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Attack on Bakers tarnishes NZ Herald 

In brief

  • Journalist David Fisher wrote an article telling the public not to donate to the flood fundraiser of Chantelle and Leighton Baker.
  • The fundraiser successfully delivered 5000L of much-needed drinking water to Wairoa.
  • Mainstream media increasingly criticises those who disagree with their dogma.

Fundraising by the wrong people

On 17 February 2023, NZ Herald published a premium article by David Fisher saying people should not donate to independent reporter Chantelle Baker’s fundraiser, calling her a “conspiracy influencer”.

It said Baker and her father Leighton Baker raised money to deliver water to the flood-struck town of Wairoa, after the Mayor said “the one thing we haven’t got is fresh drinking water”.  Within 24 hours of Baker’s appeal, “$6000 had been raised and 5000 litres of water was on a truck north from Canterbury”. Yet Fisher was not satisfied, because:

“As yet, there is no confirmed route into Hawke’s Bay or a confirmed way to get the water to Wairoa. Today it is expected NZDF’s water treatment system will be operating in the town, producing thousands of litres of water daily.”

It’s unclear when the NZDF’s water treatment system started producing water, or why having a back-up supply was an inconvenience for an area that is still cut off by road.

Over the next two days, the water organised by the Bakers was delivered by helicopter and documented with video on social media, including invoices.

It should be noted that Leighton Baker is not a stranger to the public, as previous leader of the New Conservative Party. A recent Newshub poll put him as New Zealand’s fifth-most preferred Prime Minister, despite no longer being in a political party.

Attack on Bakers tarnishes NZ Herald  - Centrist
Leighton Baker

Fact checking

The article implies several times that the Bakers didn’t coordinate with authorities, despite also reporting them coordinating with the Mayor. Chantelle Baker also spoke on Facebook of coordinating with local iwi and military.

Another complaint by Fisher is:

“She also positioned the Bakers’ fundraising drive as superior to those operated by Red Cross, falsely claiming their donation is diluted through people paying the staff.”

Fisher says this three times in the article, but failed to say that in the same sentence Baker also encouraged people to donate to the Red Cross, and doesn’t mention until the article’s last line that she had corrected her comment.

Annual Reports from Red Cross show they spend most of their money on staff, although apparently “100% of the funds raised in this case were to go to the emergency response”. Was it unreasonable for Baker to make the general comment, even though she may be mistaken for this particular appeal?

In any event, a few days later the Red Cross secretary general confirmed the >$5M fund will also be used for future emergencies, that none of it had yet been used to help flood relief, and no details were provided of how it would be used.

In the space of three days the Bakers fundraised and delivered much-needed water to Wairoa, with excellent transparency. So why did Fisher and the Herald criticise their effort?

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