The Public Interest Journalism Fund, designed to be rolled out over a period of three years, has received its second round of funding, and its largest cash boost so far. For now however, student media seems to have been left out of this crucial support.
The Government has injected a further $25 million into the fund, intending to support Aotearoa New Zealand’s media further by bankrolling 110 journalism jobs across different media outlets around the country. The goal of the funding is to provide direct and targeted short-to-medium length support to public interest journalism. While a significant part of the fund is dedicated to help maintain the current status of New Zealand journalism, there is also a recognised need to develop a pool of future journalists, with the fund helping with upskilling and training programmes.
The upskilling and training of immediate and future generations of reporters is important, largely due to the sharp decline in journalism jobs. AUT’s research centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy reported that over 600 journalism-based jobs disappeared in 2020 due to the pandemic. Newsroom states that this was nothing but the hastening of a long-term trend. Between 2006 and 2018, the number of journalists in Aotearoa New Zealand dropped by nearly fifty percent, from 4,284 to 2,061.
Tikanga Māori and the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi has been at the forefront of Governmental decisions regarding media funding lately. Te Rito, a collaboration between Māori Television, Newshub, NZME, and Pacific Media Network and 11 other supporting media organisations, aims to increase the number of Māori and diverse voices in the media; a sphere that has often been historically lacking in said perspectives.
The fund will also attempt to create longer, and more in-depth news pieces aimed to target a number of societal factors in New Zealand. These include combatting public health misinformation, supporting te reo and tikanga Māori, child poverty, and Pacific media.
Ultimately, there are three main pillars of the Public Interest Journalism Fund. Firstly, the scheme aims to aid development of clearly defined news stories that are completed to a deadline. Secondly, as stated above, the fund will help support newsrooms for the employment of reporters. Industry development is also a prioritised goal of the fund, as recipients will be able to provide cadetships and upskilling initiatives for current employees.
While this funding has been largely welcomed by the media world of Aotearoa, this has not come without scrutiny, as journalists tend to do. The Government has stated that this is a one time offer, designed with the idea that media outlets have three years to find its own answers to the disruptions caused by the pandemic and decline of journalists. If they are unable to, they risk the rug of governmental support being pulled out from underneath them.
Another issue is paywalls, a scheme by media outlets designed to allow media consumers the option to pay for access to stories. Cabinet papers state that any content made from the fund has to be made freely available to the public. This however is contradictory, as NZ on Air, who are in control of the fund, are sympathetic to news outlets arguing for the continued use of paywalls and have stated that the fund should not damage these efforts.
Student media has been left out of the fund too. The University of Otago’s student magazine Critic Te Arohi applied for the first round of funding, but were, however, denied. Critic Editor Erin Gourley told Craccum that they were disappointed with NZ on Airs decision. “I am disappointed that Critic Te Arohi has not received funding from the PIJF. We have strong readership within a population of young people who largely ignore traditional media.”
Critic are the minds responsible behind the highly-successful six-month investigation into neo-nazi group Action Zealandia, a story that made it to national news and highlighted the actions and perspectives of the often mysterious white-supremacist group, and a story that was very well acclaimed by individuals within and outside the media world.
Gourley believes that the denial of funding to Critic was not an issue limited only to them, but a wider dismissal of student media altogether. “Based on discussions with other student media outlets, this is not an issue limited to our magazine. It seems that student media has been largely brushed aside. The exception to that is Salient’s project-based funding, which succeeded in Round 1. I was happy to see that. I hope that Salient’s excellent use of that funding, in their Te Ao Mārama issue, proves that student media deserves more support from this fund.”
The lack of feedback from NZ on Air was also an issue. “I was even more disappointed that we have received no feedback on our application. I understand that this was our first-ever application for funding, and we can’t expect to be successful the first time around, but it would have been helpful to know where we could improve or what didn’t meet the criteria.”
The Public Interest Journalism Fund aims to ensure the stability and viability of New Zealand’s media. Opportunities can be found here. Craccum is also a great place to start. If you have an article or story idea email us here.