The press and society in New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
“I know not what use there may be in the study of history, if it be not to guide and instruct us in the present.” Disraeli. In the year 1946 the British National Union of journalists made a request for an inquiry into the operations of the Press in the United Kingdom. That inquiry is now under way. A similar request was made in the New Zealand Parliament, but so far no inquiry has been instituted. Why was it necessary to make such a request? Or does a country develop the Press, like the Government, it deserves? Rudyard Kipling declared that the function of the Press was to act as a “king over all the children of pride”. More recently Wickham Steed has elaborated the definition. The function of the Press, he declares, is “to chasten the haughty and succour the week, to scorn the bigot and confound the sceptic, to serve truth without fear, to admonish the people and expose the demagogue, to chide the wayward and embolden the faint-hearted – in a word to provide sound comment upon public life in all its aspects”. This, says Steed, should be “the task of the Press and the source of its power”. Has the New Zealand Press lived up to these expectations? Or has it cult itself off from the source of its privileges and its power and become “a branch of trade” rather than an organ of public opinion? Wickham Steed declares that the commercialisation of the Press has proceeded to such a degree that it has become “the central problem of modern democracy”. It has the aim of the present thesis to examine this contention in relation to the development of the Press in New Zealand.