Media job cuts... here we go again.
It’s the Turbulent Twenties. I think we can all acknowledge that. Layoffs are happening left, right, and centre across the globe and here in New Zealand too. Tech and media, unfortunately, are always the harbingers and that’s what we’re seeing now – from Google to Today FM – job cuts are everywhere.
I've been here twice before in my 15-year career, first a year out of university when the Global Financial Crisis began in 2008, and again at the start of the Covid era. I’ve lost contracts and felt discarded, but had to remain poised and grateful for the bits of work I could hold on to.
It’s tough accepting the crumbs when you know you deserve the whole meal, but as we’re continually led to believe in the media world, with any “cool” or “desirable” creative job there’s always somebody up-and-coming willing to work for half the price. Or even for free.
This is the nature of 21st Century media. Journalists, writers, contributors… the people who create the content an audience actually wants to consume (and pay for via paywalls) are often the first to lose out during any economic recession.
Where has this led us as a nation in terms of our communal media appetite? Declining trust in media, according to Trust in News in Aotearoa NZ survey of 1,120 people by AUT's Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy. When journalism jobs are first to hit the cutting block and newsrooms shrink, so does public trust in the news.
Under-resourced and over-worked journalists can’t produce quality work. Being forced to churn out clickable content is stressful, and often results in a product you (as the producer of it) knows should be better, but you just don’t have the time to make it so.
The mentality of “it’s good enough for online” shouldn’t be the way we run the fourth estate, but here we are.
Back to the aforementioned survey. It found New Zealand had the highest proportion of people in the world who avoid the news, when compared to Reuters Digital News Report global surveys. “Fully 69 percent of Kiwis said they actively avoided the news – 11 percent often and 58 percent sometimes,” Newsroom reports.
Where am I going with this? Job cuts, and especially cuts to creators and producers of content, shouldn’t be the first thing media companies do when economic pressures occur.
Layoffs should be a last step, not the first trigger you pull. Why? At the end of the day, when the economy starts going again (and it always will), you’ll want to hire most of these people back.
And you might find they’ve given up on the stress of trying to “make it” in the media world altogether, and don’t want to return.