UPDATED: Experienced journos excluded from NZME integration

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.” 

If you are travelling by Air New Zealand this week, remember Koru Lounge wi-fi provides you with FREE access to NBR ONLINE premium content.

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