Welcome back Listener

02/10/2020

The Listener is back and in her editor’s letter, Pamela Stirling writes:

. . . At a time when debate is increasingly polarized and governments around the world, including our own, are acting by decree with sweeping powers that represent the greatest infringements on our civil liberties in living memory, the need for strong, respected and independent media is greater than ever.

What’s certain is that never again in a democracy like New Zealand should an award-winning and profitable current affairs publication like the Listener be so casually deemed “non-essential” by the central government. While we supported, in general, New Zealand’s stance in fighting COvid-19 we cannot, even now understand why magazines were the only products banned from the supermarkets.

This was just one of many examples where the arbitrary and contradictory essential shut down businesses which could have operated safely had safe been what governed decisions.

As the March lockdown began, the Listener was being produced remotely from home, with the same controlled and safe printing and distribution systems as newspapers. If the weekend papers with their insert magazines were permitted to publish weekly, why couldn’t we?

A conspiracy theorist might say this was politically motivated to shut down analysis, debate, and potential criticism.

I wouldn’t go that far. I think is was cock-up rather than conspiracy, the result of a government Which,  contrary to the propaganda, did not go hard and early, but was late, lax and then harsh.

However, the outcome was the same – by decreeing only businesses it deemed essential could operate,  it did shut down analysis, debate and potential criticism at a time when it was so very important.

The Listener’s 30,000 subscribers could simply have had their magazines delivered in their sanitiser plastic wrapping directly to their homes via post or courier as always. Retail copies could have been sold in supermarkets. Instead at a time when even cigarettes and alcohol were deemed essential items, the reckless dismissal of this 80 year-old New Zealand icon felt like cultural vandalism. . . 

Cultural vandalism, and albeit by accident rather than design, political opportunism.

Some in the daily media have done, and continue to do, a very good job of holding the powerful to account. But we’ll never know what the more in-depth analysis that is possible with a weekly publication like the Listener and a monthly like the soon-to-be relaunched North and South, might have uncovered.

We’ll never know what we might have learned, what might have been different, what might have changed for the better,  had their journalists been able to investigate and report.

But we can be grateful that they’re back and, as the editor’s letter shows, coming back strongly.


Big holes in fourth estate

02/04/2020

Bauer Media has announced it’s closing:

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closure of Bauer Media, bringing an end to decades of media.

Bauer Media publishes multiple popular Kiwi magazines including NZ Listener, Woman’s Day, New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, North and South and Next. . .

I subscribed to North and South when it first launched and was proud that it accepted some of my freelance contributions.

I’ve subscribed to the Listener for several years and bought it every week before that.

Both have always had high standards of journalism and will leave a big hole in the fourth estate.

They, like much of the mainstream media will have been struggling and the dearth of advertising in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown will have been the last straw.

How many will follow, including perhaps daily papers?

MediaWorks has asked all staff to take pay cuts as it fights for its survival.

Most of us get most of our news and views online now, some of which is of a high standard, some of which is anything but.

The higher the standard the greater the cost of producing it, and too few are willing to pay for quality even though we need a strong fourth estate more than ever now governments all over the world have imposed draconian restrictions on us.


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