Journalism under threat - ‘digital first’ strategies put journalists last

11 Dec, 2015

Journalism in New Zealand is threatened by the constant culling of editorial jobs and current affairs programmes. The 2015 JMAD New Zealand Media Ownership Report observes that in this year alone 60-70 jobs were removed from newsrooms and current affairs production. This report is the fifth produced by the AUT’s research centre Journalism, Media and Democracy (JMAD).

We have seen rise of buzz words such as ‘digital first’, ‘audience first’ and ‘mobile first’ as media companies combine their print, online, radio and television newsrooms. Unfortunately, this integration has not put ‘journalists first’ as the newsroom cuts continue, says Merja Myllylahti, author of JMAD report.

Additionally, journalists investigating issues which are in public interest have become under scrutiny as seen most clearly in the cases of Nicky Hager and Heather Du-Plessis Allen.

The journalism in this country is under a threat. The heavy handed treatment of investigative journalists is worrying. Secondly, the chopping of current affairs and news programmes is extremely concerning, Myllylahti says.

The report observes that in the past five years financial institutions have increased their ownership in New Zealand media companies as seen in the cases of MediaWorks, Sky, APN/NZME and Fairfax. As a consequence, the profit imperatives those companies have strengthened as clearly seen in the case of MediaWorks.

2015 witnessed new kind of partnerships between ‘old enemies’ as competition sharpens between local and global media corporations. For example, Fairfax, MediaWorks, NZME and TVNZ have formed a new advertising exchange service; and Fairfax has partnered with The Huffington Post.

The report acknowledges some positive and innovative developments within New Zealand media. This year NBR launched a radio service, NZME launched a new data-journalism site, and Scoop used crowdfunding and transformed to a non-profit media outlet.

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