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God help local journalism!

Tom Belford03 October 2018

Today’s Hawke’s Bay Today was an excellent illustration of what threatens the survival of local journalism.

The biggest threat: newspapers like HB Today.

Where the front page headline today is: Boulder blasted from Bluff.

Where the lead editorial today — What are NZ’s values anyway? — was written by that HB notable, Zaryd Wilson. What … never heard of him? He’s a reporter for the Whanganui Chronicle, although he wasn’t identified as such.  An import from parent NZ Herald, a frequent occurrence these days at godchild HB Today.

Local journalism?

Where the Talking Point today — Plan for a bilingual NZ — was written by that HB luminary, John McCaffery. What … never heard of him? He’s a doctoral candidate at the University of Auckland. Lately, HB Today — or more likely, an editor at the Herald mothership who really pulls the strings — has taken to boring Bay readers with frequent essays from voluble academics apparently seeking tenure at universities around the country.

Local journalism?

Today’s situation must have been especially embarrassing for poor HB Today editor Craig Cooper.

He had to resort to presenting his own press release — Join us and face future — as a news article on page 3. The piece attempted to make a virtue out of the fact that HB Today is owned by NZME (NZ Media Enterprises, whose flagship is the Herald).

Despite trying to make serving as a small cog in an Auckland-run media enterprise sound just dandy (“you can continue to enjoy local and national journalism at its very best”), the irony of Craig’s piece is illustrated by this direct quote: “But there is one thing that won’t change — and that’s our commitment to local journalism and this region.”

Now firstly, I’ve never heard anyone in Hawke’s Bay characterise HB Today as “journalism at its very best”; but I do admire Editor Cooper for his bravado.

And secondly, as for “commitment to local journalism and this region”, today’s content, cited above, belies that claim.

If today’s HB Today is evidence of “local journalism … at it very best” and a “commitment to local journalism”, god help local journalism!

If such issues interest you, be sure to attend, as part of the HB Arts Festival, a panel titled ‘What’s happening to our news?’ on Sunday October 21st. It features HBT’s Craig Cooper, myself as editor of BayBuzz and broadcasting veteran Bill Ralston discussing the news media scene, moderated by another media veteran, Janet Wilson. Details and tickets here.

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Tom Belford03 October 2018

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