Boost for Māori journalism after $18m funding announced

By Will Trafford

Regional and national by Māori, for Māori journalism has been given a shot in the arm amid a broader funding boost that will create 110 new journalism jobs over the next two years.

An $18m allocation of the $55m public interest journalism fund announced last year is set to go to more than 25 news organisations across the motu, the pūtea coming with the caveat that organisations must ‘actively promote the principles of Partnership, Participation and Active Protection under Te Tiriti o Waitangi’.

The fund was launched by Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi last year as economic uncertainty from the pandemic triggered a collapse of the domestic advertising market. Even digital adverting revenues dropped for the first time since records began.

At the height of the crisis, NZ Herald owner NZME made more than 200 positions redundant, though the industry-wide turmoil was, perhaps, best illustrated by the acquisition of Stuff.co.nz (owner of Pōneke’s Dominion Post and Ōtautahi’s The Press) for a symbolic $1, by its chief executive.

Mainstream organisations like NZME and Stuff will gain the lion’s share of the new funding for roles which target journalism, either underserved, such as regional reporting, or not commercially viable, such as justice or court stories.

Stuff will get $2.8m for 20 new roles in community journalism and Māori-interest journalism, while NZME will receive almost $3m for fifteen roles for its Te Pātiti - Open Justice programme.

Radio New Zealand will get more than $3.5m for its ‘Local Democracy Reporting’ which is staffed by regional journalists providing stories to 26 publications across the motu.

Investment in by Māori, for Māori organisations will see Whakaata Māori receive $1.59m for seven new roles over two years, while Radio Waatea will receive $800,000 to fund its news operation that provides content for iwi radio stations.

The government is also experimenting with direct funding to iwi radio with Te Hiku Media receiving $175,000.

The NZ On Air fund will also invest $650,000 to create four new roles at magazine E-Tangata.

The latest pūtea follows a July announcement which saw a consortium of publishers, including Māori Television, NZME, Newshub and Pacific Media Networks, create Te Rito, a journalism training programme to address the lack of Māori and ‘diverse voices’ in news media.

The programme is set to train and hire 25 new journalists in the coming year.