Fairfax NZ flags newsroom reorganisation

Fairfax Media’s New Zealand arm will restructure its newsroom and introduce a greater focus on local journalism in a series of changes to be rolled out over the next few months.

Several new senior editorial roles based on geographical regions will be created, which will replace a smaller number of editors tied to individual mastheads.

Seven newspaper editor roles are proposed to be replaced with 12 regional editors.

“It’s looking at our roles, our people, our culture and thinking about the changes to put us in that digital centric, audience-focused mode,” Fairfax NZ executive editor Sinead Boucher told The Newspaper Works.

“We’ve come a long way over the years moving into digital, but this is about taking a giant leap focusing our newsroom very clearly on the story and the audience,” Ms Boucher said.

Fairfax also will also add more people to its video, social media and developer teams.

“[We want to] focus our newsrooms on creating the right kind of content rather than having a whole newsroom based around the next day’s paper,” Ms Boucher said.

One of the key changes will be giving journalists a much greater level of control over the editing and publishing of their stories than most traditional newsrooms.

“If a journalist has been assessed as being publish-ready by their manager, they may be able to publish a story straight away, depending on the story,” Ms Boucher said.

“A lot of our work will still go through sub-editors and editors.

“We’re not taking a one size fits all approach.”

She said the change was driven by the need to be as immediate as possible.

As well as editing, journalists will have more control in the overall approach they take to the story.

“Journalists build the story in the way they want it to be told – [they have] much more ownership,” Ms Boucher said.

She said in the Invercargill newsroom, where the revamp has been piloted, the changes have led to a boost in digital audience and a re-energised newsroom.

“It gave the local newsroom complete ownership of their stories and audience, end to end.”

“Digital audiences have virtually doubled, and they’re putting on print subscribers.”

The changes have been prompted by growing audience demand for digital content, with Fairfax NZ portal stuff.co.nz recording its highest-ever audience last month, at 1.71 million unique viewers.

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