THE WEEKLY’S WONDER WOMEN RECALL THEIR HIGHLIGHTS
A host of talented women have sat in the editor’s chair over the decades. Ten of them pick their story highlights
MICHAL MCKAY 1985 – 1987
“It was remarkable that despite the fact we were in the midst of massive changes politically – Labour swept to power, Rogernomics and deregulation was revolutionising the New Zealand financial scene – within the sacred enclaves that formed the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, royalty ruled.
As the next editor to follow in the footsteps of the formidable Jean Wishart, my life in that role had more than a few hurdles to surmount – and royalty wasn’t something I related to with comfort. I was more interested in the politics of the day, which were in my mind newsworthy and what our readers needed to be informed about – in all its facets. But if circulation was looking as if it needed a boost, Princess Diana was our guarantee of a lift. She was beautiful and captured readers’ hearts.”
JENNY LYNCH 1987 – 1994
“In terms of celebrities, coverage of the Rachel Hunter-Rod Stewart wedding in January 1991 was a winner on two counts. Readers loved it and our pictures beat other magazines to the punch.
On the human interest front, I can’t go past Claire Parker’s intensely moving story (April 18, 1988) about a woman twice hit
by tragedy. Eight years earlier, Nancye O’Reilly’s six-year-old daughter had been raped and murdered. The killer had not been found. Then, in November 1987, a second daughter was fatally injured by a drunk driver.
While Nancye had trouble coming to terms with her anger toward the unknown murderer, she told Claire that she had forgiven the young driver whose carelessness had taken the 15-year-old’s life.
And although long-serving editor Jean Wishart is no longer with us, she sure would have wanted to mention the Weekly’s scoop colour coverage of
New Zealand’s first quintuplets. Pictures of parents Sam and Ann Lawson and the babies appeared in the issue of August 30, 1965.”
SARAH- KATE LYNCH 1994 – 1996
“One of my most memorable moments involved, as I’m sure do many other editors, the late Princess Diana. But it wasn’t the story itself that I remember, but rather the pictures and, more specifically, how we got them. It seems ridiculous in this modern internet age, but we used to have to wait days to see photos of the People’s Princess back then. I guess we were sent hard copies? I can’t recall, but what I do recall, crystal clear, is the day, back in the 1990s, when we got ourselves a fancy-pants, new-fangled machine. It meant just moments after the photographer took Princess Diana’s photo arriving at the Serpentine Gallery in her off- the-shoulder black dress (the “revenge” dress) with pearl choker and golden tan, we were receiving them at our Mt Eden office in Auckland. It almost felt like being there.”
WENDYL NISSEN 1996 – 1997
“In February 1997, the Ingham twins, Sarah and Joanne, stowed away on a container ship, then leapt into sharkinfested waters off Queensland. I managed to get their exclusive story through their lawyer and was quite excited as my competitor Woman’s Day had a much bigger chequebook than mine, but I still got the story. I got so carried away with myself, I rang up my friend, photographer Monty Adams, and we did this very arty cover of them both emerging from the water – get it? It was possibly a bit too much for the Woman’s Weekly audience, but I loved that cover and always have. I even entered it for an award, which we didn’t win.”
ROWAN DIXON 1997 – 2003
“The most memorable story during my time at the Weekly wasn’t when I was editing it, but as deputy editor. It was the infamous Ingham twins, who we became obsessed with in 1997. They had stowed away on a Malaysian ship after one of them had fallen for a sailor, jumped overboard off the coast of Queensland and swam through shark-and-crocodile infested waters, and somehow survived in the bush for a
couple of weeks. We put them on the cover, which was one of our best-selling issues, and then later gave them a makeover, and put them on the cover again. That sold even more. They were inarticulate, almost to the point of being impossible to interview, but for a while the New Zealand public couldn’t get enough of them.”
NICKY PELLEGRINO 2003 – 2006
“My most memorable story was Jonah Lomu’s wedding to his second wife Fiona. The whole thing was such a big secret, I couldn’t even tell the rest of the staff. I had to pretend we’d gone to press with a totally different cover story, then surprise them the next day.
It was a lovely wedding on Waiheke Island and such a big exclusive that it was my top-selling issue as editor.
But my real highlight was getting a kiss on the cheek from Jonah – a sweet guy and completely gorgeous.”
SIDO KITCHIN 2006 – 2011
“When you’re in the hot seat, I’m sure all editors feel like we live and die by our covers. I’d love to say it’s the top sellers that are the most memorable from my five years editing the Weekly, but the ones that kept me awake at night were the fails, the cover stories I thought readers would love... but they simply did not! The proof was right there in black and white in the sales.
The Topp Twins, however, have a huge place in Weekly readers’ hearts, as I learnt in my first year as editor in 2006. When Jools Topp bravely revealed she’d been battling breast cancer and had undergone a mastectomy, I took the cover to my two bosses, who hotly debated my choice, mainly because the twins hadn’t been on the telly for some time. But I was eventually allowed to take the risk and it was my topseller of the year.
