It can't be 38 years, surely, since I joined the New Zealand Herald , or 45 years since I started a career in journalism on the Auckland Star ? It is not until you come to retire and recall the changes in your industry since you started that you realise you have been around a while.
If sitting at this desk, in almost my final day in the Herald newsroom, I could be time-shifted back to my first day on the paper, the first thing I think I would notice is the noise.
All around me would be a clatter of typewriters and telephones ringing and the voices of reporters doing interviews on the phones.
Today a newsroom has only a quiet hubbub of conversation, along with the soft tap of the computer keyboards that have replaced typewriters. Phones don't ring as loud, a lot of reporting is done online and it uses data resources not as readily available 40, 30, even 20 years ago.
Reporting today is much better researched and more thoughtful than it used to be. Anyone who thinks the past was a golden era for standards of journalism has not been paying attention.
Or they are distracted by the trivia and celebrity stories that also abound today thanks to social media. But there is nothing novel or invalid about those categories of news. Journalism was never a rarefied craft, it is a conversation with people and cannot be dull.
My first front-page story for the Herald a day or two after I started back in January of 1981 was pure trivia. Something about a consignment of lamb to the New Zealand base at Antarctica that had gone down a treat for a reason I've long forgotten.
That was the year of the Springbok tour. Passions ran high and looking back I'm surprised my career at the Herald survived it.
One Friday night, furious at the duplicity of Robert Muldoon's final message to the Rugby Union before the tour began, I finished work, went down to Queen St and joined a big march against the imminent tour.
The Herald 's reporter spotted me and next day the chief reporter issued a memo to staff gently warning that the paper needed to be seen to be impartial.
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It was stupid of me and I'm surprised I was assigned to any tour coverage. But I got to report the team's arrival at Auckland Airport and its departure from the same place. Physically the same place but nothing else was the same.
Protesters and police were in crash helmets, attitudes and tactics on both sides had turned ugly. It felt like civil war.
Within 10 years apartheid had collapsed and the tour passed into New Zealand's history. Much more memorable, for me, were events I witnessed from the press gallery of Parliament, where the Herald sent me in 1983.
I saw Muldoon's bitter end and the extraordinary sequence of events that enabled David Lange and Roger Douglas to set about creating the foundations of the economy we have today.
They published the Treasury's briefing to an incoming government for the first time. I read it. The prescription for our chronic illness was easy to understand but difficult for a government to do.
It had to stop micro-managing every sector of the economy, stop restricting imports and protecting incumbent business, give firms no reason to continue seeking government favours, force private investment to look for truly profitable activities in free markets.
Easier said than done for investors too. But the fourth Labour Government fulfilled its role, stripping away protection from one sector after another seemingly every week. I covered it for 18 months, then came back to Auckland to write editorials for the Herald . I have been writing them ever since.
Back then, editorials were almost the only items of overt opinion permitted in the news pages of the paper. They appeared as they still do, beside letters from readers and an "OpEd" essay by a contributor not on the staff. But otherwise, opinion was not to be mixed with the news.
That all changed, quite suddenly, in 1996. It was part of a revamp of the Herald that looked sudden but was a result of many months' work by editorial executives, drawing on international consultants. New technology was coming that would change the way news was presented and received.
News in its solid, reliable, factual objectivity would continue to be vital but readers, so the experts said, wanted a range of viewpoints too. We should have known this much earlier. For as long as I could remember, surveys had told us letters were the most well-read section of the paper, followed by editorials.
In mid-1996, readers opened the Herald to meet a personal opinion on page two and more of them further in - weekly "columns" by young and old, male and female, light and serious.
I was invited to write one and did so for about two years until I felt I had said all I had to say. Then a new editor arrived who did not believe me. He insisted I re-start it and I did. It continues.
Another big change in news presentation was coming in the 1990s which was not seen in newspapers until the death of Princess Diana in 1997.
It really began with the first Gulf War in 1991. A new American television cable news channel, CNN, devoted its entire programme, around the clock, to that one big story.
Newspapers did the same when Diana died. Like most, the Herald cleared not one or two pages, as it had for events on the scale of the assassination of President Kennedy, but just about all its regular news pages for blanket coverage of the tragedy and reactions to it.
