I have seen huge changes in the terminology and technology used to produce newspapers during nearly 50 years in the industry. I learnt “hot metal” was not an alternative description of thrash metal just as “cold type” did not mean a frigid virgin. Now, as a fully paid-up member of the Old Farts Club, I barely understand what is meant today by “platforms” — except they are not referring to places where you catch trains.
In 1971, armed with a newspaper journalism certificate from Wellington Polytechnic, I went to Timaru and the Kerr-family owned Timaru Herald .I chose Timaru because I had no relatives there who might report my misdeeds to my parents.
There were three cadets: me and two boys who had to try out for the court and police round. Two senior reporters and the editor, George Gaffney, agreed it should be me.
I used to go to every court session with wads of copy paper and carbon paper. I would have to write the court cases out by hand and then sit while Gaffney subbed it. I never got anything wrong twice. We did everything, including traffic cases.
The editorial staff was overwhelmingly male, except for the Lady Editor (I kid you not). A couple of women joined the staff while I was there.
On Sundays the poorest-paid staff (the cadets) had to work. One of our jobs was sports results. If we couldn’t get them right, we would be made to redo them. Thanks to the strict discipline, I now know how to read a cricket scorebook and write a story from one. That was a huge achievement as, to my father and the rest of Ma¯ oridom, cricket was even more alien than soccer.
The Timaru Herald was an eyeopener. For a start it had classified advertisements on the front page. It didn’t move to news on the front page until 1977. Its printed words were typed out of lead which was melted and recycled. It was dirty looking, typical of the hot-metal papers.
I had came from Rotorua where I was used to reading the Daily Post, which was one of the pioneers in the cold-type presentation of papers — no melting pots of lead, just typesetters and compositors who cut up strips of paper ready for the camera.
I worked at the Daily Post in two stretches, as a reporter and years later as a sub.
Subs used to shoot stories for the paper in little round perspex containers down a Lamason tube to the printers. If a story had wider appeal than Rotorua, a carbon copy would be taken to the Post Office and sent by teleprinter to the offices of the New Zealand Press Association in Wellington and thence to the rest of the country.
Between Timaru and Rotorua I worked as sole charge reporter at the Putaruru Press and as a reporter on the South Waikato News in Tokoroa.
I hadn’t got the restlessness out of my soul so I went to Hastings where I worked in the Napier office of the Hastings-based Hawke’s Bay Herald Tribune.
I returned to Rotorua the week Elvis Presley died in August, 1977.
NZ HERALD & MORE TRAGEDY
In 1986, I went to the New Zealand Herald in Auckland. I loved working at the Herald and I loved Auckland.
But it was one of the most testing times of my life.
I had a lovely man, my soul mate and the reason I moved to Auckland. His name was Paddy Poumako and I met him in Tokoroa where I boarded with his parents while I worked on the South Waikato News. Paddy was a soldier and we lived in Papakura Camp until he was posted to Waiouru. We bought a house at Manukau and planned to return to Rotorua in about three years when he retired from the army. But in August 1988 he was involved in a head-on collision. A speeding driver came too fast round a corner near Tirau. Paddy suffered critical injuries and died in Waikato Hospital about 24 hours later.
I really appreciated the presence of then subeditor Rod Pascoe and chief subeditor at the time, Gerry Wallis, at his funeral in Nga¯ puna and the sensitive treatment I received on my return to work. Sometimes, even months later, I found it difficult to even get out of bed. The editorial management team went the extra mile for me and never docked my pay. From that time on they had my undivided loyalty.
I was in at the start when the Herald introduced “new technology”, as a member of the team that tested “direct editorial input”. Gavin Ellis was our team leader. It was exciting to be involved in such a major project and we wrote the user manual and trained the reporters and subs — the younger reporters easier to train than the older subs! The sports guys took the cake. We established a good rapport and I didn’t mind going at a speed that suited them.
For a short time I was the Herald’s chief subeditor, but that didn’t work out — probably because I was too different.
Luckily for me the Herald needed a racing sub. I didn’t know anything about racing but those guys taught me what I needed to know about it and I’m a quick study and was eager to learn.
Racing was just across the way, so I filled in for them, too, which helped when I went to the Herald on Sunday whose first edition was published on October, 3, 2004.
Even though I retired in 2006 to