Southland mayors join forces to defend journalism

Southland Mayor Gary Tong is outspoken about protecting journalism.
Southland Mayor Gary Tong is outspoken about protecting journalism.
A Southland mayor concerned about dwindling journalist numbers has rallied other southern mayors to show support for the industry.

Southland District Council Mayor Gary Tong emailed MediaWorks last week over concerns a proposal it put forward could put southern reporters on the chopping block.

“The mayors … were surprised to hear of a proposal to remove your team from Dunedin. Should coverage come out of Christchurch then television news would be delayed or forgotten,” the letter, addressed to MediaWorks head of news Sarah Bristow, said.

While the future of Dunedin’s sole Newshub reporter Dave Goosselink and camera operator Grant Findlay was still up in the air, there was speculation over what the proposal could mean for coverage in the deep south.

“We wish to communicate to those charged with making such an important decision that, on behalf of our communities, we oppose the change suggested in the proposal,” Tong said in the email.

The announcement from MediaWorks, parent company to Newshub and ten radio stations, follows their decision to axe 130 jobs in May last year during a time when many media companies made Covid-related cuts.

Talking to the Otago Daily Times on Tuesday, Tong said the multiple stabbing incident at Dunedin Countdown on Monday proved the importance of having reporters down south.

“I understand a couple of media outlets were waiting for staff to get down from Christchurch,” he said.

“It just goes to show we need people on the ground down here to capture the news and get it out to the people.”

The letter, which included the support of mayors in Central Otago, Clutha, Dunedin, Gore, Invercargill, Queenstown and Southland, had not received a response.

But writing it had given Tong a chance to reflect on how much journalism had changed since his days as an officer in small Waikato town Taupiri.

Back in those days, he was getting a phone call from the media every night to check in on what had happened.

“The media can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Well, the majority of the time they’re our communities best friend.”

He said misinformation spreading through social media was rife in communities, and was appalled at some of the things he’d read about council and their decision-making.

If journalism numbers continued to dwindle, he was worried misinformation would only get worse.

“There’s unfortunately some horrible people in our communities. They can hide behind a nom-de plume and give people the absolute razz.

“If I went out and made comments like some of the ones I see, there’d be people jumping up and down. I can tell you I’ve gotten close a few times.”

MediaWorks deferred comment, saying communication was best directed at TV3’s owner Discovery.

A spokesperson for Discovery said the organisation was "working to determine the structure, skills and capabilities needed to achieve our goals, as we integrate the Three and Top TV businesses into Discovery and create one organisation across Australia and New Zealand."

‘‘Our people are our priority as we undergo this period of change."

drivesouth-pow-generic-1_0.png

 

suv-updated-banner_0.jpg

 

 

Advertisement

postanote_header_620_x_80.png

postanote_620_x_25.jpg

Local trusted journalism matters - now more than ever

As the Covid-19 pandemic brings the world into uncharted waters, Star Media journalists and photographers continue to report local stories that matter everyday - yours.

For more than 152 years our journalists have provided Cantabrians with local news that can be trusted. It’s more important now than ever to keep Cantabrians connected.

As our advertising has fallen during the pandemic, support from you our reader is crucial.

You can help us continue to provide local news you can trust simply by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter