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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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It’s a very small and dry pond

To be a journalist in New Zealand right now feels a bit like being a fish in a drought-stricken pond.

As the hot sun of commercial [dis]interest beats down, the edges of the pond are inching in, oxygen levels are decreasing, and quite a few journo-fish are already flapping about in their death throes.

Newshub’s impending closure provides a startling illustration of just how fragile the journalistic environment is.

At the risk of stretching my fish/pond analogy to breaking point, I’m still processing what the loss of the big Newshub fish means for democracy in Aotearoa.

Nothing good, I fear.

Looking a little closer to home, though, what does it mean for the type of local journalism delivered by regional news outlets like the Wairarapa Times-Age? How should we as a community respond? Can we respond?

I’m a bit of a scrapper when my back’s up against the wall, so my gut response is: we double down, people.

How about we strengthen our appetite to receive news?

What if we renewed our commitment as a society to being interested in what former journalist and academic Dr Greg Treadwell recently described as that “daily record of human life” that is news?

For those of you exhausted right now from an excessive bout of eye-rolling, do not fear.

My call to arms doesn’t mean you have to leave your healthy scepticism at the door.

As Dr Treadwell wrote on the RNZ website, “Some scepticism of everything, including news, is healthy in a democracy.

“We need critically thinking and politically active citizens challenging many things, including mainstream media news agendas.”

It’s not just flagrant self-interest as a reporter that leads me to ponder whether, as a community, we need to up our investment – social and cultural as well as financial – in the practice of journalism.

There’s a reason I made the deliberate decision to retrain as a journalist relatively late in life – and it certainly wasn’t for the money.

It was in response to the fact that, as a wise older friend of mine said to me recently, we live in a time of enormous change.

Ain’t that the truth.

Just in the past five years, we’ve survived the first Trumpocene, battled through covid-19 [the knock-on effects of which just keep on coming], and are now navigating the tipping point of the effects of climate change.

As I emerged from the fog and the noise of lockdown, I felt very strongly that we needed more news, not less.

It even felt a little existential to me at the time – that as a species, we needed journalism and journalists more than ever.

We need people who are committed to asking questions, not resting until they get an answer, and being interested enough to tell you what that answer was.

It shouldn’t feel like a privilege to have the essential work of “recording human life” done and done well.

But, sadly, the truth of the matter is that we seem to be heading that way.

Then again, as my wise friend also told me this morning, the necessary things in life will survive, in some form.

It’s up to all of us to work out what that form might be.

1 COMMENT

  1. I totally concur! In a world of misinformation it’s now more important than ever to have solid news. I was bought up to be geopolitically aware, conscious and questioning of the leaders and law makers at home and abroad. Unfiltered truth is the worse for these sad developments in our news coverage😑

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