New Zealand news agency to close after 131 years

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  • Wednesday, August 31, 2011
  • Journalists gathered at the New Zealand Press Association's (NZPA) Wellington headquarters on Wednesday for a wake to mark the final day of the domestic news agency's 131-year history.

    Once regarded as the heart of New Zealand journalism, the agency's role in providing domestic and world news to the country's newspapers has waned in the digital age, culminating in a decision last April to close it down.

    Deputy editor Greg Tourelle said NZPA's final report would be transmitted at about 6:00pm (0600GMT) and, while there was a sad atmosphere in the newsroom, reporters were gathering to give the agency a fitting send-off.

    "I imagine there'll be a few tears during the speeches but then we intend to farewell the agency with typical journalistic gusto," he told AFP.

    "It's widely acknowledged that NZPA has played a major role in New Zealand journalism."

    At its peak, more than 70 New Zealand newspapers subscribed to NZPA and it had offices in London, Sydney, New York, Washington and Singapore.

    In recent years, however, New Zealand newspaper ownership has largely become concentrated in the hands of two Australian-owned companies, Fairfax and APN News and Media, which have both invested heavily in digital media.

    After surviving a series of cutbacks stretching back more than 15 years, the final blow came when Fairfax decided it no longer needed to subscribe to NZPA as its other reporters were already covering most of the major stories the agency offered.

    The loss of one of its two major clients meant the agency's business was no longer viable.

    Massey University journalism lecturer Alan Sampson, himself a former NZPA staffer, said that the news agency's demise would leave a large gap in New Zealand's media landscape.

    "It's been inevitable, a done deal, so no surprises, just terribly, terribly sad," he told Radio New Zealand.

    "It means a lot. It will mean less coverage of some of the grunt work of journalism like (parliamentary) select committees and that sort of thing.

    "I also think there will be a poorer service to the outlying areas, the smaller independent newspapers especially."

    NZPA was founded in 1880 as the United Press Association, adopting its present name in 1942.

    Fairfax and APN have both expanded their newsgathering teams to fill the void left by its closure, while Australian newswire AAP is also boosting its New Zealand operations.

    However, former NZPA executive Leigh Catley said the balanced, thorough reporting provided by NZPA would be sorely missed.

    "Without a doubt Kiwis just don’t realise what they are losing," she said.

    "NZPA was an objective, clear and straightforward recorder of daily events in New Zealand."

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