Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 9. 1963.
Dear Sir,—Your writer D.W, either misunderstands or misrepresents current trends in New Zealand newspapers, and the influence of advertising. English trends are only partly relevant to New Zealand, which has no national dailies, much lower population density, less frequent communication services, and a business community of smaller, more local firms.
Daily newspapers are admittedly decreasing in number, but very slowly. This does not, however, necessarily result from fewer owners—the Westport News, bought by the Nelson Mail, would otherwise have ceased; the New Plymouth papers recently voluntarily combined. Likewise, to suggest the smaller papers are without the NZPA news service and are thus handicapped is incorrect. All daily papers, except the Thames Star, which prints local news by choice, receive the NZPA-Reuter service, whose content of overseas and national news has long been regarded as the province of the dailies.
The "financially weak" small papers actually "have a hidden financial strength. All the smaller papers maintain local printing plants, and most of the non-dailies are produced on jobbing machines. The part-time work the newspaper provides permits the purchase of a press capable of other large local work, and the two sides thus form a sound economic unit. Television and radio publicise brand names with short commercials. The recent New York strike proved that newspaper news and advertising cannot be supplanted.
The importance of advertising revenue is not the new (and threatening?) development your writer seems to think. The New Zealand Government from 1840 was for several decades the colony's largest advertiser—more than one paper tempered its policy when threatened with a withdrawal of advertising. The power actually wielded by advertisers has now in fact decreased with larger companies and advertising agencies, which isolate the actual advertiser. Only with the smallest country newspapers does the advertiser wield significant influence.
Nor is the range of papers "unlikely to increase." The newspaper field is at present being redefined. The growing dailies now cover overseas, national and important local news, abandoning to the proliferating local newspapers of the suburbs and country centres (financed entirely from advertising revenue) the trivia of the local scene.
Advertising revenue is not a threat to New Zealand's newspapers. It may aid Salient's future.
The motion for a compulsory Salient subscription was, not surprisingly, defeated. There was no previous publicity. Further, it somewhat illogically made the Students Association a gift of £600 (the previous Salient grant) while asking students for £1000.
If it is desired to distribute Salient free, the example of "local" newspapers is open. £350 from sales is only £25 per issue—with a circulation raised to 3000 and including commission paid. £36/10/- more advertising would make this possible. Mr. Preston, in the Annual Report, admits: "I am sure we could get far more advertising."
The remedy is with Salient, not with students.
H. B. Rennie.