As Newsroom marks its fifth birthday, Newsroom co-editor Mark Jennings reflects on how far we’ve come. 

WATCH: the video of our five years, above 

Sometimes a few words can lead to a life changing decision. And so it was for us. 

Towards the end of 2016 one of us (Tim Murphy) said “I think it is time we did what we talked about doing”.

The “what” was setting up Newsroom, although we didn’t have a name for it back then.

We had been providing media and strategic advice to corporates after leaving our jobs as editors of two of the country’s biggest news services. 

Neither of us were happy with the constant cost cutting and push for more ‘clicks’. 

We had often discussed what we saw as the gaps, important gaps, that had appeared in news coverage as cutbacks became more severe.

In what seems a highly risky move in retrospect we put our own savings into developing a different sort of news business. A digital-only business that focused on ‘The Things that Matter’. 

Two of our initial partners – Chorus and Holden – provided us with vital cash without expecting a lot in return. We will always be grateful to them.

We hoped that a mixture of sponsorships, subscriptions and reader donations, coupled with NZ on Air project funding and some syndication agreements with other news platforms, could bring in enough to fund an experienced and talented staff. Journalists who wanted more time to dig deeper and craft their stories in a way that added context and thoughtful analysis.

Our timing was either going to be foolish or fortuitous. The media in this country was at a low ebb (it has since recovered strongly) when we launched on March 13, 2017.

1,824 days on, we think we have achieved many of our goals – although perhaps not perfectly – and claimed our own place in the NZ media landscape. We have managed, through your support in tough business and economic times, to reach a level of sustainability that will hopefully see this pakihi thriving in five, 10 and 15 years’ time.

Newsroom started with 16 full-and-part-time staff and now has 24. We started with an audience of zero and now reach around 700,000 unique readers a month. We started with a few hundred subscribers and now have many thousands, a few individual donors and now many hundred.

We have published more than 19,000 pieces of journalism, including more than 1600 from our three university partners at Auckland, Wellington and Otago.

As our revenue has grown we have invested it all back into producing more quality content, progressively, introducing LockerRoom, our specialist section on women’s sport after year one, adding ReadingRoom, for NZ writing and books, after year two, and founding and delivering our successful daily news podcast The Detail, for RNZ, for the past three years.

For more information check out Newsroom’s 2022 Impact Report.

We believe, with humility and without conceit, that the work of Newsroom’s journalists and contributors these five years has indirectly led to positive changes, not only for the subjects of our stories, but also in the news media industry as well. There is more investigative journalism, specialist rounds people, in-depth stories, talent and time available now across the media than five years ago. The new Public Interest Journalism Fund is reinforcing those gains. Public interest journalism is and was our raison d’etre.

In this report to readers, partners, subscribers, donors and friends, we will review some highlights of Newsroom’s contribution to NZ journalism, since 2017 and in calendar 2021.

It has been a great challenge and a real pleasure to bring you news, the Newsroom way.

Thank you to all the companies and individuals that loyally support us, we really appreciate it.

– Mark Jennings, Newsroom co-editor

Newsroom Pro special introductory offer

To celebrate Newsroom’s fifth birthday we’ve created a special introductory offer for those of you wanting to try out Newsroom Pro. For just $99 you can get Newsroom Pro access for two users for six months – trial it for 7 days free of charge.

Newsroom Pro subscriptions include advanced access to Newsroom’s reporting, commenting access, live Q&As as well as exclusive newsletters including our signature ‘8 Things’ daily email of analysis from Newsroom Pro editor Jonathan Milne.

Mark Jennings is co-editor of Newsroom.

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