Hilary Barry is walking away from TV3 at a time when her stocks couldn't be any higher.
The Newshub has been gutted in what is finally an accurate traditional use of the word. Ripples (not the chips) are being felt throughout the industry. Of course everyone is asking the same question: where does Barry rank in the New Zealand TV Newsreader Hall of Fame?
It's hard to say. Mostly because she (hopefully) won't be joining the ranks of these dearly-departed newsreaders for a good few years - she's resigned, not retired, remember?
What seems to set Hilary Pankhurst/Barry apart from every other newsreader is her likability. It's off the charts. You want to have coffee with her, watch the game with her, recruit her for your pub quiz team. I like to think of her playing backyard cricket in the weekends.
On camera, Hilary didn't hold back because she didn't have to - she was totally comfortable with who she was. Whether it was tears of sorrow or laughter, she owned the moment without even trying. One veteran broadcaster described her as "the absolute natural of our generation".
At age 46, she can go straight into the hall of fame and take her place at the top table, whether she is finished with TV or not. Credit also must go to the outstanding, unflappable Mike McRoberts for being the Clyde to her Bonnie. It really was a dream team.
What is clear is we're very well served for newsreaders in this small country, and not just on weeknights at six. Eric Young and Janika ter Ellen are a seamless team on Prime News, while Tom McRae and Melissa Davies have clicked almost immediately on Newshub weekends. Melissa Stokes and Greg Boyed have a lovely mix of light and shade, Sacha McNeil and Samantha Hayes would be the pride of any network in the world and Peter Williams is a total pro who keeps the old news values alive.
He will be reading the news when he's 80, although possibly not in a TV studio. What then is Barry's next move? I could see her becoming our Oprah but in primetime. Or she could just become Hilary, that lady who used to be on TV.
I really don't think she cares either way. And that's what makes her so goddamned likeable. Until she makes a call, we cannot put her in the New Zealand TV Newsreader Hall of Fame, ranked by me:
10) Lindsay Perigo
Lindsay was a true performer, a fact that he hammered that home at the end of his final bulletin by donning a tuxedo and singing opera. At times you could see his internal struggle between artiste and broadcaster. Sure enough, upon his departure in 1993 he described TVNZ news as "brain dead" and then founded the Libertarianz political party. His most recent interaction with the New Zealand media was very worrying.
Incredible eyebrows, a stern unwavering delivery, but would visibly struggle with the fluffy animal "kicker" at the end of the bulletin*. He channeled Sam The Eagle and for a while it was hard to tell the two apart.
* no fluffy animals are actually kicked.
His big personality and even bigger voice ensured 3 National News was going to at least be louder than any other news bulletin. However, his chummy style didn't gel at One News. Shortly after his onscreen reunion with Judy Bailey, he was let go... with buckets of money. He remains the Sir Tristram of newsreaders, having sired the very talented Kate.
His headmasterly vibe made him the perfect host of The Krypton Factor, where contestants would solve a puzzle, answer general knowledge questions and tackle the Burnham Military Camp obstacle course on outskirts of Christchurch. On the news, it felt like Stevenson was unimpressed with the nincompoops on parade: politicians, eye witnesses, business leaders, fellow journalists... so it was a good idea he left.
6) Tom Bradley
Had a Vincent Price eeriness to him that made him compelling. There was no mucking around with Tom. When he threw to the sports news he didn't want or appreciate a snappy comeback. He also had by far the most foreboding presence when delivering "breaking news", particularly when protesters stormed the studio.
A total all-rounder and all-round nice guy. He came along when Hugh Grant was at his rom-com peak, meaning people were more accepting of the floppy hair and slightly stilted vocals. His voice became a mating call (somewhere between a booming kakapo and a giant tortoise mid-hump), attracting liberals and South Auckland families. He remains royalty in those circles.
Epically smooth and stunningly beautiful, Hirschfeld could read the shit out of that bulletin. She and Campbell had incredible chemistry, which they took across to Campbell Live. The main problem with that otherwise excellent show was that it saw her move into a production role, thus mostly (she did report and fill in on occasion) depriving a sorry nation of her extraordinary on-camera talent.
3) Judy Bailey
How do you earn the title 'The Mother of the Nation'? Fight corruption? Save lives? Care for the sick?
No. You read that news bulletin night in, night out with the conviction of Winston Churchill, the heart of Princess Diana and the enunciation of a Shakespearean actor. Jude also had a mischievous way about her on the desk, particularly playful with unpredictable weather man Jim Hickey. Then when a serious story landed, she'd stare down the camera feel every word of the intro. A wonderful chameleon.
2) Richard Long
No one picked Richard to be leading man material but he anchored One News effortlessly, starting in 1988. A year later he was cruelly discarded when John Hawkesby was wooed back to TVNZ, only for the Hawk to fly the coop and for Dick to get back in saddle. Those metaphors might be poorly chosen but Long's return wasn't.
Judy famously said having Richard back in the studio was like "putting on an old pair slippers". When he left in 2003 One News staff gave him a guard of honour.
A trailblazer, D'Audney became the first woman to regularly read the TV news and then appeared topless in a TV comedy mid-career. She had a fierce intellect and was a guardian of news etiquette. She was super comfortable in the studio and her solo bulletins could qualify as poetry, especially if they actually rhymed.
This bulletin was brought to you by NZ On Screen, click here to enjoy the 1992 documentary Here is the News