I applied for a job last week - the first in a while. The decision led to some reflection on changes I'd seen since I entered the workforce.
I started as a junior reporter at APN - now NZME, the publisher of the NZ Herald - in 2012.
After being hired, it took about three months before a round of redundancies were announced. That evolved to rolling layoffs and a stop on new employees for a while.
There was a brief moment of concern regarding my own job before someone more senior explained how things worked. Essentially, cuts and savings weren't going to be made at the junior end of the pay pool.
The thinning staff landscape then blended into a world I was attempting to understand. For me, it was about the basics. How to write, how to spell, learning who sat where in a courtroom, and understanding the layers of local government and DHBs. Even remembering the names of colleagues and who to ask about what was a learning exercise.
I can't pinpoint exactly when I found a rhythm of sorts, but the days did become less frantic and that feeling of cluelessness eased. Notably, as my level of experience increased, the influence of established media outlets like the Herald also changed.
'Lots of New Zealanders'
As a born-and-bred Aucklander, the Herald has been the paper of record for most of my life. When I looked at possible options after university, it was certainly high on the list. I wanted to work at a news outlet THAT spoke to lots of New Zealanders.
Looking back now, that broad ambition from my early 20s inspires a cringey smile accompanied by one key question:
"What exactly did I mean?"
It is a question I've asked numerous times over the years. What qualifies as "lots of New Zealanders" and who fits the demographics of this descriptor?
As a journalist who has worked predominantly in mainstream news spaces, the face that comes to mind is invariably Pākehā, straight, with a middle-class background. Perhaps that's because when I started working, that was the overwhelming vibe of the newsroom.
A tad naively, I had not thought much about the implications of that - particularly on the types of stories I'd be telling.
Generally, the perspectives and stories prioritised were those most people in the newsroom related to. It, therefore, took more work to promote the ones which didn't immediately grasp overwhelming interest because of the places or communities they were about.
Change by stealth
For me, navigating this is a normal part of my work. While internal changes to address that bias is ongoing, I believe one of the more significant influences has come from outside traditional media. Enter: social media and the age of internet freedom.
Since the likes of Facebook and Google took hold, there has been an unmissable shift in attitudes around what qualifies as "news" and "public interest". I'd liken it to change by stealth - particularly when it comes to managing precarious advertising margins and staff resources.
For large, established media outlets, that change has generally not been kind. Those rolling redundancies which marked my entry into the workforce are indicative of that. The rise of click-bait and less substantive news items have been another side-effect.
However, in a perverse turn of events, the narrowing of established media has also led to an opening up of sorts. The internet has broadened the ways and spaces different stories and perspectives can be illustrated.
'All the other parts of us'
For those of us who have generally been misrepresented – or wholly unrepresented – that shift is comparable to an evening out of the market. We get to see ourselves in more authentic ways through the perspectives of those who understand us.
Only a few weeks ago, I did an interview with an anti-domestic violence campaigner about my age. He mentioned that during his formative years in Christchurch, the only positive representations of Pasifika were through Shortland Street or in the All Blacks.
"That's why it's so important we show all the other parts to us," he said. At that point, I was pretty proud to be telling his story.
So, while the change-by-stealth model has been tough on established media outlets, it has also forced a move to more inclusive representation.
Yes, there is still a way to go, but for those of us on the inside, the baby steps are well worth it.