Re­flec­tions from a bureau chief

Central Otago Mirror - - CONVERSATIONS -

It was early 2000 - the be­gin­ning of a new mil­len­nium and a new ca­reer for this re­cently grad­u­ated jour­nal­ist.

I’d started work­ing in tele­vi­sion but quickly de­cided to re­turn to my orig­i­nal love — the writ­ten word. I grabbed the op­por­tu­nity to start on the Mir­ror.

It isn’t dif­fi­cult to be­come known as the lo­cal re­porter in a small town like Alexandra, es­pe­cially when you rock up with the in­dex fin­ger of your left hand bound in a splint and per­ma­nently point­ing else­where — the re­sult of an in­ci­dent with the lid of a tin can. I still feel squea­mish when I look at the jagged scar but it was a great con­ver­sa­tion starter. Peo­ple were wel­com­ing and the sto­ries started rolling in.

I’d barely warmed the seat when I faced my first ma­jor story, a plane crash in the Lindis Pass. Six peo­ple on board the Cessna were re­turn­ing from War­birds Over Wanaka to Welling­ton. All of them, in­clud­ing a 14-year-old boy, were killed. It was Easter, I was on my own in the of­fice and couldn’t think where to start. How­ever, a bit of sage ad­vice from In­ver­cargill saw me land an in­ter­view with one of the first on the scene. I barely knew what to say and would do things very dif­fer­ently now, but it was a learn­ing curve that has served me well. It is also sym­bolic of the re­la­tion­ships I have made over the years at the Mir­ror.

I was only in that role for a few months, but re­turned as the bureau chief in 2011 with the brief of work­ing with the seven ed­i­to­rial staff cov­er­ing for, The South­land Times and the Mir­ror on pro­duc­ing the best con­tent for all pub­li­ca­tions. Old-fash­ioned as it may seem, a high­light ev­ery week has been hold­ing the Mir­rors in my hand, flick­ing through to see the fi­nal re­sult of a mas­sive team ef­fort and watch­ing readers pick it up to see what grabs their at­ten­tion.

There have been mas­sive changes over those years and some re­ally chal­leng­ing times but lots of high­lights also. We’ve been na­tion­ally recog­nised — twice fi­nal­ists in the Com­mu­nity News­pa­per of the Year awards and our jour­nal­ists have made it as in­di­vid­u­als also, we’ve cre­ated a new Wanaka edi­tion, we’ve run a hugely suc­cess­ful short story com­pe­ti­tion, had some crack­ing front pages and bro­ken our fair share of news sto­ries in a com­pet­i­tive me­dia land­scape.

This was only achieved be­cause we have been a solid team of jour­nal­ists, sales peo­ple, pro­duc­ers, pho­tog­ra­phers and graphic de­sign­ers. We’ve also en­joyed won­der­ful re­la­tion­ships with the wider com­mu­nity, as readers, ad­ver­tis­ers and sup­port­ers.

It was this in­cred­i­ble com­mu­nity en­gage­ment that made it pos­si­ble for the Mir­ror staff to make an enor­mous suc­cess of our Christ­mas col­lec­tion. We were one of the first or­gan­i­sa­tions to en­cour­age readers to bring presents to put un­der our Christ­mas trees in Alexandra and Queenstown, to be dis­trib­uted to fam­i­lies by the Sal­va­tion Army or Hap­pi­ness House. Ev­ery year the piles seems to get higher and we were hav­ing to de­liver the gath­ered presents to make room for more. For me, more than any­thing else, that sym­bol­ised the un­selfish gen­eros­ity of the peo­ple of this area and the pos­i­tive im­pacts a com­mu­nity news­pa­per can have — aside from de­liv­er­ing the news.

Af­ter 31 years of the Mir­ror be­ing pub­lished, I now have the hon­our of putting the Queenstown, Cen­tral Otago and Wanaka edi­tions to bed for the fi­nal time. It is with a tinge of sad­ness that I do this, but with re­spect for our com­mu­nity, friend­ship with the fan­tas­tic peo­ple I have worked with in the past seven years and ex­cite­ment as my own me­dia jour­ney points in a new di­rec­tion.


Within a few weeks of be­gin­ning work at the Mir­ror I was writ­ing a lead story on a fa­tal plane crash.

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