“Under the Covers”

This is an unabashed, unashamed and downright proud promotion of a memoir written by my wife. Jenny Lynch had a career in newspapers and magazines that culminated in her editorship of the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly. Her memoir Under the Covers (Mary Egan Publishing $38.00) is an absorbing read (if I say so myself) that begins with a tornado, stops briefly in the Playboy Club, plays ‘chaperone’ to Germaine Greer, and does battle with chequebook journalism in the ‘magazine wars’. For a taste of what is under the covers, here is an interview she did with RNZ’s Kathryn Ryan: https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2018746901/jenny-lynch-s-memoir-of-magazine-journalism



The SAGE International Encyclopedia of Mass Media and Society (Five volume set) Edited by Debra L. Merskin. Sage Publishing Thousand Oaks CA 2019

I contributed the New Zealand entry to this encyclopaedia which discusses media around the world in their varied forms—newspapers, magazines, radio, television, film, books, music, websites, social media, mobile media—and describes the role of each in both mirroring and shaping society.

Stardust and Substance: The New Zealand General Election of 2017, edited by Stephen Levine. VUW Press Wellington 2018


THE GOVERNMENT AND THE MEDIA: NINE LAISSEZ-FAIRE YEARS is a chapter in which I examine the media and communications policy record of the National-led government. It was a record drawn from neoliberal principles that stood in contrast to the previous Labour-led government’s promotion of public service media.

Complacent Nation by Gavin Ellis, BWB Texts (Bridget Williams Books) Wellington 2016

As both a warning and a plea from one of our most respected commentators, Complacent Nation should resonate with anyone who has ever contemplated the complex nexus of information flow and civil society – and be compulsory reading to anyone who has not. It comes with a stark warning: we continue to take for granted freedom of information and of expression at our peril. (Bridget Williams Books)

Politics and the Media 2nd Edition. Auckland University Press 2016. Edited by Geoff Kemp, Babak Bahador, Kate McMillan & Chris Rudd.

In this edition I update a chapter that appeared in the first edition of this title and examine the current relationship between newspapers and politicians in New Zealand, changes to political coverage, and the influence that the press continues to hold in an environment increasingly dominated by digital media and perceptions of newspapers as a sunset industry.

Trust Ownership and the Future of News: Media moguls and white knights. London, Palgrave 2014. Author: Gavin Ellis

Trust Ownership and the Future of News makes the case for an alternative structure that can sustain the forms of journalism necessary in a free, functioning democracy and which engender public confidence in the news media.
This ground-breaking study examines the past and present use of trustee governance by newspapers, public service broadcasters and news agencies in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, Canada, South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand. Its case studies of the Guardian, Irish Timesand Tampa Bay Times – plus examination of the family trusts behind the Daily Mail, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post – detail the principles, practices and lessons of trustee ownership that can be applied by the digital ‘new media’ generation entrusted with the future of news.

“The Political Role of New Zealand Newspapers” in Politics and the Media. Auckland, Pearson 2013, Editors: Babak Bahadur, Geoff Kemp, Kate McMillan & Chris Rudd. 

A chapter that examines the foundations of political coverage in New Zealand newspapers since the 1850s before discussing the relationship between politicians and political journalists today. the chapter canvasses the nature of political coverage and the influence that newspapers exert in the political sphere.

“Global players: Tony O’Reilly and Independent News & Media” in Independent Newspapers: A history. Dublin, Four Courts Press, 2012. Editors: Mark O’Brien & Kevin Rafter.

A chapter examining the transformation of Independent Newspapers into Independent News & Media and its emergence as an international media organisation. With media interests in South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand, the company became a global player, but as Ellis found, much of the expansion involved the assumption of heavy debt that ultimately brought the O’Reilly era to an end in 2012.

“Australia and New Zealand: Two agencies and parallel tracks that sometimes diverge” in News Agencies in the Turbulent Era of the Internet. Barcelona, Generalitat de Catalunya, 2010. Editor: Oliver Boyd-Barrett.

A chapter that examined the history and latter-day fortunes of news agencies on either side of the Tasman Sea. For 125 years the New Zealand Press Association functioned as a cooperative – until rivalry between the two main (Australian-owned) newspaper groups brought cooperation to an end and, ultimately, the demise of the agency. In Australia, however, the same owners have allowed the Australian Associated Press to continue to function as an independent news agency.

“Who Owns the Media?” in New Zealand Government and Politics. Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2010.

This chapter examines the significance of ownership in the New Zealand media market – an environment in which regulatory bodies struggle to be relevant. It outlines the impact of technological change and deteriorating economics on media companies and their journalists. It discusses the perceptions and realities of owners’ influence over journalists and assesses the media’s contribution to meeting the social, cultural and democratic needs of New Zealanders.

 Word War. Saarbrucken, VDM, 2009. Author: Gavin Ellis.

In 2006, New Zealand’s daily newspapers ceased the cooperative exchange of news stories through the country’s principal domestic wire service, the New Zealand Press Association. Why was a 125-year tradition abandoned and what were the consequences of that decision? The author finds that the restructuring of NZPA was a manifestation of fundamental changes to New Zealand news media companies that can be traced directly to market liberalisation and the transition from local to transnational ownership. New levels of competition directly challenged the cooperative basis of NZPA and change became inevitable. The agency adopted a commercial model based on that of Australian Associated Press and offered its services to all media where, in the past, it had been limited to newspapers. However, the absence of content from contributing newspapers had measurable effects on geographic coverage by NZPA and on the range and quality of stories. It was an irretrievable loss.

Nine Laissez-faire Years

A short extract from my chapter in “Stardust and Substance”, published this month by VUW Press.



The ruling National Party failed to attend two 2017 conferences at which other political parties heard of growing anxiety over the state of the news media in New Zealand.  There is telling symbolism in an empty chair. Continue reading “Nine Laissez-faire Years”