Character and Impact
Despite the scattered population and the isolation of individual papers, there is a remarkable uniformity of presentation of news. This is partly the result of identical overseas and inland news being received through a national news agency to which every daily paper belongs. Highly individual papers with pugnacious, uncompromising, and influential owners, editors, and political opinions are a memory of another age; papers these days report the news in a manner more impartial, more balanced, and more complete than did the press of “the good old days”. Editorial opinions, now not nearly so influential among a highly literate people with opportunity for direct access to news sources and publications of contrary opinion, confine their expression to separate columns of leading articles.
Direct competition by rival newspapers in the same town is unknown, for no centre produces more than one paper on the same morning or evening each day. The eight dailies in the four main cities – Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin – have an aggregate circulation of over 700,000 copies a day; 31 dailies in smaller towns sell 270,000 copies a day. A trade estimate is that almost every household takes at least one paper; and that each copy is, on average, read by two people.
For example, the New Zealand Herald (Auckland) and the Dominion (Wellington) cover the North Island between them, as well as their home cities; and the Christchurch Press circulates over much of the South Island. These three papers are favoured by the “dead” hours of the early morning for their wide-ranging delivery by private road transport and chartered railcar. But most journals (11 each morning and 32 each evening) are largely parochial in distribution. However well the eight major metropolitan papers are distributed beyond their own towns, they cannot hope to provide full local news and advertising coverage for the smaller centres through which their transport passes; hence a strong provincial press which in the last few years has become an aggressive factor in newspaper competition for national advertising contracts.