NZME confirms staff consultation as it brings its news teams together

Earlier this week NZME announced plans for its print, digital and radio news teams to come together as an integrated 24/7 operation led by managing editor Shayne Currie, whose role has been elevated to report directly to NZME chief executive Jane Hastings.

The operational alignment between journalists at Newstalk ZB and Radio Sport, the New Zealand Herald and Herald on Sunday, will be fully implemented when the two teams move into the purpose-built newsroom at NZME Central in Auckland, towards the end of the year.

“We already think digital-first, and this will make it fully operational, allowing us to better serve rapidly growing mobile audiences,” says Currie. “We have engaged leading international newsroom consultants in addition to gaining first-hand experience of best practice newsrooms around the world to ensure we create a newsroom that can leverage NZME’s unique mix of print, digital and radio.”

As is usually the case with restructures, there will be a few staff changes, some of which were announced by Hastings and Currie to the newsroom on Wednesday afternoon.  

Weekday editor Murray Kirkness, weekends editor Miriyana Alexander and general manager of talk radio Steve Kyte will now report to Shayne Currie, as will the general manager of digital innovation, Marcus Forbes, and recently appointed digital editor Irene Chapple, who will be joining NZME from CNN.com to lead all of the digital platforms.

In addition to this, NZME is also recruiting for new roles of head of sport to bring together the sport teams, creative director for the digital team and a planning editor. 

In addition to announcing these changes, Hastings and Currie also informed those in attendance that there would be a consultation process initiated with some members of staff.

According to NBR, Canvas deputy editor Greg Dixon and writers Alan Perrot John Roughan are part of the consultation process. And former Herald writer Rachel Glucina published a list that included columnists John Drinnan, Brian Rudman and Michele Hewitson.  

At the time of publishing, no redundancies have been confirmed.

“We are in consultation with employees over the proposed plans for our new newsroom in Auckland and we cannot discuss further until that process is complete … it is business as usual as far as all of our publications and online sites are concerned,” Currie says.

Early speculation in the media also suggested that Canvas was closing down, but Currie rubbished these claims saying: “We have no intention of closing Canvas magazine.”

StopPress understands that the changes are being introduced to bring NZME in line with a more modern publishing approach that sees journalists producing content that is ready to publish.

Similarly, Fairfax has also undergone several rounds of restructuring to bring its business in line with digital publishing practices. 

“We want all 700 of our journalists across the country to be in the position of producing stories that are publish-ready,” said Fairfax chief executive editor Sinead Boucher at the time.

And Currie also makes the point that this move is in line with global trends.

“If you look globally you will find successful newsrooms are integrated,” Currie says. “We are investing more in the newsroom and in journalism and content creation than ever before but at this stage I’m not able to elaborate further as we are in consultation with the staff.”  

And in much the same way that various numbers were quoted on the number of jobs to go at Fairfax, the latest restructure at NZME has also led to a few speculative reports. And while there is the likelihood of redundancies for some, StopPress also understands that NZME will be looking to recruit journalists with skill sets more suited to digital publishing. 

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