Press under pressure but the ink will not dry

Congratulations, Indian Newslink, on your 15th Anniversary, serving the wider Indian community as news-bearer, educator and voice.

This newspaper’s coverage in print and online is a channel through which communities sometimes absent in mainstream media can enter New Zealand’s national conversations, enriching our understanding.

Democratic essentials

Robust and independent news media are essential to a thriving democracy. They make our leaders accountable and ensure the processes of government are transparent.

News media should provide balanced, factual information; be our watchdogs over the decision-makers on behalf of the public, and offer a safe environment for robust exchanges of views and perspectives.

They play a crucial role in assisting all citizens to take an informed part in society and in political decision-making.

Our news media, newspapers in particular, are facing challenges today.

Their traditional, commercial models are becoming less viable. At the same time, social websites are indeed moving strongly into the realm of dissemination of all kinds of information. I suspect this will continue to increase in future as a variety of cheap, accessible platforms become widely available, from Twitter to Facebook, apps and podcasts to blogs, online versions of print media and full web news services.

The Press Council

Collectively, print media in New Zealand fund the New Zealand Press Council, which provides an independent forum for resolving complaints against the press and other news media. Ordinary Kiwis can complain to the Council at no cost about published material in newspapers, magazines and their websites, as well as digital sites with news content.

This will include some blogs, which are characterised by news commentary as well as audio and video streams.

However, most social media are not subject to Press Council oversight and do not operate with the same guidelines and ethics that serious news media do.

There are long-established editorial processes, particularly for larger papers, where journalists’ work is checked and editors have the final say prior to publication of articles.

There is rarely any equivalent process for a social media channel – not the same level of checks and balances to ensure information is checked for accuracy prior to publication.

One does not have to take a course on media or journalism prior to writing blogs, finalising videos, sending tweets, posting to Facebook or Wikis and all the other social media relevant to and popular with our young people.

Ownership consolidation

The boom in social media often provokes the response that newspapers are dying. In the early 21st century, for example, most New Zealand cities that had two daily newspapers now only have one, most of which are owned by one of only two foreign-owned companies. In the allied fields of radio and television, major commercial radio stations are owned by very few companies. Alongside this ownership consolidation, there are constant debates over the value of public broadcasting and who should pay for it.

Adaptive papers

In fact, newspapers are not dying. Many are doing quite well and simply moving with the times to produce well-researched, factual content across various platforms including digital.

The 2014 World Press Trends Report by WAN-IFRA found the print news media in good heart. It said, “Each day, more than half the world’s adult population read a daily newspaper: 2.5 billion in print and more than 800 million in digital form.”

The Report finds, “There is still high demand for high-quality news content and many newspaper companies are finding ways to transfer this demand into sufficient revenues from digital. Finding the sustainable business models for digital news media is not only important for news businesses, but for the future health of debate in democratic society.”

It also noted that global newspaper trends reveal a robust industry that has evolved and grown as a result of major technological and structural disruption but one which still relies on its print flagships.

News services in the traditional sense still play a vital role in our society. Excellent content, good reporting, even-handed editorial practices, standards, ethical considerations and public accountability will always be necessary, regardless of delivery formats.

I wish Indian Newslink all the best for another 15 years, across all its platforms.

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