Duncan Greive is the editor and founder of New Zealand pop culture-obsessed website The Spinoff and columnist for the NZ Herald.

Duncan Greive: It's not all bad news for TV3's Newshub

TV3's Newshub keeps enough of the old show to still feel familiar, writes Duncan Greive.
The TPP protests dominated yesterday's news agenda. Photo / Greg Bowker
The TPP protests dominated yesterday's news agenda. Photo / Greg Bowker

On Monday, Mediaworks sacrificed generations of news brands in a journalistic day of the long knives, all falling at the altar of Newshub. The 'hub is an attempt to draw together reporting across platforms ancient (FM radio, 75-odd years young) and modern (apps and all that).

It's the kind of thing news organisations the world over have been doing as part of a desperate pivot to modernity, maintaining their old audiences and delivery mechanisms while trying to colonise the wide open spaces of the internet. It represents an efficiency and multimedia distribution which makes perfect sense from a business standpoint.

But news isn't purely a balance sheet proposition. The brands that died had meaningful connections with their audiences which Newshub will have to earn anew. The sacrifice of 3 News means every single journalism brand that existed on the channel prior to 2014 is now gone. Campbell Live, 3D, Nightline - all dead.

Even Newsworthy, the late show launched to much fanfare last year, has been quietly killed off. It was created in the image of David Farrier, who is now off in Sundance, having sold his tickling documentary to a fancy US distributor. He never looked quite at home under the Weldon regime, letting his hair grow very long and adopting an overly-relaxed posture as if in silent and weird protest.

So what has risen in the dead shows' place? Unsurprisingly, given that the personnel is largely (with a few lamented exceptions) the same, the end products feel very similar. We still have Hilary Barry and her "news husband" Mike McRoberts anchoring the main bulletin. Still have Samantha Hayes running the late show.

We even still have Michael Morrah - part of the 3D investigative team who were so acrimoniously ejected last year - running a news item which functioned like a pacier version of his old work. He interviewed a concerned Customs worker who suggested our borders flowed white with drugs. At lunchtime his voice ran unaltered; by dinner it had been Darth Vader-ed to protect his identity, a style of anonymising increasingly common on MediaWorks news properties, which has the bonus of adding a clandestine quality to reportage.

It was a good get, and one expanded upon in days to come as further customs operators emerged to back up the assertion.

If Morrah's reporting seemed like a new twist on an old staple, multiple crosses to Auckland's Laneway festival suggested more live reporting might become part of the arsenal. Kim Vinnell fell victim to an ugly piece of chaos, which showed the peril of the approach.

The biggest change is, perhaps, in presentation and distribution. The set is now a notably BBC-esque round table, the hosts playing with iPads in front of a near-deserted newsroom. Or, as was inexplicably reported by multiple websites, a screen playing a loop of one. It is more dynamic though, with the likes of Paddy Gower and McRoberts sometimes standing to talk through issues in front of a huge screen. It's been running on bigger international networks for some time, but combined with fresh graphics gives the sense of a rejuvenated news package.

The phone app is arguably better - yesterday I received a notification that Newshub Midday was starting, and watched coverage of the TPP protests streaming live on my phone. That is, ultimately, what the whole undertaking has been about - hitting you where you live today, rather than trying to clumsily port a tangle of ageing brands into a variety of different eras.

As for the product itself, it was largely what it has always been: punchy news delivered by big personalities. Sometimes it felt twee - a report on whether a Lyttelton cafe should use trim milk, for example. But for the most part, for all the fears that it meant the end of news reporting at TV3, Newshub instead seemed like, having razed the channel's news history to the ground, something very solid has been built in its place. And while people will still mourn the brands that have gone, I think in time they could well grow to love the 'hub.

- NZ Herald

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Duncan Greive is the editor and founder of New Zealand pop culture-obsessed website The Spinoff and columnist for the NZ Herald.

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