To the surprise, I think, of many inside the industry, readers and audiences did not just like saturation coverage, their appetite for it seemed insatiable. Day after day, even more pages of the Herald were devoted to the story and it continued like this for weeks.
This has become normal now for big events such as the Christchurch earthquakes and the mosque massacres. Digital technology gives news editors good measures of the subjects people want to read, when they want to read and at what length they want to read about them.
The advent of the smartphone has shown me people's appetite for news and comment is far greater than I would ever have imagined when I entered this industry. Clearly people want more than daily or even hourly updates of news. Websites such as the Herald 's do not work to deadlines any more, news is published as soon as possible.
Newspapers, though, are still the bedrock of news gathering that is financially independent of the state. Long may they continue.
John Key - and how I came to write a book about him
John Key had been prime minister for five years when the chance came to write a book on him.
It was the brainchild of Debra Miller, a former Herald reporter who was now a publishing executive for Penguin in New Zealand. She believed people would like to know more about this prime minister who was defying gravity with high poll ratings for so long.
She invited me to explain how he did it, by fair means or foul. The judgment was entirely up to me.
I had met Key only a few times previously but in 2008, the year he came to office, the Herald had published his life story up to that point and it seemed to me the story deserved a book.
The three-part profile, well researched and written by Eugene Bingham, Carol du Chateau and Paula Oliver, vividly described how high Key had flown in the financial world before he turned to politics. It is all too rare for successful business leaders to step into the combative circus of electoral politics.
By late 2013 when Penguin approached the Herald looking for someone to write the book, Key was already a twice-elected prime minister. He had led New Zealand out of the global financial crisis and subsequent recession, then through the Christchurch earthquakes, and the economy had begun to pick up strongly in 2013.
The country was experiencing record immigration and National already looked certain to be re-elected in 2014. But Penguin wanted the book out by June to avoid it getting caught up in the election campaign.
Key did not exactly leap at the idea. I made it clear it had to be my work and he would have no say over what was written. I bluffed a little, saying I would do the book with or without his co-operation, and he agreed to schedule a couple of interviews for me when he got back from holiday in the New Year.
I spent that Christmas contacting everybody I knew who had worked with him in currency trading in New Zealand and overseas, plus his teachers at Burnside High School in Christchurch and, most valuably, his sisters, Sue in Christchurch and Liz on the phone from London.
By the time I sat down with Key in his salubrious home in late January, his holiday in Hawaii had included a game of golf with President Barack Obama, the first evidence New Zealand had seen of Key's personable qualities on a wider stage.
He talked readily about how that happened, not so readily when I wound the conversation back to his early life. His parents had separated when he was 6, his mother had taken the children from Auckland to Christchurch and his father, who did not live long after that, seemed to be a closed book for him.
Key hated the idea of being "psychoanalysed" on the subject, not, I think, because he had been traumatised by the break-up but because it is not in Key's nature to dwell on unhappy experiences.
He did not seem much interested in what happened to his mother's Jewish family in Nazi-occupied Austria, either. His sisters told me about that. Liz gave me a dossier compiled for Key at the request of Austria's president which provided a compelling chapter in the book.
I doubt Key had read the dossier, he hadn't even mentioned its existence to me.
He concentrates on the happy events of life, the people he knows and the things he has achieved. He recounts these things with bubbling enthusiasm and sparkling anecdotes that made him a biographer's dream.
His sunny nature was a large part of the reason for his political success. Happy people are highly likeable. They are at ease with themselves, which generates confidence in their judgment and leadership.
The book was published in June, 2014. It sold so well that Penguin wanted an updated edition after the 2014 election and another after he resigned near the end of 2016. It is a privilege to be entrusted with another person's life story, the most satisfying work I've done.
The people of the papers
You work with many impressive people over a long career and it seems unfair to recall just a few. But since I've been asked ...
I can still see the Auckland Star 's unflappable chief reporter, Tony Potter, striding down the newsroom as a big story was breaking on an afternoon paper's impossible deadlines, dispatching reporters in all directions as calmly as a cop on point duty.
I can hear Phil Gifford, a sparkling writer on everything from rugby to rock music, asking the Star newsdesk as he returned with a story close to deadline one day, "Shall I write it or hack it out?" It was a distinction I would never forget.
