MediaWorks journalists are bracing for a restructure announcement today designed to save money and improve the company's flagship Newshub Live at 6.
An email sent to Newshub staff this morning - and promptly leaked to the Herald - reveals a shake-up of the newsroom that will involve cost-cutting measures.
The email was sent by Newshub chief news officer Hal Crawford and explains that a series of changes in "newsroom roles and structures" would be proposed today.
"I will be meeting with affected individuals through the day," Crawford says in the email.
"The key focus will be on the Newshub@6pm bulletin, with proposals that bolster the show's promotional power. The bulletin's performance has been very good this year and I think it can be even better."
Crawford said the proposed changes would aim to improve editorial quality and ratings for Newshub Live at 6, fronted by Mike McRoberts and Samantha Hayes, who recently announced she is pregnant with her first child.
Newshub's respected head of broadcast news Richard Sutherland recently defected to RNZ.
Reducing costs was also a focus, as was improving "cross platform output", the email said.
The email also hints at changes across other parts of the business.
"In the current media environment, we can't stand still," Crawford says.
"We need to adapt and improve performance across the board."
Crawford said the process would take "several weeks" and urged staff to be "respectful and supportive" of colleagues affected by the changes.
A MediaWorks spokeswoman confirmed that the company was looking at making changes.
"Like every media business globally, we are constantly looking to future-proof and enhance our operations and performance," the spokeswoman said.
"It is no secret that local media is challenged and with performance as our key driver we are looking to make some changes across our business."
The spokeswoman would not provide any further details.
"Our people are our priority at this time and as such we won't be making any further comment," she said.
How to fix the 6pm news
Media commentator Bill Ralston told the Herald that Newshub would find it challenging to improve the performance of the 6pm news in its current format.
"There isn't very much separating Newshub from the news on TVNZ 1," he said.
"They're just too similar."
Ralston, a former TVNZ head of news and current affairs, said the only way 6pm news could boost ratings would be by breaking major news stories on a regular basis.
"I don't remember the last time either news bulletin broke a news story."
He said that the 6pm bulletins generally follow digital news coverage, rehashing the stories that have been covered elsewhere during the day.
He also didn't see much value in the 4pm Newshub bulletin, saying that once viewers watch that, they probably won't see much point in watching the 6pm coverage.
Ralston noted that most viewers base their 6pm bulletin choice on who they prefer to watch - and in this regard, he sees Hilary Barry as a major loss to Newshub.
He says the departure of an established operator is always difficult for a news company because viewers are then required to become accustomed to a new personality.
A major problem with the 6pm news is that the format doesn't leave much room for creativity on account of it being an objective representation of the facts of the day.
Asked whether an alternative might be a highly partisan show like Fox News, Ralston wasn't convinced that would be the answer.
"They could do that or even introduce something very left-wing, but I'm not sure that would help to build audience numbers," he said.
"To grow your audience in news, you have to break stories."