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The future of journalism

Written By: - Date published: 11:38 am, July 9th, 2012 - 35 comments
Categories: internet, Media, newspapers - Tags: , ,

Confirmation today that The Herald is adopting a format more in keeping with its content, and going tabloid. Naturally they try and spin this as a Good Thing:

New look Herald smaller and bigger

The New Zealand Herald will undergo the biggest transformation in its 150-year history, with confirmation today that the weekday newspaper is moving to compact format.

The format change in September will coincide with a redesign of the award-winning nzherald.co.nz website and will modernise New Zealand’s biggest newspaper to further meet the needs of readers.

As well as the change in size – making it easier and more convenient for readers – the new-look Monday-Friday paper will have more columnists, new pages and sections and a reinforced focus on investigative journalism.

This is, of course, just another small example of the (in historical terms) very swift restructuring of the media that has been triggered by the Internet. The readership of print media is falling, they need to cut their costs during the transition to a purely online presence.

I can’t remember the last time I read a printed newspaper. I don’t care at all what format the printed version of The Herald takes. But I do care very deeply about journalism. And among the Herald spin quoted above I find the last line, “a reinforced focus on investigative journalism”, to be particularly vacuous. There is still some good journalism out there of course, but far too little. All the market forces in the media are working against good journalism. Staff are being cut, decision making and editorial policy are being centralised, and ever more controlled.

You only need to look at the Fairfax ructions in Australia to see the future. The future of content is all online and pay-walls. The future of editorial policy will be brought and paid for by the rich. The future of journalism is Fox News.


35 comments on “The future of journalism”

  1. ghostwhowalksnz 1

    Compact format ?

    Didnt know there was a newspaper size for that. But gathering by the reference to Saturday staying broadsheet that must mean ‘compact’ is half broadsheet or tabloid

    • Tom Gould 1.1

      Interesting that reliable dictionaries reference newspaper size under ‘tabloid’ yet none mention newspaper size under ‘compact’? Would have thought the media, of anyone, would check their wording? Unless they are chosing to ignore the dictionary definition in order to spin to their readers and listeners? If they are, the last vestage of journalism has just been abandoned.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1

        Would have thought the media, of anyone, would check their wording?

        They did and then studiously stayed away from using tabloid and all its negative connotations despite it being an accurate description of where the NZHerald is going.

    • Steve Withers 1.2

      The Globe and Mail in Canada moved to a longer, narrow format to make it easier to read their newspaper on public transport. I think the Toronto Star followed on a few years later. The herald can’t really make this claim as they consistently oppose any real improvement in public transport in Auckland if it can’t be had for less than $10.

  2. Tiger Mountain 2

    I stopped buying the paper Herald years ago. The online version while a useful quick scan (what are the buggers up to today…) for many of us interested in politics, is a moving target as certain debates here (e.g. Epsom ‘teabaggers’) have illustrated. Articles may be altered, “updated” or disappear altogether in a daily cycle.

    The trajectory from tabloid content to tabloid format fits current remote subbing and layout processes. The question is–how low can they go? ala UK Sun etc.

  3. All their regional papers have adopted this format, or are doing so. To be fair, it’s actually not too bad, and certainly easier to read if you haven’t got a desk or table to spread it out on.

    But when the Herald churns out the sort of garbage that it did yesterday, publishing the contents of a note left on Scott Guy’s grave by his wife and children, you get the impression that it’s now a tabloid in everything but name.

  4. Populuxe1 4

    Yeah…nah. I really don’t see why you’re trying to relate size to content. The content’s crappy, sure, but it was already like that – size has nothing to do with it. However, I definitely do find the tabloid size easier to deal with physically.

  5. shorts 5

    I love reading a physical newspaper… nothing better on a sunday morning over a cuppa… shame theres none worth reading…

    as an aside we tried subscribing to the Dom Post (at work) and they refused to supply us – we’re in central auckland… so I read it online for free

  6. sweetd 6

    “I can’t remember the last time I read a printed newspaper. I don’t care at all what format the printed version of The Herald takes. But I do care very deeply about journalism.”

    When was the last time you bought a newspaper then? If you care so deeply about the journalism, you might like to pay for the product?

    • r0b 6.1

      When was the last time you bought a newspaper then? If you care so deeply about the journalism, you might like to pay for the product?

      I subscribed to The Guardian Weekly for over a decade, good journalism, happy to pay. These days (since the web) I just support The Guardian via occasional purchases of their special offers. I subscribed to The Listener for over a decade, until it became a rubbish tory rag.

      I pay for public broadcasting (now days that just means RNZ) via my taxes, and I’d be happy to pay more. Tax me, put it in to public broadcasting and any other high quality media, I’ll be happy.

      What I won’t do is pay for media that is 80 to 90% crap and advertising, and those seem to be my choices in NZ at the moment.