Probably everybody who worked with him at the Herald shares my regard for Bruce Morris. A no-nonsense journalist, natural leader, fine man, he led most sections of the Herald at some time and could have been editor had he not believed when the time came the paper needed younger ones, such as Tim Murphy who had the same qualities.
The Herald sent me to Parliament to join a tight team led by Greg Shand, hardest of hard newsmen, and Tony Verdon whose ear was always close to the ground. We were competing with private radio's Barry Soper and Fran O'Sullivan in the next room, and down the corridor Bernie Lagan at the Dominion , Sue Carty of the Evening Post , Richard Harman for TVNZ.
Great rivals, great company, great changes were happening as the welfare state gave way to Rogernomics.
Peter Scherer became editor in 1985 and brought me back to Auckland to be a leader writer. "It's a bit like being a barrister," he said by way of explaining I might have to express opinions I did not hold.
But he never asked me to do that. We both understood the economic reforms and supported them strenuously through the next difficult decade.
In those halcyon days for newspaper profitability the Herald had four leader writers. John Page was our grey eminence, Merv Cull a stylist with a lighter touch, Colin Moore the contrarian we needed. Their places were taken in later years by Chris Rosie, Arnold Pickmere, Tony Verdon and Kevin Hart.
Scherer was succeeded in 1995 by Gavin Ellis who softened the editorial line a little. More importantly, Ellis guided the paper's adoption of digital technology and striking changes in its content. He introduced columns of opinion to the news pages in 1996 and invited me to write one.
But one thing did not change. The nightly production of the Herald remained a joy for those who worked under the direction of the late Bert Nealon.
Chief sub-editor, later news editor, Nealon's loud wit could be enjoyed by everyone in the room. Frequently he would deliver a few bars of song. Nothing seemed to worry him but once he told me I had given him a sleepless night.
I had filed a piece in which I had dismissed something as "cant". The word came back to Bert late that night as he lay in bed. The more he thought about it, the more certain he became that a gremlin in production would change the vowel.
Sub-editors are our unsung saviours. Rod Pascoe was a stickler for style in the nicest possible way, Alan Young could quickly comb all the nits out of front-page copy at the last possible moment.
So many more to mention, so much to say, so little space, it's the story of my life.
The battle for the Herald
Late one November night in 1994 when I was the last one still working on the editor's floor, the company secretary of Wilson and Horton Ltd came into my room close to panic.
He had driven in from his home. He said managing director Michael Horton was somewhere over the Pacific on a flight to Los Angeles and we had to get a message to him. Brierleys were moving on the stock.
Brierley Investments Ltd, well known corporate raider, had been quietly amassing W&H shares and had chosen that night to make a bid for a controlling stake.
We got the message to Horton and at Los Angeles airport he got himself on the next flight home.
By the time he landed at Auckland the buy-in was virtually complete and making news. He then did something I had never seen before or since performed in public.
Horton told radio reporters bluntly Brierleys were not welcome and their bid could not be allowed to succeed. He said they had run down the Auckland Star and would do the same to the Herald if they got control of it.
He maintained this public attack long enough to poison the takeover and eventually BIL agreed to let him look for a buyer of its stake.
He found his "white knight" in Ireland. An Irish media company owned by Tony O'Reilly, well remembered by New Zealand rugby fans as a flying winger on the 1959 Lions' tour, became the Herald 's proprietor.
Brierleys got their expected profit within six months and W&H had a debt to repay.
It was a time of great change for all newspapers. Digital technology was coming, which would change the way they were produced and widen the ways news was received. The Herald would see more changes of ownership in the years ahead but that night was the beginning of the end of an era.
The Herald had been run by its founders and their descendants for 132 years. Wilson and Horton felt like a family business for everyone who worked for the paper. Today's proprietors face a much more competitive environment and adhere to good employment codes of care and internal communication. It's different, it's inevitable, it's change.
But one thing has not changed in my 32 years writing the Herald's editorials. Proprietors have never tried to set the paper's views. To this day I have no idea whether Michael Horton or his successors agreed with the views we expressed.
Wise publishers trust their editors to maintain the quality and credibility of their product and do not interfere. The business keeps them busy enough.