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Murdoch Group Closes NZ's Last Metro Evening Daily

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Murdoch Group Closes Nz's Last Metro Evening Daily

AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch): The Rupert Murdoch newspaper chain in New Zealand is closing the country's last metropolitan evening newspaper in what is being described as a "merger" by the publishers and an "axing" in a Radio New Zealand report.

According to the New Zealand Herald, Wellington's two major newspapers will be merged to create a new morning newspaper, the Dominion Post, from next month.

This will cost 90 jobs, about two-thirds of them editorial. Media union officials say that this is roughly the number of staff on the Evening Post, one of the country's oldest and best newspapers.

The newspaper, one of the better New Zealand newspapers covering South Pacific affairs in recent years, is being merged with its sister paper, The Dominion.

Both newspapers are owned by the Independent Newspapers Ltd (INL) group, which according to a report in Pacific Journalism Review from the University of the South Pacific earlier this month, "owns newspapers which in 2001 had nearly half (49 percent) of the daily newspaper circulation in NZ".

The PJR article said: "Far from being 'independent' as its name proclaims, INL is just over 45 percent owned and therefore controlled by the US-based News Ltd empire of Rupert Murdoch (which also owns the Fiji Times and PNG Post-Courier groups in the Pacific)."

INL chief executive Tom Mockridge announced the plan to Evening Post and Dominion staff today and defended the move in interviews with both major television networks.

Mockridge said INL believed the capital of Wellington could no longer sustain two major dailies due to the decrease in circulation of the Evening Post, and a fall in advertising.

Wellington has been the only major New Zealand city with more than one daily newspaper in recent years. The Evening Post has been a regular winner of "best newspaper' awards.

According to audited figures, the Evening Post had slumped to a circulation of 55,418 in the six months ending in March. At its peak, the newspaper had a circulation of around 100,000.

In the same period the Dominion's circulation was 70,565, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation - the same agency that audits Fiji Times and Post-Courier circulations.

Staff described the closure of the paper as a sad day for New Zealand journalism and democracy.

"Talk about it being a merger is just marketing. People are numb, they're shocked at the moment," said Ian Spicer, the Post's journalist union delegate and 29-year veteran of the paper.

"Let's face it. They have killed the Post today."



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