NZ journalists working harder, women disadvantaged, says new research

The latest Pacific Journalism Review ... publishing for 22 years. Image: Hans Tommy/AUT Library
The latest Pacific Journalism Review … publishing for 22 years. Image: Hans Tommy/AUT Library

David Robie also blogs at Café Pacific

Asia Pacific Report article:

New Zealand journalists are working longer hours, and feeling more pressure, both ethically and resource-wise, than they were only two years ago, a new research survey has found.

A survey of New Zealand professional journalists, published today in Pacific Journalism Review, also shows for the first time that women journalists are paid less than men, despite making up the bulk of the workforce.

Dr James Hollings … lead researcher. Image: Massey

The survey shows female journalists, despite predominating in the profession, are significantly disadvantaged in terms of promotion and income.

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The average before tax income of all journalists was $69,400 (in 2015 dollars) but the median after-tax salary of women was 26 percent lower than that of men of equivalent rank and experience.

READ MORE: Pacific Journalism Review on the new Tuwhera platform

The biggest factors affecting journalists’ income, in order, are experience, where they work (with those in provincial areas are paid less) and gender.

Women were also disadvantaged in terms of promotion; while only half of men work in non-manage¬ment roles, which is the case for two-thirds of women.

The median age was 44 years and the mean age 43.l6 years.

The survey, part of the Worlds of Journalism project involving 64 countries and 27,500 journalists, was led by Dr James Hollings, head of journalism at Massey University. The research team included Professor Folker Hanusch of the University of Vienna, Austria; Dr Ravi Balasubramanian of Massey; and Associate Professor Geoff Lealand of Waikato University.

Dramatic changes
The dramatic changes in news brought about by the switch to digital dissemination and the rise of social media are reflected in journalists’ perceptions of change in their industry.

The survey asked them to rate 23 elements that may have altered over the past five years in New Zealand, with 1 being “weakened a lot” and 5 being “strengthened a lot”.

“Social media, such as Facebook or Twitter” strengthened the most, with a mean rating of 4.8, followed by “the use of search engines” (4.63), “user-generated content, such as blogs” (4.4), “Profit-making pressures” (4.35), “Advertising pressures” (4.07) and Working hours (4.03).

There are significant shifts from a previous survey in 2013—while the ranking of the top three change elements is the same, the amount of perceived change has strengthened. Also, advertising pressures and working hours have now entered the top five, replacing ‘The importance of technical skills’ (4.0) and “Audience feedback” (also 4.0).

The increasing commercial pressures on journalists also showed in those elements identified by respondents as having weakened the most. These were “time available for researching stories” (1.76), “the credibility of journalism” (2.25), “ethical standards” (2.4), and “journalists’ freedom to make editorial decisions” (2.69).

It is concerning that journalists feel these changes have affected news quality, with a perception that the credibility of journalism, ethical standards and freedom to make editorial decisions have all fallen.

Another concern is that despite evidence of some improvement, Māori, Pasifika, and Asians remain under-represented in newsrooms. Māori make up only 7.9 percent of the journalism workforce, despite making up 15 percent of the general population.

Better educated
On the positive side, journalists are better educated than they have ever been, and overall adherence to ethical standards remains high.

Almost all respondents (96 percent) agreed with the statement “Journalists should always adhere to codes of professional ethics, regardless of situation and context”.

PJR editor Professor David Robie … the journal also features Pacific media research. Image: Hans Tommy/AUT

Also, job satisfaction remains high. Almost four in five (78.6 percent) stated they were “some¬what” or “very satisfied” with their job, compared with 82.1 percent in 2013.

It is clear that New Zealand journalists, despite these pressures, continue to take their role as guardians of democracy very seriously.

The large number of independent operators captured in this survey suggests that the digital revolution is opening new opportunities for journalists to start their own smaller outlets, a challenge that appears to have been taken up especially by older journalists.

The researchers interviewed 539 New Zealand professional journalists in December 2015 and January 2016.

