This editorial breaks the habit of a lifetime, most of a working lifetime anyway. It carries the writer's name. At the editor's request, he (I — even now it is hard to write this column in the first person) is going to say something about editorial writing for this, his last weekend editorial before retirement after three decades of writing one almost every day for the New Zealand Herald.
It is hard to write in the first person because an editorial has never been a purely personal view — when readers occasionally ask why they are not allowed to know who writes the editorials, that is the reason. Inevitably, they are infused with the personal views of the writer but, unlike a signed column, they are not the writer's alone. They have been discussed with an editor, often more than one, and once written they are seen and may be freely altered by the editor of the edition in which they are going to appear.
That is one reason editorials are not signed, but there is a more important reason. The editorial is not necessarily the editor's personal view either. It is a newspaper's view. Writing it or editing it is done with a profound sense of representing something bigger than any of those involved. It is a humbling position, not a conceited one, it disciplines thinking, demanding more caution and less indulgence than a personal opinion is allowed. It is the voice of the newspaper and it needs to maintain the character and values its readers expect.
They will not expect to agree with every opinion it offers but they have a right to expect the New Zealand Herald's opinion will always be well informed, reasonable, consistent and responsible. A publication without an editorial — or which has a signed editorial — lacks an organic voice of its own, a personality greater than those given charge of it for a while.
This writer has been conscious always of the Herald's heritage. It has been part of New Zealand's history for 155 years.
It is the only daily newspaper carrying New Zealand's name and those two words in its masthead are as important as the third.
Its daily editorials of the past three decades have always had the nation's interests uppermost in mind. They have consistently supported the liberalising of the national economy since the 1980s and argued for the principles and rationale of the reforms. They have not supported every popular claim on the public purse, which are easy for a newspaper to support but not a credible position to adopt if it is also to hold governments to account for their fiscal influence on the economy.
The Herald has also supported social and constitutional changes in the national interest. It has welcomed the greater recognition of Māori in the nation's political life, the strengthening of iwi through Treaty settlements and it has long argued te reo should have its own place in the primary school curriculum. The paper was an early enthusiast for proportional representation when it was proposed by a royal commission in 1986 and Herald editorials argued for MMP long before it was put to referendums.
It has been a privilege to speak for a succession of fine editors, working among many skilled and dedicated journalists over the years, serving a great paper, its discerning readers and a country I love.