yemini's planned visit to New Zealand, with a similar-style story written by the Herald shockingly used by authorities as a basis to stop him from entering New Zealand last year.

The story, which appeared without a byline, wildly mischaracterised Yemini as an 'infamous Australian far-right misinformation superspreader' and remarked without any factual basis that both he and independent journalist Rukshan Fernando were 'known to spread misinformation and falsehoods on social media in Australia'. 

Similarly, the 'big read' article on Baker went on to label the independent journalist as an 'conspiracy theorist' with inferred links to the 'alt-right' and supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin among a swathe of targeted mischaracterisation.

"It is the New Zealand evolution of an alternate-reality ecosystem seeded before Covid-19 then super-charged by the pandemic," Fisher writes. "Chantelle Baker has carved out a niche for herself pushing conservative and alt-right talking points from the United States."

Fisher's article cites far-left NZ academic think tank 'The Disinformation Project' which has come under global criticism after the group's founder Kate Hannah's radical Marxist idealogy was unmasked by Operation People.

"Chantelle Baker was one of the “Disinformation Dozen” identified by The Disinformation Project, an academic research group that tracks false and misleading claims," Fisher writes. "Those dozen alt-news outlets produced 73 per cent of false or misleading New Zealand-based content found on Facebook during the 23-day occupation. On some days, alt-news views equalled or exceeded the views on reality-based media."

Operation People has previously reported on the powerful influence of far-left ideologies in some of NZ's biggest institutions including Official Information Act requests that revealed The Disinformation Project's services were contracted by then PM Jacinda Ardern's Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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