MediaWorks radio has scored an own goal, by missing signs that its More FM breakfast host Simon Barnett was looking for a change.

Now he has been poached by Newstalk ZB, effective once his More FM contract has ended in 2019.

How did MediaWorks allow its star to go wandering?

Neither Barnett nor NZME have said what he will do at Newstalk ZB, part of the NZME group, which includes the Herald. Leighton Smith has indicated for a long time that he plans to step down, and in my opinion Barnett would be ideal for that role.

Advertisement

Newstalk ZB drive-time host Larry Williams has also indicated he will be moving on. But the harder-edged news style of interviewing would not fit someone new to talk radio.

If Barnett wanted to move to talk radio, you wonder whether MediaWorks might have offered him something on Radio Live.

While one MediaWorks source noted, "these things don't come out of nowhere", the advance resignation seems to have caught MediaWorks by surprise.

The company had its troubles in the Mark Weldon era, but MediaWorks radio has long been stable. That changed in April, when MediaWorks chief executive Michael Anderson announced that the respected radio CEO Wendy Palmer would be stepping down after three years. Australian media executive David Gibbs was named acting head of radio.

On Tuesday, signalling his departure, Barnett said he was moving on because, after 26 years of breakfast radio, he'd had enough 4.30am starts and wanted a social life again.

If MediaWorks knew Barnett had itchy feet, it would surely have stepped in when More FM's sister network, The Edge FM, hoaxed the MediaWorks star.

On June 16, The Edge breakfast hosts spent a lot of time and energy tricking Barnett into thinking he was interviewing his hero, Tom Cruise.

I find it hard to get too upset about radio jocks being embarrassed, but I am told Barnett was shattered by the hoax by his MediaWorks colleagues. And why would you undermine your own trusted brand?

Advertisement

MediaWorks group content director Leon Wratt said the prank was not a factor in Barnett leaving. "I spoke to Simon about it and he was fine and he did not have an issue ... it was more other people's reactions. People are great at making something into a melodrama and obviously, with social [media] there are a lot of melodramatic people there anyway."

Bushwoman a winner for NZ publisher

Publisher Allen & Unwin NZ's publicity manager Angela Radford has been "astonished and delighted" by media interest in Woman in the Wilderness heroine Miriam Lancewood. She is the author of a book about nomadic life with her husband Peter, which describes six years living rough in the New Zealand bush.

Around the time of the book's release in April, Lancewood cropped up all over the media: with Mike Hosking, Radio NZ, in magazines and newspapers. She even had a run on the ABC in Australia.

Radford says the publisher saw an article by Lancewood in Mindfood magazine and asked her if she could write a book.

The 33-year-old Lancewood delivered not only a ripping yarn about a charismatic young woman, but also told the story of her relationship with Peter, a 64-year-old Kiwi.

Radford says: "None of us for one second expected the kind of attention that we got."

Lancewood featured on TVNZ's Sunday show in April, where she was interviewed by Mark Crysell in a bushland camp near an unnamed NorthIand town. That item launched a flood of follow-ups.

The Dutch teacher-turned-outdoorswoman seems to have tamed the cynicism of Mike Hosking and numerous news journalists.

At short notice, Lancewood could not be reached for comment. Allen and Unwin said she had recently arrived in Switzerland.

International rights to her book have been sold to the Netherlands, Britain, China and Germany - with France and other territories under negotiation.