When New Zealand's homegrown news agency transmits its last story on Wednesday, August 31, it will mark the end of a 132-year-old institution that has helped shape the identity of this remote nation.

The New Zealand Press Association (NZPA) is a victim of changing technology and media consolidation.

Two Australian media empires have bought up most of New Zealand's newspapers, and the papers in each chain share stories with each other, reducing their need for an outside news service.

News agencies such as NZPA typically sell their news services to newspapers, broadcasters and online providers rather directly to readers. Like other such agencies, NZPA has tried to adapt in recent years by seeking new broadcast and online customers outside of its traditional base of the newspaper chains, which are also the agency's main owners under a cooperative model.

But in the end, the agency was simply squeezed out. “It's a tough thing when any news agency disappears,” said Bill Mitchell, the leader of entrepreneurial and international programmes at the Poynter Institute for journalism in St. Petersburg, Florida. “It means there's one less voice in providing a range of coverage.”

In its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, NZPA employed dozens of journalists, including correspondents in London, Sydney, Hong Kong and Washington D.C. New Zealand newspapers also filed stories of national interest to the agency, which would then distribute them to other papers. Author and historian Ron Palenski, who worked for the agency until 1984, said its stories helped establish New Zealand's identity by bringing common concerns to people across the sparsely populated country of four million people.

Some see the move as yet another example of the increasing control that Australian companies are exerting over New Zealand business. — AP

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