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Saturday, 25 November 2017 11:08 am

Print is not dead, it’s an untapped market, says former newspaper editor

Sep 19th, 2016 | By | Category: Featured Article, Features, News, Student Features

400-panel

Cate Brett (far right) joins moderator Tess McClure and fellow panelists Peter Griffin and Nicky Hager at the book launch 

Print is an untapped media market, and community papers have the greatest potential, says a former editor of the Sunday Star Times.

Cate Brett made the comments during a panel discussion at the book launch of Don’t Dream it’s Over: Re-imagining Journalism in Aotearoa.

She was speaking in response to an audience member’s question about how the rapidly evolving journalism industry will communicate better with the print-reading elderly demographic.

Brett said it is a paradox that media company Fairfax uses the 80% revenue it gains from print editions to fund its digital enterprise.

“So if, at some point, a media company has the balls to actually take newspapers seriously again, they might actually recognise that there is a market there,” said Brett, who worked as a journalist for over 20 years before moving into media advisory roles.

“The idea of having a print edition which has got an editorial voice and some sense of authority with it could actually be a new product that we will discover.”

Brett, who wrote a chapter for the book about press accountability in the digital era, believes the market will grow with the baby boomers and mentioned Alex Stone’s chapter about community newspapers.

“One of the interesting things at the moment is that the community newspapers are actually thriving.

“And these actually have got huge potential in terms of the democratic conversation.”

She referenced the growth of community papers to the historic use of the pamphlet as a powerful communication tool distilling relevant information for a community of interest.

However, Brett, who was involved in the 2013 Law Commission inquiry that recommended New Zealand’s media be governed by a single standards authority,  was less optimistic than fellow-panelist Nicky Hager when it comes to public appetite for change.

“I think what we’re seeing on both the New Zealand Herald website and Stuff is actually a direct product of consumer-driven content.

“And the idea that, at some point, people stop clicking on that story about someone’s boob job or someone’s cat that’s been strangled, that actually is not going to happen.

“I think we’re naïve if we think that’s going to happen.”

She believes one of the greatest dichotomies of the present media situation in New Zealand is the public has better access to quality journalism from around the world than ever before but there is less reporting on important issues within our own country.

That means it is naïve to expect the New Zealand public will demand law changes around funding journalism – especially given the lack of action after Hager’s book Dirty Politics was released in 2014.

“I remember that there were about three people in my office at the time who wanted it urgently.

“And they read it and they thought ‘surely this is going to bring a change. Surely people are going to say this is not acceptable.’

“Nothing happened.  The Press Council: zip.

“Nobody actually put their hand up and said: ‘This is not acceptable’.”

Brett, who recently took up a post with the Ministry of Justice, questioned why the government continues to fund Television New Zealand rather than digital or other modern media formats.

But the conversation will happen, she said.  It is just a matter of how soon.

“I do think, listening to [Minister of Broadcasting and Communications] Amy Adams around this, I think she is actually interested in engaging in that conversation.

“So I actually do think there is a window of opportunity here to start discussing that.”

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