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Panpa Bulletin : March 2007
Afive-year plan to revitalise the New Zealand Community Newspapers Association was adopted in principle at the association's (NZCNA) annual confer- ence in Dunedin on February 10. Improving the 42-member newspaper or- ganisation's finances, membership numbers and benefits, branding and industry role are part of the proposed strategy. Members have a month to report back with any comment, suggested amendments or additions and the executive expect to adopt the final plan early this year. NZCNA president Murray Kirkness told the conference the executive wants the organisation to be more than just an avenue for member papers to enter an an- nual awards competition and to attend an annual conference. "While both will always be important to the NZCNA, "said Kirkness, " we also want to provide real, tangible and on-going ben- efits to members through services such as training, a sales arm, and an industry voice, among other." Limited finance has long hampered the organisation. A two-year advertising deal negotiated late last year guarantees its short to mid-term future. Under the deal, pro- ceeds from the sale of certain Destination Queenstown advertising pages published in all member newspapers are channelled to the NZCNA. The five -year Plan includes the associa- tion benefiting from selling full-page adver- tisements donated by member newspapers annually. Funding will also be sought from organisations that would support the association. Updating the association's website is also part of the plan for improv- ing finances. Increased benefits of membership under the plan include conferences, scholarships, training across all disciplines, networking, research, defamation insurance, and promo- tions of the association's awards so as to increase recognition in excellence. More promotion of NZCNA to increase community newspapers' profile in the mar- ket is part of the strategy under the plan. This includes presentations to advertising agencies, distribution of advertising ideas, news releases, packages for new members, banner advertising on the association's website, along with regional advertising packages with a group-booking rate card. The association logo is also to be updated. NZCNA welcomes ve-year plan Press Council wades into row between newspaper and council Aworsening relationship between a newspaper and a local council has resulted in both parties lodging complaints of bias with the New Zealand Press Council. Initially, the editor of the Taranaki Daily News submitted correspondence from the New Plymouth District Council to the newspaper detailing 19 separate complaints received between July 10 and September 20. As a result of the editor's action, the dis- trict council submitted its own complaints. Each party subsequently provided volumi- nous amounts of material involving further points of contention. The issue was a general complaint by the district council that it was being treated unfairly by the newspaper. The complaints by the district council ranged from use of emotive language, inac- curate headings and lack of balance, through to a failure to report the council's position. The newspaper was accused of being implic- itly biased against the council. In reply, the newspaper acknowledged failing in its coverage in several instances and had published individual corrections in respect of some of the complaints. It also started a regular corrections column. The newspaper denied being biased against the district council. The editor charged that the district council was waging a vexatious campaign against the newspaper in a vain attempt to manipulate the news. The Press Council adjudication said that the relationship between a local authority and local newspaper was always poten- tially tense. "It is the role of the press to examine council decisions and actions and these inevitably provoke emotions," the adjudica- tion said. "Councils have to make difficult deci- sions and, when these are criticised, can feel under siege." The district council acknowledged the role of the press and supported the rights of a community to voice their opinions. Yet, the press council, in some of its complaints the district council seemed inclined to detect hostility where there was little evidence of it. The newspaper's belief, said the Press Council, that it had maintained its even- handed position in the face of mounting complaints was belied by indications of an increasingly confrontational attitude towards the district council. In a detailed consideration of the indi- vidual complaints, the Press Council found very few instances where its principles had been breached. Where the breaches were sig- nificant, a satisfactory correction was made. In other cases where there might have been minor lapses from best practice, they were not sufficiently damaging to sustain a ruling against the newspaper. Local bodies needed to accept that newspaper stories for general readers were not composed in the language of approved motions, committee reports or official hand- outs, the Press Council said. Attention was drawn in the adjudication to the need to distinguish properly between fact and opinion in news reports. "The editor's stance in this case that 'it is my practice to give reporters some licence to make their own observations about matters that are important to our readers is one that carries the particular responsibility that such observations are well grounded." Lively coverage must not descend into the cavalier, the adjudication said. "The Press Council's principle that publications should be guided at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance must be a constant obligation ..." The complaint that the Taranaki Daily News was not upheld. By Warren Page 18 PANPA Bulletin March 2007 news By Warren Page