Major media company NZME’s planned multimedia newsroom in Auckland could have a big effect on the news offered by its big brands, including The New Zealand Herald and Newstalk ZB. The company denies critics' claims this will weaken the strength and depth of its newsgathering and it won't comment on possible job cuts for journalists. But the plan was discussed at the recent Future Forum in Sydney. Mediawatch talked to New Zealand media researcher Alex Clark, who was there.
A man described as the world’s most powerful advertising executive, Sir Martin Sorrell, told media leaders at the Future Forum in Sydney that “there has to be more restructuring, reform and consolidation” in the print media industry, and he encouraged publishers to look at media ownership “in the fullest possible way.”
Speaking via video link, the founder and chief executive of WPP said multimedia news companies should be consolidating internally too.
“It’s very dangerous to separate print from television, radio or all the other media, so I look at it as one.”
He also encouraged them to look beyond the traditional barriers between them.
“Journalists need to be prepared to exhibit their talents and their journalism across everything. In other words, you have one editorial platform and the journalism from that platform permeates anything and everything. The days of separation are gone.”
This is also the thinking at NZME - the owner of the New Zealand Herald and other papers, and radio networks including Newstalk ZB.
NZME's integration plan
During the 'Champions of Change' session at the Future Forum - the major annual gathering for media top brass in this part of the world - NZME chief executive Jane Hastings described the process of consolidating its print, radio and digital brands. Instead of multiple newsrooms aligned with specific news brands, the upcoming merged newsroom in Auckland will have integrated teams focused on specific content areas.
“It’s all about content. Our content hubs are news, sport, entertainment, business and lifestyle, and we’ve got new leaders for those areas,” Jane Hastings told the Future Forum.
For each breaking story, newsroom teams will be encouraged to consider all opportunities within each medium.
“Is that a story that needs to be expressed in print? How is it going to be amplified online? Actually, is there an event idea around here? What’s our social strategy? Is there a native [advertising] opportunity across this?”
In addition to editorial leaders for each content hub, she said there will be channel editors for mobile, video, digital, radio and publishing. The integrated newsroom will also have a new daily routine centred around the rhythms of each media channel.
The heartbeat of the newsroom that we’re moving to is 7 minutes, 30 minutes, 24 hours: 7 minutes for digital, 30 minutes for radio and 24 hours for the paper the next day.
- Jane Hastings
Jane Hastings said the new team structure is in stark contrast to NZME prior to integration.
“There was nothing in common with these businesses. We had different systems and different incentive schemes, but the key difference is that the teams were competitors.”
However, Jane Hastings told the Future Fourm not everyone inside the company has been on the same page with the integration.
"I would say that we've got 50 per cent on board, and 50 per cent who are not on board. We're really clear on where we're heading - and we're inviting people to sign up. If they don't want to sign up, there's a big shiny bus outside. It's heading in a different direction and we wish them all the best. But we're inviting people in. We want people there because they want be there and they believe in it."
Integrated news in Australia
Following Jane Hastings’ presentation, leaders from within Seven West Media talked about creating Australia’s first fully-integrated newsroom: the television newsroom of Perth’s Seven News merged with the print newsroom of The West Australian.
“We will eventually end up hiring young people into our newsroom who have the ability to do every bit of the work across any platform. That’s the long-term reality of it," said the editor of The West Australian, Brett McCarthy.
Seven West Media chief executive Chris Wharton expressed his satisfaction with the integration process, but it seems there's also been some resistance across the ditch.
“Not everybody on our floor is a massive enthusiast about it. Lots of people are, but there are pockets of resistance if I’m to be honest. But we just can’t let that bog us down. We’re on a conveyor belt heading somewhere. We’ve just got to keep reinventing ourselves every day,” said Howard Gretton, the editor of Seven News in Perth.
Alex Clark is a media researcher who attended the Future Forum in Sydney recently. He is exploring new ways for publishers to fund quality journalism in an online environment. Details of his ‘News Renewed’ project are available online at www.fundingnews.co.nz