Few would have predicted the shock resignation of Carol Hirschfeld, whose 34-year career in broadcasting and journalism came to an abrupt halt this week over a simple breakfast meeting with Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran.
The meeting was pre-planned, and questions remain over why Hirschfeld - a media celebrity and regular cover girl of women's magazines - insisted to Radio NZ bosses over a four-month period that it was a chance encounter.
Her bosses then inadvertently misled a parliamentary select committee, and Hirschfeld quit on Tuesday after finally admitting that the meeting had been planned.
It was a devastating way for her role at Radio NZ to end, having started there in 1984 as a cadet reporter in Taupo after completing her journalism training in Auckland.
Hirschfeld, who declined to be interviewed for this article, had come a long way since Taupo, where in her first week she managed to crack the windshield of the company car and lock the car keys inside.
Over decades in the industry, she forged a reputation as a hard-working, highly capable and glamorous broadcaster and producer, though her managerial roles have been described as somewhat polarising.
Her first foray into television was as a subeditor for late night current affairs show Eyewitness News. In an interview for NZonScreen in 2011, she remembers telling people at the Eyewitness studio: "I never ever want to be on screen. I absolutely want to be a producer behind the camera."
After a stint as a regional television reporter in Wellington, where she met husband and journalist Finlay Macdonald, she worked as a reporter for Fair Go, before getting her first regular presenting stint alongside Ian Johnstone for Crimewatch.
"I was a very young, nervous presenter. He was just so generous, highly intelligent. He taught me the importance of keeping the viewer centre most when you're doing anything for television, whether you're producing it or presenting as a host/anchor," Hirschfeld told NZonScreen.
She moved to Holmes when it first started in 1989, before taking a more senior role for weekly current affairs show Frontline, working on the Winebox allegations of corruption in the Serious Fraud Office and Inland Revenue Department.
In 1998, Hirschfeld burst into the big time when then-TV3 head of news Mark Jennings recruited her to read the 6pm bulletin. She was meant to sit alongside John Hawkesby, but ended up next to John Campbell after Hawkesby jumped ship to TVNZ.
"It was pretty traumatic, to be honest," Hirschfeld told NZonScreen. "We'd run a reasonably big advertising campaign saying I was to start with this particular John, and I ended up with another one."
Hirschfeld already had a public profile, but the 6pm slot suddenly turbo-boosted it, and Jennings said the country took to her - especially the young, urban crowd that TV3 were targeting.
• Focus: The Curran and Hirschfeld coffee saga unravelled
• Broadcaster Carol Hirschfeld to resign immediately after Curran meeting saga
• Carol Hirschfeld, Clare Curran texts: Cafe meeting organised via text
"When we won the America's Cup [in 2000], down at the viaduct, there were just thousands of people and the whole crowd were chanting 'Car-ol! Car-ol!'" Jennings told the Weekend Herald after Hirschfeld's resignation.
He said Hirschfeld had obvious "star quality", but also journalistic credentials, as did Campbell.
"We do now expect our presenters to do interviews and be flexible, [rather than just read from a teleprompter]. She and Campbell transformed the way we do TV news."
After seven years bringing the country the 6pm news, the duo moved to Campbell Live, with Hirschfeld as executive producer, to take on Holmes and Close Up.
"It was an easy transition for all of us because she had something else as a producer - a wonderful grasp of visual production," Jennings said.
"She knows what it takes to make something look really good, and understands all those things about pace and variety and the way stories and programmes need to go together."
He said Hirschfeld was universally liked at TV3.
"She was always regarded as a team player, a good person, highly professional, and very good at what she did."
In 2009 Hirschfeld, whose mother was Ngati Porou, took a role at Maori TV as head of programming, looking for a new challenge and more time with family.
But her time at Maori TV was not what she thought it would be, and ended during a restructure.
"When there is a major change at the top of any organisation, I think that's the time for everyone to review what's best for them, to ask themselves, 'Is this the pathway that I thought it was?' I didn't think it was," Hirschfeld said in a Women's Weekly article in 2015.
A former colleague of hers at Maori TV, who wished to be anonymous, said Hirschfeld was a good journalist and broadcaster, but raised questions about her management style.
The source said Hirschfeld was involved in "major contractual problems with programming" that needed to be fixed, and was trying to manage too many people, which left her struggling to fulfil her strategic role.
"I think people get carried away with the glamour of Carol Hirschfeld. There's no doubt she's been a good presenter. She has a particular style that's very classy.
Criticism of her management has also followed Hirschfeld after she returned to Radio NZ in 2014 as head of content.
Hirschfeld oversaw a restructure of Checkpoint, but staff at Radio NZ told the Weekend Herald that Hirschfeld may have initially failed to follow proper processes.
Radio NZ chief executive Paul Thompson would not say if Hirschfeld followed the right processes, but he told the Weekend Herald: "I was happy with how she did it, but it was challenging."
Described by some staff as somewhat polarising, Hirschfeld also had a hand in an internal restructure that saw news director Brent Edwards quit in protest over redundancies.
"Organisations restructure at times and they're always difficult. And we got through it," Thompson said.
"Carol's had a really positive impact on Radio NZ. She's been a wonderful colleague and has brought real vision. Part of what she's done is really focus on the programming and the quality of the journalism and on doing things in new ways."
Media commentator John Drinnan told the Weekend Herald that Hirschfeld, who was about to be made RNZ's head of multi-media programming, was part of a drive at Radio NZ to "sex up the place a bit, and make it more of a commercial station".
"It's wrong to say she was universally loved at RNZ. She was seen as introducing the push to television.
"But TV is notoriously expensive. The worry is that this is all happening while people are laying off staff, and radio - their prime medium - will get left behind for the sexier medium of TV."
Radio NZ has closed offices in Queenstown, Tauranga and Palmerston North in recent years.
Labour campaigned on injecting $38 million into public service broadcasting, the majority of it for RNZ+ and some for NZ On Air - though the Government is yet to commit that money.
Hirschfeld was a strong supporter of Curran's vision for RNZ+ as a BBC-type multi-platform service that included a free-to-air, linear, non-commercial television station, but Thompson and board chairman Richard Griffin have a broader vision for RNZ+.
Griffin is understood to be wary of throwing money into a television station, and while Checkpoint is the number one radio programme in its timeslot with 279,300 national listeners, its viewership has remained abysmally low.
Radio NZ says it does not hold any viewership data, but the number of YouTube views for each Checkpoint show this week hover around 500.
Asked if he and Curran have different views on the television element of RNZ+, Thompson said: "I would hope not ... RNZ+ policy is about a strong multimedia RNZ. Improved television output will be part of that, but it's just part of what we're planning."
He downplayed reports that Hirschfeld was a stronger advocate for a RNZ+ television station, saying that they all worked on a plan for RNZ+ to take to the ministerial advisory group on public media next week.
"We've all argued about it, tossed it around, and it's RNZ's plan."
The perception of a discrepancy of views between Curran and Griffin and Thompson has raised questions over whether Curran, who instigated the breakfast meeting, was looking for an ally in Hirschfeld.
Speculation surrounds whether Hirschfeld may have been undermining her Radio NZ bosses, or worried about being seen to undermine them - especially as the meeting was a breach of Radio NZ protocol.
Jennings said the only thing that is certain is that Hirschfeld misled her boss about the meeting.
"There's definitely some reason. The whole thing is a bit hard to explain."
While Drinnan expected her to lay low for a while, no one believes this to be the end of what has been a glitzy career.
"She's obviously got plenty of skills and is very charming," Drinnan said.
"I can't imagine she'll be signing on to the dole, or anything."