Jools spoke frankly about the brutality of cancer, but her trademark humour shone through her pain. And readers poured out their love to Jools, whose familiar face had smiled from the cover in her cowboy hat and check shirt. Six months later, after chemotherapy, Jools was on the cover again with twin sister Lynda – but this time Jools was completely bald. It was a confronting cover image for the sentimental Weekly, but almost exactly the same number of women purchased the magazine to find out how Jools was doing.
And when we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Weekly 10 years ago by featuring 75 wonderful Kiwi women we love, Jools was smiling on the cover, where she so rightly belonged... no questions asked!”
SARAH STUART 2011 – 2013
“I had two stints at the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly – one in about 1990 as a junior reporter under the wonderful Jenny Lynch, then one as editor two decades later. Two very different events and probably the biggest and the smallest stories I covered stick out for very different reasons.
The first is when I had only been at the Weekly for a short time as a young, awestruck teenage reporter. I picked up the phone one day to a very recognisable voice on the end of the phone saying, ‘Hi, it’s Angela here. I’m going to get my hair cut later this week
and I wondered if you would like to come and cover it?’
The Angela was the redoubtable Angela D’Audney, a readers’ favourite, very glamorous, but with very, very short hair. Would we really cover a newsreader’s hair trim? The call did cause a bit of a giggle in the newsroom, but our savvy news editor Melanie Jones knew exactly what should be done. ‘You’ll cover it!’ she announced. And so I did, learning quickly that a clever celebrity will make a great story with excellent quotes no matter how immaterial the story may be.
When it comes to big stories at women’s magazines, weddings are almost always the biggest. Royals are the best of all, so I felt very privileged to lead a team of 20 as we tackled the overnight wedding of Kate and William in 2011. Meanwhile, in a design studio across town, Auckland designer Jane Yeh was recreating Kate’s gown. We emailed images over to Jane so that by 10am the next morning, our sleep-deprived team could unveil a full replica to hundreds of cheering royal enthusiasts before it set off on a national tour of Farmers’ stores. It was a magical night to be part of, even from 18,000km away.”
LOUISE WRIGHT- BUSH 2013 – 2014
“Ten days in the editor’s chair, with my second edition printed almost ready for despatch, junior writer Kelly Bertrand (now assistant editor) interrupted a planning meeting with news Sir Paul Holmes had passed away. We halted production, started again and this dedicated editorial team compiled our tribute issue to New Zealand’s greatest broadcaster – in three hours.
There were big international stories during my tenure: Prince George’s birth – the symbol of hope and new beginnings for the British royal family; Nigella Lawson’s heartbreaking domestic violence case; and Angelina Jolie’s elective mastectomy. But it’s the stories of Kiwis that leave the most compelling imprint on me as editor.
I still chuckle about my last issue, at home with the then Prime Minister Sir John Key and Bronagh talking about their 30th wedding anniversary. I warmed to her enormously – the ribbing she gave him for his lack of DIY prowess, yet love of the water blaster, was gold! I asked John if he could tell me when Prince William and Kate were due in New Zealand. He asked me to guess a date. I did. ‘Don’t book a holiday that week,’ he said. A good news tip from the PM!
Then there was our cover with legendary cricketer
Martin Crowe (June 3, 2013), for the first time interviewed and photographed with his daughter Emma, then aged
10. Facing mortality, time was his currency. For him, even though it was unspoken, I knew this story was part of his legacy.
Martin’s book Raw was about to be published. As he ate the hearty pie we’d brought to our interview, he signed me a copy. With my own recent diagnosis, his inscription has even more special meaning – “Remember, through the gloom, light appears.”
And that’s the thing about the Weekly, every story of every New Zealander had some emotional connection to our readers. I strongly believe that’s the reason this magazine endures.”
FIONA FRASER 2014 – 2016
“A lot of what you do with editing a magazine like the Weekly is on instinct. Sometimes you’re way off the mark, other times, it’s a JMC situation. We had something else planned for our cover at the time, but I remember seeing the photos from Jenny-May Coffin’s (as she was then) wedding when they first came across my desk and reading Alice O’Connell’s incredibly moving words. I decided that this was one of those times when you throw the plan out the window.
We mocked up a cover with Jenny-May and Dean on the front – I think the cover line was ‘The TV Star and the Truck Driver’ – and I took it in to the boss. It was an absolute winner – Jenny-May’s story of this really intense love affair that began just when she’d almost given up on finding The One tugged on the heartstrings of hopeless romantics all over the country. Honestly, for about six weeks, Jenny-May’s story was all anyone wanted to ask me about.”
The former actress, graphic artist and journalist joined the Weekly in 1975, and became editor in 1987.
The former editor, who moved from England to New Zealand for love, remembers getting a kiss from the late Jonah Lomu as a perk of the job.
Above: Hold the presses! Louise’s tribute to the late
Sir Paul Holmes was a quick turnaround. Right: Fiona used instinct to guide her decisions.