      • Steve Withers 6.1.1

        I’m not happy to pay to be propagandised by overtly politically-aligned corporate media outlets. I absolutely WILL support quality journalism with cash…..I just don’t see a single source that delivers it to whom I might give my money. Many blogs do a better job than the daily newspapers.

    • Carol 6.2

      I stopped buying a daily newspaper when I was living in NZ. I realised that, as well as being awkward to carry, most of it went straight into the recycle bin.

      The ratio of ACTUAL news to classifieds, promotions, lifestyle junk etc, etc was very low. I decided it was better for the trees and the environment, and easier on my arms, to read news online.

      • Vicky32 6.2.1

        I realised that, as well as being awkward to carry, most of it went straight into the recycle bin.

        Sad, but completely true, Carol! I have a pile of ‘dead’ Heralds, which includes all the kipple, advertising supplements, sections about house buying etc, making up 80% of the pile, all destined for the recycling.

  7. felix 7

    This format shift will have at least one far more serious consequence that no-one has yet addressed, which is that I will have slightly more trouble wrapping my frozen goods at the supermarket.

    • Tiger Mountain 7.1

      ah, the ‘sausage wrapper’ conundrum…

      • McFlock 7.1.1

        a few years ago when the student magazine “Critic” switched from newsprint to glossy paper there were written complaints that the glossy paper caused quite irritating paper-cuts when it was being “recycled” by conscientious (or broke) students 🙂 

  8. Dr Terry 8

    Going tabloid is a virtual guarantee of more junk reporting than ever (“to meet the needs of its readers”, which unfortunately will be all too true). More columnists (presently they have only one of worth in Tapu Misa – will they keep her on?), new pages, investigative journalism (intrusive?) No doubt all will move yet further to the Right (“paid for by the rich”, a la Fox News).

  9. irascible 9

    There’s an intermediate paper size – Berliner – which is popular in Europe. The format is one that removes the paper from the perjorative connotations of Tabloid.

    as the Herald has been tabloid in content for sometime which ever format it reduces too won’t change its reputation as an inadequate paper of record or of investgative journalism.

  10. Draco T Bastard 10

    The future of journalism is Fox News.

    Unless we go back to a fully funded, non commercial, public news service.

  11. Steve Withers 11

    One might see the commitment to ‘investigative journalism’ as a euphemism for more sensational smear stories. One man’s investigation can just as well be another man’s politically-motivated effort to shaft politicians you don’t like.

    Rupert Murdoch has been promoting this sort of ‘investigative journalism’ for decades.

  12. ad 12

    If this really is the beginning of the end for the NZHerald, it is The Standard who should take the most notice.

    Imagine a world inwhich the NZHerald did not physically exist. There is full competition between sites, with no mere distinctions for quality journalism or otherwise. Instead only different kinds of professionalism of the journalist ie whether they are paid full time or less so, or volunteering.

    The world of the media becomes a free-flowing and atomistic whorl in which clumps of information and political interest and capital are in full contest.

    This is the space that The Standard has to prepare for.

    I don’t think Part Time editors will be enough any more, in that scenario. The Standard will have to become a lot more visual as well, offering (like Whaleoil or NZHerald site does) hourly respite from the walls of text arrayed before us.

    Something more like The Listener used to be in previous decades for progressive sorts, while retaining full reign of debate, and full moderation.

    The Standard is already New Zealand’s dominant progressive debate site. Can it become the dominant progressive news site as well?

    I wonder if The Standard and Scoop could talk about this.

    • r0b 12.1

      Kind thoughts and words ad, but at the moment I don’t see that The Standard is ever likely to have the resource to take on something that ambitious. Not that, speaking for myself, I wouldn’t want to, but we’re all just part time bloggers here, we all have real jobs…

      • Ad 12.1.1

        I respect fully that you do have real jobs, and that your dedication and volunteer time is oxygen to progressive causes that did not exist before. Kia ora.

        But honestly if the NZHerald, that bastion of the settler, landowner and retailer establishment is forced to change, then honestly I think willingly or not you will face similar challenges or go backwards.

        So my challenge to you plural is to accept the challenge, and frame it on your terms, or the rest of the information industry will do it for you.

        Consider for example aucklandtransport blog. They have a fundraiser tomorrow night that will advance their capacity. Consider also what a digital conference sponsored by the Fabians would do, if it were a fundraiser for you. Ask four good names on this site and you will have an almighty fundraising programme. The goodwill toward your continued success is mighty.

        The Herald’s change is a challenge to you. Pick up the leaf, Standard.

    • Draco T Bastard 12.2

      This is the space that The Standard has to prepare for.

      Believe it or not but, IMO, The Standard is probably better situated than the traditional MSM because the authors are already used to backing up what they say with publicly available (and often peer reviewed) articles. The MSM aren’t and that puts them on the back foot. They’re used to putting forward their own spin and being believed but the internet and being able to search out those articles will put an end to that (I’ve seen a few instances where the MSM article said one thing and yet the person/research they were talking about actually said another).

