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Foreign media owners slash journo numbers, again

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, June 4th, 2008 - 33 comments
Categories: Media - Tags: , ,

The New Zealand Press Association, owned by APN and Fairfax, has announced it is slashing its journalists from 55 to 48. In election year, they are reducing the parliamentary bureau from five to four. They are even sacking their only (yes, only) South Island reporter.

This is the problem with having our print media owned by two foreign multi-nationals. They’re not in it to produce quality journalism, they’re in it for profits. The way to boost returns is slash staff, cut pay, and have the remaining journos turn out more copy. So, they under-staff their papers and now they’re cutting NZPA. The result is a PR hack’s dream: overworked journos who will take the spin you give them and run it uncritically. It’s not the overworked, underpaid journalists’ fault, it’s the fault of the owners.

In a sane world most PR people would be journos; not people whose job it is to try and get journos to run their organisations’ spin. But we don’t live in a sane world. We live in a world where the owners of our media put profit first, opening the door for organisations to spin the news. And they all have to do it, because if they don’t their opposition’s spin will become fact.

So, we lose another seven journalists, APN and Fairfax’s return on capital improves again, and the role of the PR hack grows ever stronger.

33 comments on “Foreign media owners slash journo numbers, again ”

  1. I’m sure the seven people let go will have no problem getting jobs in the public service: PR Overkill.

  2. James Kearney 2

    I see two loosely ‘PR’ staff there Bryan. A press sec and a media assistant. Quick, tell your mate Bernard Hackey so he can embarass himself over at his Fairfax blog.

    Oh and ministerial staff aren’t public servants. You might want to get that right too.

  3. James: so are you saying my taxes are not paying for all these people ?

  4. IrishBill 4

    Bryan, I don’t doubt these people could get jobs in PR. As I’ve blogged before we have a situation of media breakdown that has provided market space for media releases about new advertising campaigns for bottled water. The thing is Bryan, almost all NZPA journos could probably make more money with better hours by shifting to PR but they haven’t. That’s because some people care more about the craft than the money and believe in the idea that the news media has a democratic duty to inform the public (and media companies have been happy to exploit this). The fact you don’t seem to be able to understand this shows how narrow your view of the world is.

  5. higherstandard 5

    I don’t think Labour would want any more PR staff Brian I believe they already have more than enough.

  6. higherstandard 6

    IB

    Are you suggesting the media in NZ is not free and open ?

    captcha ed- corrupter (bizarre)

  7. vto 7

    Oh well perhaps, if journo standards slip again, the local rags that proliferate around the country will have an opportunity to grow into the gaps they leave. After all they are the ones with the info and stories on what is going on around the localities, not the big boring dailies. Whenever I venture to another part of NZ I always keep an eye out for the wee local rag. Invaluable. Worthy of more support. Bloody foreign owners.

  8. IrishBill 8

    HS, my view on the media is here:

    Spinning the spin.

    vto, unfortunately you will find that the bulk of “local rags” are owned by APN or Fairfax.

  9. IB: surely the blogo-sphere is stepping into fill the gap in information & point of view dissemination ?

    Old media like newspapers and TV are arguably heading for extinction with citizen voice journalism taking over: which is not a bad thing. Surely journalists employed by APN & Fairfax are far more subject to the corporate influence of advertisers than bloggers etc with their minimal overheads.

  10. Monty 10

    Tough industry to be in. on the Monday Following the election (20 October 2008), there are going to be a huge number of unemployed spin doctors (with left leaning tendancies). Labour having been routed a couple of days before hand will hardly qualify for more that a total staff of 20 for their offices. National will not want them. Maybe if the redundancies talked about above are to right leaning journos then they may be sought after.

    captcha “Rob incomes”

  11. leftrightout 11

    I would hardly call them Journalists, better suited would be “Foreign media owners slash ‘right wing agenda pushing psuedo national party members’ numbers, again”.

  12. Tane 12

    From my experience the NZPA does some of the most straight reporting around. If there’s any bias in their work it’s not personal, but more the systemic bias of having to rely on press releases for the bulk of their copy.

