A groundbreaking initiative to train and develop 25 new journalism cadets - including those from Māori, Pacific and other communities traditionally under-represented in media - has been announced by New Zealand Herald owner NZME and three major partners.
The unique collaboration between NZME, Māori Television, Pacific Media Network and Newshub-Discovery this week won $2.4 million backing from New Zealand On Air's Public Interest Journalism Fund.
The project, known as Te Rito, will recruit trainees and a small team of programme staff ready for a February 2022 start.
Fifteen of the trainees will be based at NZME's Auckland offices and 10 reo Māori-fluent cadets will be housed with Māori Television. All will learn and work across the nationwide newsrooms of the four partners and other affiliated media organisations during a thorough one-year grounding in digital, audio, radio, video, television and print journalism.
NZME Head of Cultural Partnerships Lois Turei said the collective approach by four media companies was "unprecedented". Te Rito was an exciting new pathway for young journalists which would inject the industry with voices that better reflected the diverse communities of Aotearoa.
"Te Rito principles are grounded in tikanga Māori (protocol) and this will hold the space for cadets of all backgrounds to carry their cultural practices into their professional lives. Weaving aspects of their culture into their work will result in stories that are rich and multi-layered - that's a powerful gift to newsrooms."
Māori Television Head of News and Current Affairs Wena Harawira said the Treaty of Waitangi-based partnership addressed the critical shortage of reo Māori speaking journalists. "It's incredibly important that New Zealand's journalism landscape is rich with Māori stories created by Māori, in te reo Māori, for everyone."
Pacific Media Network Chief Executive Don Mann said: "Te Rito provides sustainability to PMN in provision of best-practice Pasifika multilingual journalism but, more importantly, it allows the network to play our part in rectifying the significant under-representation and imbalance within the journalism sector on behalf of the Pasifika community."
Newshub Director of News, Sarah Bristow, said "Te Rito aims to break down some of the barriers that are preventing young, diverse voices from being part of our media landscape. It offers development and mentoring opportunities in the hope the cadets of today become the trailblazing journalists of tomorrow."
Also successful in NZ On Air's first funding round for Public Interest Journalism was the Herald's sister newspaper the Rotorua Weekender. The Weekender will become the only newspaper in the country to print a weekly bilingual section which will shine a light on issues for Rotorua iwi.
NZME managing editor Shayne Currie said the projects were game-changing.
"Te Rito will inspire a new generation of journalists - our future storytellers, whose backgrounds and work will reflect modern-day New Zealand in all its diversity and vibrance. We can't wait to get started - the work to get to this point is testament to the wonderful partnership that's formed between four big media companies."
NZ On Air received 123 applications asking for more than $44m from a total pool of $9.6m available. A panel including independent industry assessors recommended 34 applications for funding.
NZ On Air Head of Journalism Raewyn Rasch said the focus on Māori and journalists from diverse backgrounds recognised the need to increase representation within the country's newsrooms.
Training was acknowledged as one of three pillars to the Public Interest Journalism Fund because it is so crucial for the future of NZ media, she said.
Te Rito will soon begin advertising for a kaihautū (programme manager) to begin the development phase of the project. Four other trainers and an administrator will also be recruited and applications for cadets will open later this year.