Editorial executive: ‘There must be more to life than this’

The hierarchy of New Zealand’s news media organisations, once a relatively stable environment, is changing with the speed and effect of a Nek Minnit video. In part, it is a consequence of vacancies and reorganisations but several of the moves also point to a deeper-seated issue. Some media executives have given so much of their lives to the job that they have had an epiphany and want some of that life back.

Three senior news executives in as many months have quit their jobs, not to take up another position, but to take extended breaks. RNZ’s head of news, Richard Sutherland, was first. He was followed by senior TVNZ producer Sam Robertson, and last week Miriyana Alexander – the star of NZME’s premium subscription drive – resigned and said she was taking a break from journalism altogether. Continue reading “Editorial executive: ‘There must be more to life than this’”

Sports department kicked into touch: New game strategy?

We may be witnessing the beginning of deconstruction in the newsroom – not their destruction but changes that could alter their shape and function.

A week ago, the New York Times announced that it was, to use an Americanism, shuttering its sports department and moving its 35 reporters and editors to other roles. It is handing over responsibility for sports coverage to The Athletic.

The Athletic is a sports website that the New York Times Company bought in January 2022 for $US550 million ($NZ818 million). It has almost 400 journalists covering more than 200 professional sports teams and churns out about 150 stories a day. It had over one million subscribers when it was bought, and that number has tripled in 18 months and is trending upward. Nonetheless, it has yet to turn a profit, and in the first quarter of this year lost the equivalent of more than $NZ12 million.

It is unsurprising that the New York Times Company wants to optimise its purchase and cut those losses (it recently laid off 20 staff at The Athletic), but what is surprising is that it has not opted to integrate The Athletic’s staff and stringers into the NYT newsroom but has done the opposite. It has decided to close its sports department and, in effect, to take a service from its subsidiary. That service will provide coverage for the print edition of the Times as well as the parent website.

Sports sections may be well read but they are a notoriously poor destinations for advertising. Here, for example, the Weekend Herald last Saturday had less than half a page of advertising in its sports section and the Stuff metropolitan papers had none. The New York Times has reduced the number of sports pages and it no longer has a stand-alone sports section in the newspaper.

However, what we may be witnessing is not a manifestation of a reduced commitment to sport but a new way of thinking about newsroom structures. Continue reading “Sports department kicked into touch: New game strategy?”

Generative AI: Be afraid, be very afraid

We humans have always had a bit of a penchant for futile exercises.

The ancient Greeks had a death-defying king rolling a large boulder up a hill for eternity. Much later, the Japanese invented an infuriating game called Whac-a Mole.

Now the media are trying to stay a step ahead of generative artificial intelligence.

Media companies around the world are grappling with editorial guidelines to deal with a digital phenomenon that can be both a tool to enhance their productivity, and an insidious weapon that can be used against them.

Some see it as an existential threat that should be banned outright but, really, artificial intelligence is like firearms and opioids – useful in the right hands but extraordinarily dangerous in the wrong ones. And, like drugs, its legitimate use needs to be carefully prescribed. Continue reading “Generative AI: Be afraid, be very afraid”

Super-injunctions make an unwelcome appearance

One could be excused for feeling utterly confused by a court story in the Weekend Herald the Saturday before last, but none of the blame lies with the publication or its reporter.

It was bewildering because it related to an attempt to apply a total ban on publication of any details of the case to which it related. And it extended to reporting that the injunction against publication had even been sought.

That, in my book, is called a super-injunction. That is also how the Herald described it.

A super-injunction is an interim injunction which not only restrains publication of information which concerns the applicant and is said to be confidential or private, but also stops publicising or informing others of the existence of the order and the proceedings. That is the ‘super’ element.

Such an injunction was sought after Herald senior journalist Kim Knight contacted “a New Zealand institution” in relation to a story she was pursuing. The Weekend Herald said the plaintiffs were “alleging it [the Herald] was about to publish potentially defamatory allegations” about an overseas individual.

The Herald did not reveal the name of that individual for two reasons: First because it was covered by the application for an injunction and, secondly, because the individual alleging potential defamation had not even been named in court documents made available to Herald publisher NZME. The paper says it does not know his name, calling him a “mystery man”. Continue reading “Super-injunctions make an unwelcome appearance”