Telum Talks To: Calida Stuart-Menteath from NBR

Telum Talks To: Calida Stuart-Menteath from NBR

By Callum Logie

"With all the cuts and constraints on the media now, we’re privileged to be able to tell these stories."

Telum Media caught up with Calida Stuart-Menteath, Co-Editor of The National Business Review, about the importance of business journalism and how the publication has grown during her tenure.

Take us through your career history and how it led you to your current role with NBR.
I’ve been with NBR for almost a decade, as a Senior Journalist and then Co-Editor for the last two years. I fell into business journalism and discovered it was not at all dry but fascinating, finding the human stories behind the numbers. I started my career at the Cook Islands News in Rarotonga, covering politics, court, and all the bizarre mysteries that happen when you’re on a tiny tropical island.

It was the best place to start as it was a small newsroom producing a paper six days a week. I learnt how to turn around stories fast - one horrendous day I was the only journo at work, so I wrote 15 stories and then had to sub and lay out the paper for the 11pm print deadline. Journalism has always been my dream job. The day after I turned 18, I flew to London to take up an internship on the BBC’s Watchdog programme - and I feel very lucky to still be working in this industry.

How much has the publication grown since you started?
NBR has changed hugely in the last decade, in terms of stopping the weekly print edition and moving wholly online, running video interviews with our stories, developing an app, and launching a new website the day Hamish McNicol and I became co-editors. We no longer run opinion pieces, or take advertising, sponsored content, or government funding, and have branched into Australia with the recent hire of two journalists there.

But much has also stayed the same - we are still a small, dedicated team of the country’s top business reporters who are focused on investigating and analysing issues that affect business and investors. We’re behind a paywall and are solely funded by subscribers, so the content has to be exclusive and top quality to keep readers interested and grow our subscription base. This year, we are offering NZ university students free access to the site to introduce our work to a new generation of readers.

What stories do you prefer hearing about or covering? 
News about capital raises and investments, entrepreneurs, tip-offs on scams, dodgy property syndicates, and business collapses. I don’t do much writing these days apart from our Co-Editor Last Word column, but I like to get decent releases and tips to hand on to the team.

How important is it to have strong business media?
It’s crucial, just as it is, to have strong media generally. It’s so important to investigate and publish stories about businesses with huge power in our society. For example, supermarkets, investment groups or individuals that keep taking money from investors despite being or nearing insolvency, and on infrastructure and tax, and analysis of why these all matter to investors, businesspeople, or consumers. With all the cuts and constraints on the media now, we’re privileged to be able to tell these stories.

How would you advise PR professionals interested in working with you? 
If you’re sending a generic press release that goes to everyone else at the same time, unless it is essential breaking news, it’s not going to get a look in. As we’re behind a paywall, we need to offer subscribers content that’s worth their money. I like to be approached with an exclusive story or angle. If it is going out widely, then offer it under an embargo, so we’ve got time to sort out who’s covering it, interviews done, and looking pretty with graphics, photos, and video in time for the embargo to lift.

Email is the best first approach (but don’t mind a follow-up email or phone call to jog my mind after a busy news day) and we don’t always need a full press release - just a few bullet points on why this would make an interesting story. A quick heads-up that something big is happening in a week or two is always useful for our planning.

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