UPDATED: Experienced journos excluded from NZME integration

Shayne Currie

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UPDATE It’s now understood that other senior staff at the NZ Herald being ‘consulted’ about the proposed plans to facilitate the creation of NZME’s “world-class integrated newsroom” (ie, more than likely being made redundant) also include Canvas deputy editor Greg Dixon, feature writer Alan Perrott and columnist John Roughan.

They seem set to join veterans John Drinnan, Brian Rudman and Michele Hewitson (see below) on today's casualty list.

Other contributors whose services were recently deemed to be surplus to requirements are Paul CasserlyJames GriffinDita De BoniJock Anderson and Peter Calder

One NZ Herald staff member says, "It's a bloodbath." Another tells NBR that 30% of editorial staff are getting the chop. The number is unconfirmed, but would still mean editorial is getting off more lightly than sales where sources suggest that up to 40% of staff could receive their marching orders.

A prepared statement from managing editor Shayne Currie provided in response to NBR queries included the declaration that “we have no intention of closing Canvas magazine” – even though NBR had not asked about the popular weekend supplement.

Mr Currie also said, "If you look globally you will find successful newsrooms are integrated. We are investing more in the newsroom and in journalism and content creation than ever before but at this stage I'm not able to elaborate further as we are in consultation with the staff.”

Kiwi culture/media website The Spinoff has a very nicely modulated piece on NZME’s current decision-making process and the careers of three of the NZ Herald staff currently being "consulted": highly recommended.

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EARLIER Just as you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, it appears you can’t create a “world-class integrated newsroom” without making a number of journalists redundant.

On Wednesday, media company NZME trumpeted plans to bring its “print, digital and radio news teams ... together in one integrated, multi-platform, 24/7 operation” that will be led by managing editor Shayne Currie, “whose role has been elevated to report directly to NZME CEO Jane Hastings.”

The purpose of the exercise, according to Mr Currie, is to “leverage NZME's unique mix of print, digital and radio” and is “about being totally focused on our audience and delivering even better journalism and content wherever they are."

“It will unlock the talent and energy of separated news teams to more efficiently contribute news reporting, feature writing, video, photography, design and production to wherever it is needed," enthused Ms Hastings of the integration, and “will strengthen the quality of our news and information products.”

Although it wasn’t mentioned on Wednesday, the integration of NZME’s media assets – which include the NZ Herald, The Radio Network and GrabOne – is expected to save $18 million over the next 18 months, parent company APN noted when announcing its annual results in August.

Also not mentioned was how the integration might result in a ‘rationalisation’ of staff numbers.

Integration to be accompanied by separation
NBR’s sources suggest that up to 40% of the company’s sales staff could receive their marching orders in the restructure, and the first news of how it will impact on editorial personnel has begun leaking out of the NZ Herald today.

NBR understands that, among other changes, feature writer and columnist Brian Rudman (a 19-year NZH veteran), Michele Hewitson (judged best general and best overall columnist at this year’s Canon Media Awards) and business/media journalist John Drinnan are being made redundant.

Mr Currie responded to NBR’s queries about the changes with the following prepared statement:

“We are in consultation with employees over the proposed plans for our new newsroom in Auckland and we cannot discuss further until that process is complete ... it is business as usual as far as all of our publications and online sites are concerned.”

There is some scepticism in media circles about whether the integration will achieve what its architects apparently believe it will.

Opines one old hand, who preferred not to be named, the restructure “is an idea dreamed up by desperate accountants who have not learned that synergy only looks good on paper.”

“The dedicated brand managers of each title and their expertise will be lost,” they predict. “The internal competition among the journalists for the scoop will be a thing of the past.

“NZME will arrive at a dysfunctional, vanilla, boring newsroom trapped in a 24-hour news cycle without the time or motivation to find real stories.” 

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33 Comments & Questions

Commenter icon key: Subscriber Verified

Your story is a classic example of what happens when you start cutting journalists. It has clearly not been subbed and as a result you repeat a paragraph. A race to the bottom is not the long-term answer for media anywhere. Those who are surviving are quality subscriber-based global outlets.

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Fair comment, Angela, though I had spotted and removed the similar paragraph before your observation was approved for publication.

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It is a fair comment, and something I have noticed more of recently. Basic errors that would have been picked up by subbing, embarrassing really, for a publication that tries to parade its pay wall as improving the quality, read it hasn't.

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There does not seem to be any place for journos with an over 40 age, IQ, or attention span

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Did you mean an IQ of over 40?

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NZME is not about journalism, even if they still use that word. It is about entertainment and blogging.

NZME "journalism" is to journalism as military music is to music, or airline food is to food.

Commercial radio has always been about entertainment and NZME stations display this daily. The NZ Herald has evolved over the past couple of years to become an entertainment/blogging website. (Yes, I know, arguably, even under previous ownerships the NZ Herald was never about journalism.)

Can NZME succeed as an entertainment/blogging portal? Good question. Much of the content will of necessity not originate from New Zealand. Will that be enough to attract advertisers? Maybe. Will that be enough to attract paying subscribers? Doubtful, at least not enough numbers to make a difference.

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So I guess the brand will become weaker and weaker until the paper can be written on tissue paper.