This is 23.6 percent of the 2415 journalists invited to participate, giving the survey a margin of error of 3.8 percent at the 95 percent confidence level, or 5 percent at the 99 percent confidence level.

Pacific media research

Visit Pacific Journalism Review on Tuwhera.

PJR is an international research journal published by AUT’s Pacific Media Centre in the School of Communication Studies and the editor, Professor David Robie, director of the PMC, says this survey is the most important study to have been completed on New Zealand journalism.

He says the latest edition of the journal also features important Pacific journalism research, including several papers from last year’s World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC16) conference hosted at AUT.

Topics include last year’s student upheaval in Papua New Guinea climaxing in police opening fire on peaceful protesters, journalism training in the Solomon Islands and “cyberbullying” in Fiji.

Dr Robie paid tribute to the University of Papua New Guinea, where the research journal was founded in 1994, and the University of the South Pacific for their contribution in developing Pacific Journalism Review in earlier years.

He also praised the NZ Institute for Pacific Research for enabling several regional media academics to be funded to go to WJEC16 and to follow through with publications in PJR.

Disclosure: David Robie is editor of both Asia Pacific Report and Pacific Journalism Review.

Associate Professor Geoff Lealand (left) and NZ journalism project lead researcher Dr James Hollings at the PJR launch. Image: Hans Tommy/AUT Library


  1. Great work David by Massey University and congratulations on Massey finding the truth.

    Nactional is afraid of keeping control on all journalist’s and this will definitely upset the applecart for Nactional as it is on their watch this issue is still alive.

  2. This is a very good 1st up description of a very complex social institution. I still dont get why journos are sent to america because americans care very little about foreign news. If you get away from these elite centres that matter to elite power, things open up, I could talk this way here and on social media but certainly not on radio and TV. So the fact is social media is a much more open society than mainstream media and the reason is social media is less important to elite power.

    What people think of elite power on social media, some times show up on mainstream networks, then social media closes up too. Contrary to popular belief, Liberal intellectual elites did not oppose free trade agreements, they opposed elite power. What began as a grab for market share quickly became to costly for elites and the media was almost totally closed to critics of the TPPA but among the public this crises of democracy did take place and it changed the general society.

    I hope this leads to a permanent change in our cultural society outside elite centres.

  3. The fact that women are paid less than men for their work because they’re women, particularly in these allegedly enlightened times, mystifies me??? It’s truly bizarre actually. How dreary and uncivilised. What a ghastly thing?
    The work force should strike until that nonsense is consigned to the rest of our embarrassing history.
    Oh, wait? No real unions. Pants !
    Sorry girls. Periods once monthly are now to be docked off your lessor pay. Everybody knows you can’t work at maximum capacity while bleeding ‘ from down there’ and look at your little arms? Only good for holding babies.
    Now that’s sorted, us white men are off to bash the oiks and shoot a darkie ! What O !

    2017. Yeah right.

  4. There is no journalism in New Zealand -well certainly not in the mainstream arena.

    What is described as journalism is actually manipulation of the masses by corporations and agencies of the government; inconvenient facts are avoided altogether, and every story is provided with a happy ending or some reason for hope when there isn’t a happy ending or reason for hope; problems that are occasionally identified are effectively dismissed because so-called journalists (most of whom are financially and scientifically illiterate) provide non-solutions as solutions.

    Only when the corporatised system has imploded will there be an opportunity for true journalism to re-emerge. And it will undoubtedly be too late by then.

  5. It might have been more accurate to have headed the article as “REAL NZ journalists…..”.
    There are few real journalists left in this country, but a horde of journalistic pretenders who lack original thinking, dream up fiction and present it as facts, can’t write without a word processor correcting everything, and think it is cool to be National Party stenographer.
    That is why our MSM is generally obsessed with trivia and can’t recognise a real story when it hits them between the eyes.

  6. As one of the least trusted professions (rated close to used car salesmen and real estate agents), very few of use care about the plight of journalism.

    It’s a sunset industry, so maybe you should reconsider training for something that is actually useful to society. There are lots of openings for truck drivers, plumbers and carpenters.

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