Journalists have paid tribute to their "crusading" colleague and competitor Warwick Roger, who has died.

Roger had been afflicted with the degenerative neurological disorder Parkinson's disease for many years. It is understood he died in his sleep on Thursday night. He was aged in his early 70s.

A former Auckland Star journalist, Roger founded the glossy, Auckland-focused Metro magazine in 1981 and edited it for 13 years.

As well as editing Metro, Roger headed North & South magazine in 1986. His widow, journalist Robyn Langwell, founded North & South.

Advertisement

Former Metro editor Nicola Legat said Roger was an amazing editor to work for.

"He worked us really hard but he was inspirational and I think there was a whole generation of writers who owe Warwick such a lot. He helped us hone our craft …"

Legat recalls her first work for Metro after she had heard Roger might be setting up a new magazine.

"I had the cover story on the second issue of Metro when I was a young freelancer … It was about the Auckland fashion scene, which was a brand new thing. Zambesi had just started."

Legat said Metro was "sassy, independent, spirited" - a pioneer when New Zealand media were "battened down" and respectful.

"It was a breath of fresh air at a time New Zealand society was becoming more modern and outward looking."

She said that as well as crusading journalism, Roger loved little stories, profiles of people who had been forgotten, and he had a "gentleness and romanticism".

"He genuinely loved Auckland. He was born in Auckland, grew up in Greenlane. He had studied the city for so many years.

"Everything he wrote that was critical of Auckland was because he wanted it to be a better place."

Metro, founded by Warwick Roger, was a crusading magazine in the 1980s. It broke a story on National Women's Hospital that led to fundamental changes in the health system.
Metro, founded by Warwick Roger, was a crusading magazine in the 1980s. It broke a story on National Women's Hospital that led to fundamental changes in the health system.

Legat was saddened by Roger's death, but said it was also a release for him "because he has been so terribly ill for many years".

Former Mayor of Waitakere Sir Bob Harvey, a close friend of Roger's, described him to the Herald as an extraordinary writer and outstanding journalist.

"I think he was New Zealand's Hemingway," said Harvey, himself an author and Metro contributor. "He was my mentor with all my books - and my dearest friend."

Harvey said Roger had a great eye for detail in a story, and in others' writing. "He never forgave mistakes in copy."

"Warwick and I lived in a golden age of friendship," Harvey wrote on the Spinoff before Roger's death.

"For the last 10 years the dreaded Parkinson's has crippled my man. Reduced his life. Taken his skill and breath. I hate what it's reduced him to.

"Warwick and I started running together; he was a true runner, lean and taut, plenty of air, a big strider."

Roger had a brush with death in 2012, when he was found floating face down in the water at Cheltenham Beach on Auckland's North Shore.

His rescuers included two doctors and he was revived, before being taken to North Shore Hospital's intensive care unit.

Senior Herald journalist Simon Wilson, a former editor of Metro, said today of Roger: "I always felt incredibly honoured to edit the magazine he founded.

"He was one of the giants of journalism."

Jenny Wheeler, who was editor of the Sunday Star newspaper, a predecessor of the Sunday Star-Times paid tribute to Roger on Kim Hill's Radio New Zealand show.

"He was a totally crusading journalist. Once he got a conviction that something needed to be righted, he kept on going at it, hammering at it and hammering at it. I just think that sometimes he didn't know when to let go."

Wheeler said Roger was the perfect person to head a city magazine in the "robber baron" era of the 1980s.

"He could sail on it and absolutely pick at the foibles and ridiculousness of it all."

With the success of Metro in the 1980s, Roger was credited with transforming the media scene virtually overnight.

He created the country's first regular gossip columnist, Felicity Ferret, in 1982. The Ferret, said to have been written by a number of people, would go on to humble and humiliate those in the Auckland social scene.

But the column sometimes sailed too close to the wind. A jury awarded former Sunday Star-Times gossip columnist Toni McRae damages of $375,000 - she later settled for $100,000 - in a defamation case.

For his services to journalism, Roger was in 2008 made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.