RNZ news boss Brent Edwards is leaving amidst tension in the Wellington newsroom. Edwards is the news director and head of newsgathering at RNZ. He was formerly political editor, working from parliament. And he has also been a key player in E tu journalist union.
His resignation was announced yesterday and it will be effective after the election. The move has shocked new staff and comes at the same time as a contentious restructuring with key news roles moved from Wellington to Auckland. RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson said Edwards’ resignation was a big loss. He did not know whether his news director role would stay in Wellington, or whether it will be moved to Auckland. RNZ has restructured the role of another senior executive Gael Woods.
Her future is unclear. I am told Auckland chief executive Eileen Cameron is also stepping down soon. though this is not directly related to the restructuring. RNZ claims that a move to Auckland is necessary due to the high risk of an earthquake in Wellington. This view makes some sense. But staff said the implementation has been clumsy and harsh and appears to have “come from nowhere.” Thompson had told staff that around 50 positions will move north over several years.
Edwards did not return a call. But sources say that he – long with the director of news programmes – Mary Wilson – questioned news restructuring plans. In the Budget the government rannounced an end to athe punishing funding freeze at RNZ. Negotiations were with Minister for Culture and Heritage, Maggie Barry, a former presenter on RNZ Morning Report. The RNZ negotiator was Richard Griffin, a former RNZ political editor.