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Friday, 22 June 2018 12:46 pm

Journalism’s challenges and opportunities on the table in new book

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From left, moderator Tess McClure with panelists Peter Griffin, Nicky Hager and Cate Brett at the Wellington launch of Don’t Dream It’s Over: Re-imagining Journalism in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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Whitireia Journalism and Broadcasting students covering last night’s launch of the book Don’t Dream It’s Over: Re-imagining Journalism in Aotearoa New Zealand.

New Zealand journalists keep the profession in “good shape” despite challenges, says an editor of a new book.

Barnaby Bennett joined three panelists and over 60 guests last night to discuss and launch the book, Don’t dream it’s over: Reimagining journalism in Aotearoa.

The panel comprised of Nicky Hager, Cate Brett and Peter Griffin, who were authors of three of the 35 chapters.

Whitireia and Weltec polytechs councillor Fran Wilde opened the evening at the New Zealand Film and TV School in Wellington by Whitireia Polytechnic Journalism School.

She said the journalism school was contributing to the re-imagining of journalism with new collaborative programmes at Te Auaha Centre of Applied Creativity opening in 2018 in Cuba St.

Pressures facing New Zealand journalists as they operate in a rapidly changing mediascape were up for discussion on the night, as well as a brief look into what they are doing right.

“One of the really strong themes in the book that came through – one of the almost entirely consistent themes – is that journalism is actually in good shape, in terms of the journalists we have in the country,” said Bennett.

Hager, author of Dirty Politics and The Hollow Men, discussed his chapter on political independence and the need for public funding.

“I think we can measure the crisis on how well it does its job, and we’ve reached a point where tinkering just doesn’t work anymore,” said Hager.

Brett focused more on journalistic standards.

“Imagine if Stuff had on its front page a banner every day that said ‘this content … it’s fair, it distinguishes fact from fiction, it distinguishes opinion,’” she said.

“Imagine if they actually put that there and you saw that against the content that they are publishing.”

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Whitireia and Weltec polytechs councillor introduces Te Auaha Institute of Applied Creativity to the gathering.

Don’t Dream it’s over was published by Freerange Press – a small, independent press co-founded by Bennett that also published Christchurch: The Transitional City and several other titles.

“Maybe journalism’s in a similar space (to Christchurch) – there’s changes, there’s opportunities, there’s a whole lot of people with different voices,” said Bennett.

“We thought it was a good opportunity to create a new space around that.”

He said there was no pre-determined plan when they invited authors.

“The way that we try and make it cohesive is I guess by not trying to make it cohesive. So there’s not one single narrative, there’s a whole bunch of narratives.

“As it went on we started to gather texts into particular groups, but it wasn’t semantic and you’ll notice that the chapters don’t have themes.

“They’re more just a series of essays that we thought ran together particularly well.”

Barnaby says a big focus was simply making the book highly readable.

“Freerange has long had a policy of trying to respect an intelligent audience, so there’s no jargon or difficult terminology.”

Karen Mcleod, New Zealand buyer for Unity Books, is impressed by the number of sales.

“(It was) pretty good in terms of how many went to the event and then bought the book afterwards, but we’ve also been selling them in store too.

“We don’t have many left, so we’ll probably be re-ordering soon.”

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