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Newshub Goneburger

NEWS

Written by Caeden Tipler (they/them) @caedentipler | News Editor


Illustration by Stella Roper (they/she) @dodofrenzy | Arts & Culture Editor


It’s only March, and we’ve already received what will likely be the biggest news for journalism in Aotearoa this year. Warner Bros Discovery, who own Three’s Newshub, announced their proposal to close the newsroom in June. 


This comes as legacy media organisations face the struggle of a dramatic loss of ad revenue, a struggle we’ve already seen multiple newsrooms close down or come close to it. Vice Media shut down news operations in Aotearoa this year, and MediaWorks closed down their up-and-coming news-focused radio station TodayFM this time last year. At the time of writing this piece, TVNZ has just announced they are likely to cut 68 jobs. Career security has never been the appeal of journalism, but job losses and lack of opportunity have seemed to reach new heights for the industry.


Senior Lecturer in Journalism at AUT, Gregory Treadwell, says “The financial base of the news-media industry has been eaten away by the migration of advertising to the internet over the past two to three decades. This means there are fewer and fewer journalists each year, and more and more media companies wonder if they can survive.”  


The ad-dependent model of journalism is broken. While there are some hopes born from alternative money-making methods such as subscriptions, we evidently have a long way to go to make news profitable again. This should concern anyone interested in an open and democratic society.


A healthy democracy depends on a variety of profitable newsrooms with access to the public, holding our legislators to account. Although Newshub is only one of many news outlets, the difference is it is independently owned. Its key television competitor, TVNZ’s 1News is commercially funded but state-owned. Radio New Zealand similarly receives large amounts of public funding and is a Crown entity. To lose Newshub is not to say we don’t have any independent newsrooms left in the Press Gallery, but it does bring us one large step closer to it. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters described the situation as an “absolute disaster” for those losing their jobs, and also “a disaster for this country’s democracy.”


The official response from Broadcasting Minister Melissa Lee can be described as vaguely blasė. Lee’s reply to questions on the closure of Newshub was that there were alternative options, such as Sky, seemingly missed the significance of losing one out of two of New Zealand’s homegrown 6PM news outlets. Lee’s attitude did serve the purpose of abruptly cutting off any discussions of a Government bailout for Newshub. 


Treadwell says students interested in a career in journalism should know that even if the conditions don’t seem appealing, Newsrooms are still a worthwhile place to work because of their vital role in our democracy. We still need journalists to contribute to our broader democratic process, holding politicians to account and raising public awareness, in order for us to live in a thriving society.


“Things can and do change in the employment markets - not too long ago, newsrooms were short of reports - and it seems at last government policymakers and politicians are starting to react to the impact on society of a lack of resources for quality journalism.” 


Laws are now being considered that could make a difference. One example is a law that would force tech giants to negotiate with news organisations to pay them for the news that is carried on social media networks - currently, only Google has signed any agreements with media companies. The potential bill, known as the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill, would force tech giants like Meta (Facebook and Instagram) and Microsoft to the table. 


Although things may seem bleak right now, they might not be this bleak forever. It may be too late for Newshub, but if we have leaders who really care about quality journalism and the survival of news media in Aotearoa, and a new generation of journalists coming through who value their craft, then all may not be lost after all. 

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