Friday, April 19, 2024

Another Shit Day In News: Why It’s Such A Terrifying Time To Work In Media

Capsule’s thoughts on the Newshub announcement and why, even though it’s a scary time to be in media, we still believe in its power, function and future.

It’s a terrifying time to work in media.

It has been for years – since fake news, since the pandemic, since the cost of living. Since, quite frankly, this side of Y2K.

Today’s news that all of our colleagues at Newshub would be without jobs come the end of June is devastating but not shocking. Media, both in New Zealand and around the globe, is in worlds of trouble.

Trust us, no one – not even Newshub’s direct competitors TVNZ – will be gleeful about today’s news. By and large the media industry in New Zealand is small, collegial and very tight-knit. We cheer each other on, we support each other when we can and whilst there is of course competition between outlets, we genuinely want to see us all succeed.

Because we know just how bloody hard this job has become.

Telling stories can sound like quite an innocuous thing – ‘spin a yarn!’ ‘spill the tea!’ ‘let’s have a chat!’ are all so casual, connective phrases – but storytelling and true, skilful journalism is essential for our society to function. From the news’ responsibility as The Fourth Estate to keep our democracy free and humming, through to outlets like Capsule whose job it is to tell the real, relatable stories of what it is to be a Kiwi woman in 2024, all of us have a part to play in shaping the fabric of Aotearoa’s story. Today, a massive thread unraveled from that story.

Our ‘Kiwiness’ and togetherness, our record and reflection of who we are as a nation and a people, is crafted from what you see on your screens. Inform, entertain, persuade and express – the four pillars of a writer’s core mantra.

We ourselves were made redundant from our magazine jobs in 2020, during the first week of our first level four Covid lockdown. It was the same story that played out today at Warner Bros. Discovery – the urgent message to attend a company-wide meeting with very little notice, the rumblings of panic in the meantime, and then the crushing blow that yes, everyone will be losing their jobs.

It’s a feeling that still makes us sick to our stomachs and we know just how fucking awful this news is for so many of our mates who are great people, and amazing journalists.

This move means that our only free-to-air evening news will now be state-owned. We lose the spirit that Three News, as it was known for so long, entered the market with – the plucky little underdog with edge and grit that delivered incredible stories that would have otherwise gone unreported. 

There are so many reasons given as to why big media companies are falling, and falling fast – the free-to-air models; changing consumer relationships; Google, etc. It’s true that real journalism is expensive while fake news is cheap. And, from our experience, those on both the editorial and commercial sides of the media coin are exhausted, jaded and despondent. But what our own experiences with our former German-owned company, and today’s events from Warner Bros Discovery tells us is this – foreign investment in New Zealand media is not the answer.

New Zealand is always going to be a little fish in a big pond, and, unsurprisingly, people now only have the resources to try and catch the big’uns – and there’s not enough nutrients for the little ones to become big. Quite frankly, to companies such as the two aforementioned, New Zealand is nothing.

We need to take the power back in our own storytelling. 

We don’t believe media is dead – far, far from it. There are media outlets in Aotearoa who are making profits and we’ve seen success with our own platform – a huge thank you to all those who support our work. We think collaboration amongst independent, Kiwi-owned media is key, with the sharing of knowledge and resources rather than competition and secrecy. However, that’s not to say that we’re not shit scared about the state of our industry.

We arrived at creating this platform on the back of a mass redundancy. Capsule’s foundations were rooted in the trauma of not controlling our own narratives – something that just won’t do when your job is to write. As writers, you can imagine how terrifying we found being cast adrift in an industry that constantly pummeled all of us with restructures, truly horrific pay and the ever-imposing threat of losing our jobs. Yet still more and more and more was, and is, expected from us all – double the story output! Stay later every day! Take on this person’s role but no, there’s no pay rise! (Ironically, it was Newshub journalists that gave our old now-defunct company the nickname ‘Lady Sweatshop’). 

It’s true when they say that journalists don’t do this job for the money. We do it because we know how important telling, explaining, sharing stories is for everyone.

Otherwise what are we left with? Algorithms telling us what’s important? A homogenised, biased and unchecked faux-media that does more harm than good, that tells you what you want to hear but not need to hear because your entire view of the world will be shaped purely by your For You Page?

So what can we do? Well today, all of us in the New Zealand media industry shed a few tears for our colleagues, look at our budgets and try and figure out how the hell we can absorb as many of our friends’ roles as possible into our own operations because there are now 200 incredibly talented people with no jobs to go to because they don’t exist. Then, we drink with them, commiserate with them and then, of course, spin some yarns – because that is what we all do in times of great need.

What can you do? Start re-examining your own relationship with the media. Normalise PAYING for media (and look, it’s a crass time to do it but hell, if you’ve liked, shared, appreciated or simply enjoyed any of our stories lately, the link to our paid subscription Substack is here). Engage with your media outlets – likes, comments, shares and saves help us all beat whatever fucking algorithm change is happening this month – and follow them on socials. If you control advertising spend at your company, invest it in media outlets rather than influencers with the knowledge that journalists are held to much, much higher standards in their reporting and storytelling.

And, most importantly, be grateful for the work that journalists up and down Aotearoa put in everyday to help you make sense of your crazy little world.

Getting WILD at the QT Auckland: Champagne Problems & Fried Chicken in Bed – Finally Getting to Live Out the Rock Star Fantasy on...

Kelly Bertrand and her fiancé have a wild night at the QT Auckland and live out some true rock star fantasies (and if you're...

“It’s What I’ve Always Dreamed Of” – Football Fern Hannah Wilkinson on Progress, Equality & the ‘Bittersweet’ Comedown of the World Cup

She's New Zealand football's golden girl, with her generation-inspiring goal in the opening World Cup match against Norway sending the nation into raptures. But...

Resume Values Vs Eulogy Values: Where Does Your Self-Worth Come From, If It Doesn’t Come From Your Job?

Approaching the midlife point, it can start to be a big question: what does it mean to live a life your proud of? A...

Can You Eat Something at the Supermarket Before You Pay For It? Or is It Breaking the Rules? We Get a Definitive Answer…

Is it ever okay to eat something at the supermarket before you pay for it? Are you disrupting some sort of social code of...