Opinion: You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone

Shannon Thompson. Photo: ODT files
Shannon Thompson. Photo: ODT files
Last week I wrote about the pending closure of television news outlet Newshub. Days later TVNZ announced it was making cuts and we would be losing some of the most important investigative local programming we have, including Fair Go and Sunday.

This is a further blow to an industry in crisis, and among all of the uncertainty, public scrutiny and vitriol — keyboard warriors love to attack people when they are down — the journalists at the centre of these cuts have continued to report, to keep the New Zealand public informed and to bring issues to light.

That takes a lot of courage and resilience, but in essence sums up the essence of journalism: to tell stories, to bring truth to the fore even in the face of their own adversity.

This is not the first time journalists have been personally impacted by a story but pushed through in order to report — just look at those from Christchurch who covered the devastating earthquakes, reporting while their own homes were in ruins. The same for those impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle — they risked themselves to make ensure people knew what was happening so they could be safe.

While news of journalism in crisis has been going on, Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Melissa Lee — who is supposed to represent and advocate for the industry — has been largely, missing in action.

On Monday, Lee told Breakfast the Broadcasting Act 1989 needed to be updated and she planned to take a paper to cabinet.

She said as a former journalist she believed in the importance of journalism.

Watching this interview did not instil me with hope — even my husband could see Lee was not answering questions.

Presenter Anna Burns-Francis did a stellar job of rephrasing questions and pushing for answers when the minister tried to dance around them.

Journalism is one of the most powerful tools we have to see change, to hold power to account and keep a record — of right and wrongs.

In our own corner of the world I think of the impact good, persistent and balanced reporting — not just by our team, but our competing outlets — has had on our community.

There are plenty of feel good stories to be told in our region, but the ones that bring real change — that hold power to account, that dig beneath the surface — are becoming harder and harder to cover.

They take time and resources, something that is lacking across the industry as a whole. No media outlet is immune.

It is something that I fear people won’t realise the value of until after it’s gone.

And by then it’s too late.

— Shannon Thomson, Central Otago bureau chief