Pacific Media Centre Pacific Media Watch Pacific Journalism Review Pacific Scoop

Volume 13, Issue 1

Journalism Downunder
Census 2006 and the NZ journalist
March, 2007

Cartoon: © Malcolm Evans

PJR 13_1

March, 2007

ISSN: 1023-9499

In this issue…

Journalists want changes to training and pay, NZ research shows


A survey of more than 500 New Zealand journalists has revealed marked unhappiness about levels of pay, resourcing and training.

The “Big Journalism 2007” survey found that, while many individual journalists are very satisfied with aspects of their jobs, overall most want improvements in (respectively) pay, support, mentoring and staffing levels.

They want more opportunity for discussion and input into ethical and professional issues such as sensationalism, more guidance on how to cope with commercial and advertising pressures, and more time and resources to pursue investigations.

The survey, titled "Under-paid, under-trained, under-resourced, unsure about the future - but still idealistic", published in the latest Pacific Journalism Review, is the first to ask NZ journalists what they think about a variety of topics such as quality of news coverage and their ethics and standards.

The survey revealed a generally ethical stance among journalists, with most agreeing that NZ journalists do not omit or distort relevant facts, and that stories are based on journalistic rather than political or commercial values.

Asked to rate the quality of NZ news coverage, journalists rated sports coverage the highest, while foreign coverage got the lowest rating, at slightly below average.

While the numbers of male and female respondents were about the same, women greatly outnumbered men in the lower age groups, and men outnumbered women in the older age groups - suggesting the profession lacks senior female role models.

More than two-thirds of all journalists surveyed thought commercial pressures were hurting the way news organisations do things, and 65 percent agreed that “sensationalism” was a growing problem in New Zealand news media. Sensationalism was defined by respondents themselves as:

  • “Emotive language, exaggeration, shallow research, selective emphasis”,

  • “Over dramatisation of simple facts or human situations, bloated headlines, melodramatic language that overstates the facts or circumstances”, or

  • “Bending of angles or perspective to the degree that distorts the proper story”. 

Journalists were also concerned - although relatively tolerant overall - about the influence of public relations, especially given increasing commercial pressures. The repeated phrase “necessary evil” summed up the ambivalence many respondents felt towards public relations: as one said: “It's a love/hate relationship. As much as it pains me to say it, they are needed”.

Another issue of concern was the degree to which the media are keeping pace with new technological developments.  One journalist commented that “many newsrooms use decade-old software”, while another said “use of internet resources is still looked on with fear”. These issues led to a sense of uncertainty about the future.

Despite these concerns, many respondents remained enthusiastic about their role, summing up the reasons why they love being a journalist: “Bring me the people! Bring me the stories! Bring me the excitement of seeing my words and name in print! It's the best job I've ever had. I finally feel like I've got a purpose.'

The survey was conducted jointly by Massey University lecturers James Hollings, Alan Samson and Dr Elspeth Tilley, and Waikato University Associate Professor Geoff Lealand. It builds on Dr Lealand's previous surveys of NZ journalists.



1. A cooperative future
David Robie, Ian Richards

Special reports

9. Elite sources, journalistic practice and the status quo
Anthony Mason
10. Fiji 2000: Journalists and the George Speight coup
Christine Gounder
11. Still European and female, but older: Profiling the New Zealand journalist
Research report
James Hollings