    That, of course, tends to favour the right as those with wealth and power are generally better resourced to mount a decent media operation than those who have neither.

    The answer, of course, is more journalists and better resourced newsrooms – precisely the opposite of what we’re seeing in New Zealand today.

  13. IrishBill 13

    “IB: surely the blogo-sphere is stepping into fill the gap in information & point of view dissemination ?”

    Bryan, the sphere is certainly filling a gap for analysis and commentary but when it comes to real-time news it will never keep up with people paid to seek it out. Also journalists have a code of ethics and a paypacket and reputation riding on the accuracy of their work.

  14. Daveo 14

    NZPA is cutting its parliamentary bureau, in an election year. Unbelievable.

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0806/S00024.htm

  15. Phil 15

    “journalists have a code of ethics and a paypacket and reputation riding on the accuracy of their work.”

    … as opposed to bloggers like you, IB, who through anonymity can whip up all manner of lies, half-truths, and spin, without any form of recourse?

    I guess you and DPF have more in common than I thought!

    =)

  16. insider 16

    Agree with Tane on NZPA. They are straight as a die in my view.

    However, they are a business and have to make commercial decisions. If no-one is willing to step up and fund it or able to make money out of it, does it deserve to survive? Businesses go under all the time. What makes NZPA immune from market forces? What is the option, state funded media? Not sure we want to go there given the history of abuses of that media over generations.

  17. insider. so, what was your solution? You argue that market forces make for bad media and you don’t want state funding.

  18. Julie 18

    This just makes me sad. The most expensive journalism appears to be investigative, and that’s just what we need more of. In a democratic society the role of the media is crucial – if we are to make informed decisions we need journalists who have the time and editorial support to invest in covering complicated issues thoroughly.

  19. Lew 19

    insider: I don’t buy this line of state-funded media being inherently bad. The BBC? PBS? Radio New Zealand, notwithstanding the fact that Lindsay Perigo calls it `National Socialist Radio’ is NZ’s broadcast news of record. Like in health, and education, I think two-tier systems have value. Let the private media do their thing, and establish editorially independent non-commercial media outlets to keep them honest.

    We have this in broadcast media, but NZ’s media ecology is already too crowded for a state national paper (and can you imagine the Pravda/Izvestia angle from APN and the ‘Fax?) More arguably, the public service model simply might not work in newspapers. There’d be an interesting topic for discussion.

    The blogosphere is already well on its way to being corporate-dominated; it’s only a matter of time before most of the independent operators get soaked up or crowded out.

    L

    Captcha: `investor lack’. There’s the rub: who of you would invest significant amounts of your folding stuff in the NZPA (or The Standard, for that matter)?

    IrishBill says: I should say we are more than open to people who wish to invest in the Standard. We accept investment in the form of single malt scotch of at least 10 year maturity (preferably Laphroaig) and we pay a warm dividend of thanks.

    [lprent: Minor amounts of the folding stuff. With the upgrades it is now $150/month + a domain name. Ignore IrishBill, mine is ….]

  20. insider 20

    Steve

    I’m not saying there is a problem, so I don;t need to offer a solution.

    Lew

    Agreed it is a ggod topic for discussion. If we accept that a properly functioning media is vital for democracy, should it be treated the same way as the electoral process, party advertising etc?

    I’m not sure what the answer is. I don;t rule it out more public service media as I am a big RNZ listener. TVNZ is not my model news service however. I think you’d have to prove a bigger market failure than the loss of a few NZPA staff.

    Maharey has interfered in news, as has mccully in recent past, and of course muldoon and others going back further. It is that that I worry about interfering with the veneer of independence and authority of public broadcasting.

  21. > This is the problem with having our print media owned by two foreign multi-nationals. They’re not in it to produce quality journalism, they’re in it for profits.

    All businesses exist to make profits – or are you suggesting that NZ businesses are charities? Maybe that explains our poor economic position in the world.

    The hope is that they make profits by producing quality journalism that people want to read. Are the management staff based overseas? Who has the editorial say?

