NZME to take sub-editing in-house, job cuts likely to follow at Pagemasters

Earlier this week, NZME announced it would not be renewing its contract with Pagemasters and that it would be taking its sub-editing requirements for The New Zealand Herald titles and regional papers in-house, bringing an end to a partnership that stretches back to 2007.  

NZME chief operating officer Phil Eustace says that bringing the sub-editing work in-house will enable the publisher to “strengthen production services across the group and expand [its] resources across print and digital publishing.”

To accommodate the increased demand for sub-editing, NZME will be hiring staff for 40 new roles.

While Pagemasters managing director Peter Atkinson says “the partnership ends on good terms,” the loss of the sizeable account will likely lead to job losses at the company. 

“Pagemasters intends to maintain a full-scale production facility in New Zealand once its obligations to NZME are complete,” Atkinson says. “The exact number of staff is yet to be finalised, but we have no plans for any large-scale redundancies. We have a very talented, efficient team, and we believe the services they provide will be attractive to new and existing Pagemasters clients.”

Atkinson says that until now there has been a team of approximately 50 sub-editors working on the NZME account, providing page design and sub-editing services to the varies titles. 

Asked if this entire team was located in New Zealand or if it was being outsourced to a branch of the business located in South East Asia, Atkinson said: “Pagemasters has recently established a production facility in Vietnam, but this facility does not do any work for any New Zealand publications. All production work for NZME titles has been conducted in New Zealand, primarily in Auckland.”

Despite the sub-editing industry going through something of an existential crisis as ad spend continues to flow out of newspapers, Atkinson remains optimistic that this service still has a role to play in the digital era. 

“We remain confident that sub-editing is a vital and integral part of the publishing industry. Accuracy and credibility remain fundamental to the success of print and online business models.”

Increasingly, especially when it comes to digital publications, journalists are now expected to sub-edit their own work. And this trend isn’t only limited to smaller independent publications, with large-scale publishers like Fairfax also adopting a more streamlined path to publishing in their operations.  

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

These strategic moves when viewed alongside shrinking newsrooms across the industry has led some, like this Guardian writer, to question whether major news publications might eventually cut the sub-editing department completely. For now, Eustace says NZME remains committed to sub-editing. 

“NZME is investing heavily in sub-editing and remains focused on delivering quality content to its audiences,” he says.    

“It is critical we have the best multi-skilled subbing and design team capable of working across all platforms in this digital age. We want subs who have the flexibility and agility to finesse and curate our journalism, whether it’s for the website, mobile, tablet, newspaper or the next big content platform.”

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