Aardvark DailyNew Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.
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News this morning that the Commerce Commission has rejected the bid for a merger between NZME and Fairfax should come as a surprise to nobody.
The reality is that the news industry in New Zealand is already far too "compact" and lacking in scope of ownership.
Of course those who stand to benefit from the merger are making all sorts of claims as to what such a merger would produce -- such as "developing people and talent".
Yeah, right! If they expect us to believe that then they're clearly so poorly acquainted with reality that the veracity of any news they publish will be equally open to question.
Let's face it... this is a cynical attempt to pool resources, slash costs and extend a dominance in the marketplace.
When such mergers take place there are no winners -- except perhaps for shareholders.
In order to guarantee objectivity and accuracy, the news industry must be composed of many players, each bringing their own unique perspective to events and stories. Remove that diversity and you end up with a very dangerous ability for "the" dominant player to shape public opinion in a way that gives them enormous control -- more control than the government of the day in fact.
Fairfax's media chief executive is also claiming that search media is harming the news industry. He seems to think that the proposed merger would give the resulting entity more weight with which to go head-to-head with search and social media giants.
Well I'm sorry but if you really think that then you're dreaming.
The reality is probably that people only turn to social media for their news because the industry isn't delivering what they want.
A relentless cut-back in staff, quality of copy and objectivity means that a lot of folk are seeking out their own news via alternative channels -- mainly things like Facebook and Google News. If Fairfax and NZME actually focused more on real news reporting and less on repackaged press releases and "fluff", the may face less competition from such sources.
Or am I wrong? I may very well be.
One only has to look at what is undoubtedly the most popular news publication in the world, the Daily Mail. This is a rag-tag, poorly written, badly edited collection of flotsam from the far reaches of social media -- yet it is doing extremely well -- eclipsing the more traditional and respected news publishers who are now facing hard times.
Is it that the world has simply lost its taste for real news?
Are we instead all seeking lightweight, entertaining or titillating copy that provides a few minutes or maybe only seconds of amusement -- before we move onto to the next?
As a business model, the repackaging of social-media fluff and hysteria written by barely literate copy-hacks trumps the employment of professional journalists who research in depth, fact-check and provide in-depth coverage of the news. Real journalists are expensive -- lifting stuff from Facebook or YouTube and having some teenager re-arrange the words costs next to nothing.
Perhaps the news media that some of us came to know and love is about to go the way of the typewriter ribbon. Simply a distant memory of something that was absolutely crucial but which now is merely a curiosity that nobody would pay a single cent for.
So where to from here?
If we do fall out of touch with the events that are taking place in the world around us, won't we become even more easily manipulated?
Will this lack of awareness allow people in power to exercise their own agendas with impunity?
Hmmm... perhaps there is very real justification for the state funding of an independent news media based on old principles of honesty, objectivity and good journalism.
Nah, let's see what's happening on Twitter instead eh?
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