Small independent newspapers could be among the biggest losers from the decision to close the New Zealand Press Association, according to journalism lecturer Alan Samson.
Mr Samson, who lectures at the University’s School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, says the national news service provides a large amount of news copy that helps fill the inside pages of small provincial daily papers.
“Aside from covering and breaking their own stories, small papers like the Westport News rely on copy from NZPA for a lot of their news content, so they’ll be in real trouble.”
The closure also has implications for how the news is routinely reported in other centres, he says. “News is increasingly generated and distributed from the main centres, leaving some outlying areas poorly served.”
Smaller communities would no longer be reported as extensively as before. Even city based news beats, like the regular roundup of news from organisations such as the Parliamentary select committees, would suffer, he says. “Some committees may simply now miss public scrutiny.”
The fact that the bulk of newspaper ownership was now in the hands of the two companies Fairfax Media and APN News and Media often dictated what news was reported where, he says.
“The closing has been on the cards for a long time; it has certainly been anticipated since Fairfax began vigorously developing networks within its own group. Fairfax, for one, has been pouring huge resources into expanding its digital arm. After its withdrawal from NZPA triggered the closing, it might be in a position to offer work for some of the 40 or so displaced staff.
“The closing of the agency is terribly sad news. It’s clearly a done deal and makes good sense for Fairfax on a purely financial basis, but is not good news for New Zealand journalism.”