At a time when a coronavirus and a German-owned publishing company, among other foes, are laying waste to the media landscape, my continued presence in this space may have seemed at worst extravagant, at best paradoxical to many people. Fear no more. This is my last column. By my count it's nigh on nine years that I've been providing 600 words a week, 31,200 words a year. I've had one Sunday off and that only under instruction from an editor who obviously felt he had earned a break.
The fact I am here at all is due to the guidance and actions of not one but three media figures with more illustrious careers than I could ever aspire to. So on the occasion of my last appearance here it seems fitting to acknowledge them.
The first was the much-missed – and much misunderstood – Sir Paul Holmes, whose thoughts used to appear here every Sunday. As was his wont, after one editorial altercation he stropped off, leaving this space vacant. (He didn't strop terribly far, as his column soon began to run in the Weekend Herald).
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The second was another Herald on Sunday columnist and broadcaster, Kerre McIvor (Woodham, as was), who, on hearing the editor wonder aloud how he was going to replace Holmes, offered my name. I auditioned and got the part.
Third is Bill Ralston, who until recently covered the same sort of ground at the same sort of length in the New Zealand Listener. Some time ago we fell into conversation and discovered that we both frequently grappled with the dilemma of whether to quit our columns before we were fired, thus retaining our dignity, or wait until we were pushed, thus retaining a few more shekels in our purses every week. Invariably we would, each on his own, come to the conclusion that we had commitments that meant initiating a sudden reduction in our income would have been foolhardy. Fate and external circumstances have rendered such deliberations superfluous.
I should also thank all the editors who have overseen my work for nearly a decade, not infrequently saving me from daring feats of illogic, marvels of inaccuracy and over-enthusiastic verbal gymnastics.
It's a measure of how civilised values still prevail in pockets of the media that I was fired in an actual individual phone call from an actual human editor, not by text or email or companywide Zoom meeting with someone in Australia, relaying a despatch from the Fatherland, as was the case for my redundant friends at Bauer Media. And not just fired peremptorily but generously given four weeks' notice.
I leave a fine newspaper with an immensely talented editorial staff continuing the challenging job of keeping mainstream media alive when so much conspires against them.
I have been alarmed to see that disdain for the mainstream media has spread to the mainstream media itself. Recently I was contacted by people who should know better, asking me to send them a copy of my column because they refused to fork out the readies to breach this paper's paywall. The total required at the time was $1 a week. This much they would not sacrifice because of their aversion to one columnist. They would forgo the fine work produced by many excellent writers who did not have that columnist's attention-grabbing profile and gift for alienating readers.
Now more than ever, mainstream media which, for all its flaws, continues to uphold basic journalistic standards has a vital role to play in society.
As I explained at the time, refusing to share my column with my stingy friends, if you think life without magazines is bad, wait until you live in a world without newspapers