    As a country with a relatively small amount of capital, mostly invested in overpriced land, we can’t really complain when our economy is bought up by overseas parties. Perhaps if we could encourage more rich people to come here or stay here then it would be less of a problem.

  22. That’s the stupidest analysis I’ve ever read.

  23. Exactly my fear Steve but we all know it’s happening even now. Lazy, shoddy journalism, no investigation, no alternative angles. Just spin from the highest bidder.

  24. Phil 24

    Someone may want to correct insider’s unfortunate spelling oversight…

    [lprent: can’t see it. Guess it has already been fixed? Either that or I need more coffee]

  25. Tane 25

    Phil, done. It was certainly unfortunate!

  26. erikter 26

    “You argue that market forces make for bad media and you don’t want state funding.”

    The market forces do produce for EXCELLENT media. You should read The Economist, the Times (of London), the NY Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, El Pais, the Wall Street Journal, ABC, Le Figaro, etc.

    Where are their socialist counterparts? Nowhere, because there are none.

    No, we don’t need state funding. In fact, the less intromission of the state, the better.

  27. Phil 27

    “The market forces do produce for EXCELLENT media”
    Agreed, but it also produces low-brow garbage like ‘The Sun’ ‘The National Enquirer’ and, ironically, ‘Truth’

    “Where are their socialist counterparts? Nowhere, because there are none.”
    You could start with ‘The Guardian’

    [lprent: even lower – Fox news. They wrap news and serve it as entertainment.]

  28. Lew 28

    erikter: That’s certainly true in large, complex media ecologies where there exist enough eyeballs and earholes to support diverse views, but that isn’t so in NZ. Yes, foreign news is important – I don’t think NZ people are nearly outward-looking enough – but it’s no substitute for NZ news.

    Limiting my comments to daily print media, at present we have four metro papers owned by three companies, and a supplementary raft of regional papers almost all owned by two of those companies. This essentially means we have, at best, three perspectives, which I’d consider a minimum for usefully diverse media debate. For what it’s worth I’m on record stating that NZ’s current media ecology is robust and produces news of a high standard, but in honesty it’s probably more than NZ can sustain in the long-term. Especially headed into tough economic times, we could be looking at a consolidation.

    What happens when the ODT gets bought by Fairfax or APN? What happens if the NZ Herald fulfills its name and becomes a genuinely national paper, crowding out the Dom Post and/or the Press? What happens if Murdoch buys more of Fairfax and begins consolidating journalism in Auckland for distribution to branch offices in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin (as is already occurring for the provinces)? Are you prepared to accept a press monopoly?

    This hasn’t happened and I’m not predicting it certainly will, but it is plausible given the press business model. I can see essentially three options to prevent monopoly control: regulation preventing APN and FF from buying each other (which could result in one withdrawing in any case), foreign-oriented news content (the IHT NZ edition, for instance, might replace one metro paper), or a new paper which doesn’t work on a strict commercial model. This last option might not be plausible, it might not work, it’d have to be extremely well-scrutinised and kept entirely independent, and it’d have to produce journalism of an incredibly high standard for people to accept it. We’d probably be looking at several years’ bedding-in time. I’m talking essentially about Radio NZ National on paper.

    Equating public service media with socialism is also somewhat disingenuous, but given your comments about Cullen I guess I should expect such extremist hyperbole. If you have any arguments other than `OMG socialism doesn’t work!!1′ I’d like to hear ’em.

    L

  29. randal 29

    this decision is a cloud with a silver lining…as the msn recedes then it opens avenues for other reporting. we need it. and are they going to reduce the number of hacks and flacks hanging round parliament and spreading scurrilous rubbish disguised as news?

  30. T-rex 30

    I’m talking essentially about Radio NZ National on paper

    That would be pretty awesome really.

  31. Ari 31

    What disturbs me most about our media is that they don’t even read the bloody press statements that are handed to them in formulating their stories. The best political commentary in the country comes from volunteers who surf press releases and post their take on them- which is saying something in itself. I only read the paper anymore for the letters to the editor and the sporked bits from international news. (And that’s only because I’m not the one paying. 😉 )

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