A Sunday in the office didn’t prove too testing for Auckland-based
Network PR, the flak shack responsible for yesterday’s Fairfax presser
announcing the re-branding of one of New Zealand’s most respected business
papers – The Independent.

The
weekly Kiwi business paper, known for its investigative biz scoops, was acquired
by Fairfax in February. Yesterday’s announcement heralded its change of format
and new name – to the Independent Financial
Review
.

Consistent with the style favoured by NZ’s cut-and-paste
happy business editors, the media release was reported verbatim by the Fairfax
Sunday, with the country’s allegedly independent news agency – NZPA – also
swallowing the release whole, regurgitating it back up intact and onto their
wires. From there it was picked up today by the business pages of Fairfax
‘broadsheets’ the Wellington-based Dominion
Post
, and Christchurch’s The
Press
(and in an indictment on the state of Kiwi business journalism, by
their APN-owned rival The NZ Herald as
well).

Dodgy “all in the family and then some” spinning aside, Fairfax’s
plans for the IFR have raised at least a
few eyebrows. The revamped weekly will apparently “draw its content from a pool
of more than 100 reporters and correspondents on both sides of the Tasman,”
which for many Kiwi business hacks means less genuine local coverage and more
syndicated padding pimped out by the AFR. Only eight editorial staff will be
employed by the IFR in NZ.

The
host of New Zealand’s answer to Media Watch, Colin Peacock of Radio NZ’s Media
Report
, said he hoped The Independent’s new moniker was meant to be ironic.
Fairfax told his program at the time of the takeover that they wouldn’t fiddle
with The Independent. The IFR will feature the Fin‘s distinctive
masthead with the cursory Independent mounted on top. Kiwi readers will also
be treated to AFR Magazine and Boss each month.

Is this an attempt by Fairfax to position the AFR as some kind of
business bible for Australasia? The IFR‘s new editor, Bernard Hickey,
told Crikey it is “an extension” of the AFR brand. “But this is not in
any way an Australian takeover of The Independent.” Hickey said the
IFR has a man in the AFR newsroom, selecting copy they “think New
Zealand would be interested in.”

Hickey denied the Fairfax rags were
instructed to put a sheen on the Indy‘s makeover. “As a trading nation we need
to develop a better understanding of Australian business from an Australian
perspective,” said the release. And it’s cheaper than putting Kiwi hacks over the
ditch too.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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