The print media's watchdog has sounded a warning about the industry's trend to cut costs by centralising production and sub-editing.
The Press Council's latest annual report says reduced local oversight of newspapers "would appear to inevitably bring an increased risk of simple factual errors being overlooked and of offending local sensitivities".
Last year APN New Zealand outsourced much of the sub-editing of its newspapers to a central hub in Auckland operated by Australian company Pagemasters.
Last week New Zealand's other big print group, Fairfax Media, announced it was forming "national centres of expertise" in Wellington and Christchurch to produce world, features and business pages on its nine daily newspapers. But editing and layout of local and sports pages would remain under the control of individual papers.
"The continuing trend for newspaper and magazine publishers to cut costs by reducing staff and centralising production seems certain to raise questions of editorial control," the Press Council says.
Magazines were tending to move away from the practice of each publication having an editor, to the appointment of an editor-in-chief overseeing several titles.
There was a risk that those people never saw much of the material for which they were held legally responsible.
"It can be argued this was always the case for larger single titles where the editor was not, in reality, expected to see every word. Nevertheless the implications of the increasing use of such roles do not seem to have been thoroughly examined with regard to accountability."
Centralised production of newspapers kept the idiosyncrasies of individual mastheads "in theory", but "hard-pressed production staff tend to ignore such niceties so repeatedly they fall into disuse".
"This loss of identity might be resented by readers to the productions' long-term cost," the council says.
"There is no doubt that newspaper and magazine managements are aware of the value of preserving reader loyalty but the cost savings might prove even more tempting."
The Press Council, which is mainly funded by the newspaper groups, last year upheld in full or part 12 of 40 complaints it considered against publications.
Chairman Barry Paterson, a retired High Court judge, said that as in previous years most complaints alleged a breach of the council's principle requiring accuracy, fairness and balance.