      • xtasy 12.2.1

        DTB I’d be careful. The Standard has potential, but needs to do much more, and also establish a “standard” of reliability and authenticity on many topics, issues and details discussed here. That is possilbe, and it is surely what should happen, but it may necessitate some cooperation with certain other world based media, to get this working and realised.

        At present it does not, it is a great forum for dissenters and commenters, primarily from a left and greeny point of view, but more is needed to deliver what you usggest.

        That does not mean anything negative. Potential is unlimited as the sky is the limit for ideas.

  13. captain hook 13

    the future of press journalism in New Zealand is looking pretty bleak.
    On Sunday the SST featured an item on the new guy at NZX who said that selling state assets was vital to NZ cpaital markets.
    Well this is pure bullshit because he knows that if anybody secures control of meridian for example the first thing they are going to do is de-list so they can keep all the profits for themselves and keep nosey parkers out.
    this morning in the dimpost another puff piece on Paula Rebstock.
    why now?
    and why does no one ever analyse the “Wisconsin Solution”.
    the whole thing has become piss poor and just a front for the “interests”.
    journalism my bum.

    • xtasy 13.1

      captain hook: Just ask: “Who pays those buggers?”

      That will answer some questions. Also “the government” in the reports and also in “the media” is not always representative of NZ. That may mean any administrator or payed slave to the system, really.

      Anyway, I know from first hand, that the NZ media is so biased and nonsensical, it is not funny.

      The media is APN or Fairfax, perhaps Mediaworks, Radio Network or TVNZ, God forbid.

      All run ads, sell ads, are compromising and do not give too much value to real stories of ordinary people, that is the reality. So to change that, it requires people, perhaps READERS here, to take action. Otherwise nothing much will change, I am afraid. Too many looking only at “out” time.

      There is a solution to welfare reform, I have immense info on what goes on and will go on, contact me on: HCAOTEAROA2008@xtra.co.nz, please. Work is being done already anyway.

  14. mike e 14

    Gina Rhienhart worlds richest women has control of fairfax so we have a yellow press I am never going to buy anything that fair fax or fox prints
    Its been dumbed down already .
    The Independent or guardian for me

  15. Lindsey 15

    No wonder they don’t have the adds. The service for small advertisers was so crap it drove everybody to Trade Me.

  16. xtasy 16

    The NZ Herald happens to be the largest paper in the country. Such “elite” status would in most other countries condemn a comparable paper and online edition to be the “leading” media outlet, delivering high standard and also public appeal.

    Having compared the NZ Herald of present with leading papers and their online versions globally, it is a “joke”.

    Little in the way of in depth reporting, little on international developments (most is taken from media overseas and reprinted) and otherwise covering heaps of sports, trivia and always some “big” headline story with mostly “emotive” messages, that is what we get.

    Over recent weeks the Herald has really sunk to new lows, with large lettered front stories, about crime, murder trial(s), other sensationalistic stuff, but leaving little or no space for anything else.

    Now we are getting the boulevard type, smaller pages and actually more “Herald on Sunday” style paper, which will remind many of “The Truth”.

    It all stinks and sinks fast. Murdoch has set the pace and standards, and all idiot papers and other media follow. The dumber, the more adrenalin spilling, the more distracting and sensationalist, the “better”, that is the approach. True journalism are only lip-service comments. I struggle to find some really interesting articles in the Herald at present. God knows what the future will be like.

    Just abolish all that crap and have people go to online sites like this, to rely on more competent international medial like BBC and Al Jazeera (even they are dropping), and just try to create your OWN media, perhaps.

    “Papers” will have a future, no matter, as carpet covering for sessions of painting the home.

  17. xtasy 17

    I now how to make it even “easier” to “read” a “popular” newspaper or website.

    Size up the letters so big, that only 4 to 5 words cover a page. Then have only a few pages, preferably with lots of glossy, exciting photos, to let people get excited about that, and abolish all the rest.

    You end up with some format resembling a common propaganda pamphlet, that is used all over the world for propagating some party, a product or else.

    That is where we are heading. Send a short, non informative, emotive message, to distract, inform wrongly or influence, just to get some results by getting people conditioned and brainwashed.

    All is fine after that, the drugs will be administered at the end of the queue. Just hand over your mind and brain-cells, all is well, we will take care of you.

  18. Fortran 18

    You can change the format, but if the crap remains so what is the point – to save paper only ?

  19. Karl Sinclair 19

    They told me that the night & day were all that I could see;
    They told me that I had five senses to inclose me up.
    And they inclos’d my infinite brain into a narrow circle,
    And sunk my heart into the Abyss, a red round globe hot burning
    Till all from life I was obliterated and erased.

    One command, one joy, one desire,
    One curse, one weight, one measure
    One King, one God, one Law.

    william blake

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