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I'm assuming that the exercise will actually be "led" by Mr Currie, rather than "lead" by him.

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I guess I was envisioning him doing so with a lead pipe in his hand. Corrected now, thanks.

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Remind me who reads the NZ Herald anymore? It's good for the public notices, but to be honest, the NBR provides a bit more real time news.

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Great to see Rudman and Hewitson gone
Why should journos be exempt from the fate of many employees in a disrupted world of business ?
It happens that the Herald is merely an avenue for advertising with a tinge of narrative

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So any actual improvement in the Herald then? Get some young blood in.

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Don't worry, there'll be plenty more "young blood". 23 year olds looking to become famous, writing entertainment blogs about nonsense. The Herald is already on the path to this.

But is this what those in their 20s want to read? Not all Millenials are vapid lightweights only seeking social media and entertainment blogs......

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Many of the "journos" being let go are commentators with a strong anti-establishment, left wing bias, whose views are repetitive, predictable and boring. Journalists they are not. Dita De Boni is a prime example of these.

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Not sure I follow your logic there, VNBRR. So someone with an apparent pro-establishment bias like, oh I dunno, Mike Hosking is then by definition a journalist, despite his protests to the contrary? If that's the case, then you're in luck, because I suspect one will be seeing much more of M Hosking and other NZME radio "stars" in the NZH in the future. (RE: Ms De Boni, I always thought she was more about that old journalistic principle of taking those in power to task. Agree to disagree, I guess.)

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Everytime I see or hear of Mr Hosking, I think I've taken something or have dementia!
Enjoyed Ms De Boni columns and miss them. In my opinion she was neither right or left - just stated the facts as she saw them.

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Obviously your opinion heavily slants Leftward: http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2015/04/inaugural_media_opinion_statistics.html

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You have got to be kidding. Dita De Boni is incredibly left and miserable with it.

I don't particularly care but please don't kid yourself that she's balanced. Just take note of the pejoratives she attaches to anyone (or anything) she perceives to be on the 'right'. If she was balanced she'd simply rely on her argument, rather than the nasty, unnecessary and snide little side comments....

That said, I suspect she's been used by the Herald as click bait for the last few years.

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What do you mean? Dita is the only columnist they have who I can read.

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Why would you bother? She always writes the same Lefty rant and whinge. I've never seen a single positive thought from her.

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Or I from you.

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Yeah, yeah, yeah Alan. You don't hesitate to publish a comment about any and all things and we always hear the same things from you.

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And I don't even get paid for my contributions to their intellectual improvement - Lefties are so ungrateful.

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Well it's all about value, or in your case, perceived value.

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What isn't mentioned directly is that if these so called "journalists" actually added value to their employer, they certainly wouldn't be let go... they would be the jewels in the crown - not the occasional, aimless glitter throwers for the steaming pile in the corner.

Perhaps this will be the wake up call those frothing, rabid Lefties will need to help them see with some clarity that their ideologies has them on the wrong side of history, most thinking, paying people just tune out their shrilling - and maybe now would be a good time to review facts - as in turn, that might even help improve the worth of their writing to someone outside of Venezuela.

The good news for them though - is they will have more time to educate themselves and read successful journalists like here at the NBR and on Whaleoil - publications and individuals who just go from strength to strength. There might even be a lesson or three in there for them too.

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You forgot to include Peter Bromhead to the list of casualties. Peter is one of the most witty columists ever employeed by The NZ Herald in the past decade.

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The NZ Herald ceased to be a newspaper long ago, its a vessel to generate profit and the current crop of managers deem gossip and rumors coupled with pseudo radio celebs opinion to be the best way to bring income to the shareholders, they are of couse entitled to make these decisions (even if they are wrong)

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If N Z has no Journo who will and can sweat the P M then none are worth reading or listening to.

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You mistake confrontation for insight. A good journalist helps discover what we don't know, not reinforce our prejudices.

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Newstalk ZB will be told to drop the opinionated Leighton Smith and Drivetime Larry. Don't fit the Blanc mange fluff mold.

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The trend in NZ papers is to increase headline type size, maximize the size of (preferably) stock photos, minimize the copy and then invite anyone who was there to contribute their information and photos. At the same time add page upon page of advertisements. Only serious papers like the UK Daily Telegraph employ journalists.

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There obviously isn't money to be made in journalism.

Fairfax's content is pretty light. Mediaworks got rid of John Campbell and now NZME are cutting journo's free.

The double whammie now is publishers advertising revenue will be under attack from the ad-blockers. So the content could get a lot worse yet.

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For "experienced journalists" I found Michelle Hewitson's interviews to extremely difficult to read. She had the opportunity to interview some of New Zealand's more prominent celebrities and perhaps produce something worth reading, yet I had the uncanny feeling that I was holding my breath when reading her articles. Overuse of commas, even preceding "and" coupled with impregnations of random quotes from her and the people she interviews just made the sentences feel long-winded. She would tend to dwell on the trivial such as the length of Maria Tutaia's legs before getting down to the real oil, the stuff that Kiwi's might actually want to read. It was like she was attempting a new kind of wit, not yet experienced by discerning readers and I felt it tended to cheapen a celeb's profile. I've read better content in 4-page community newsletters found at small township Four Square stores.

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