Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Next Act

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  • Ewan Morris,

    This is why all the Father-of-the-Nation burbling these past few days is wrong. He wasn't universally loved.

    An understatement, perhaps, but thanks for saying it. I have no wish to speak ill of the dead, but have been finding the reams of laudatory comment rather hard to take. Thanks for providing a more balanced and thoughtful perspective.

    Since Nov 2006 • 48 posts Report

  • Andre Alessi,

    I wonder how much of the "edge personality" thing is chicken, and how much is egg? It certainly seems there was a conscious drive for a decade or two to push more extreme personalities into highly visible timeslots.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report

  • James W,

    God, this is so much better than the Herald's whitewash of an obituary. I'm really not a fan of ignoring a person's flaws just because they've died; you don't need to dwell on them, but at least be honest.

    Thanks, Russell, a really well-written piece.

    Since Jul 2008 • 136 posts Report

  • Rich of Observationz,

    battlers against the system:
    Alison Annan, Christine Rankin, John Banks, Jim Sprott, Lesley Martin, Nick Smith

    Says it all really. Wealthy criminals*, battling against a system that tries to hold them to account.

    *One or two might not be all that wealthy, or have a conviction, but when you take the union of the two, that's the case, with a substantial overlap.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report

  • Johnny Canuck,

    While there was no doubting his energy, he often rivalled Jim Bolger for inarticulateness. A single coherent sentence was often a long time coming. Two in a row were a triumph.

    Vancouver BC • Since Feb 2013 • 25 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen,

    Holmes couldn’t see it.

    That pretty much defines Holmes for me. There is no doubt he worked like a dog and no doubt he had talent. He used that talent and work ethic to gain a deserved powerful position and then used that position to do some real good.

    But like any human he made mistakes and he had a tendancy (at least in his public persona) to be blind to those mistakes. That for me was always the thing about him (or his public persona) that made me uncomfortable.

    As for tolerating “edge personalities”. Bollocks to that. If you can’t do the job without being a bully or an arse then you shouldn’t be doing the job. That’s less of a criticism of Holmes that of some of those who followed him. I think it’s a massive copout of the managers if they allow staff to behave that way – it may be hard to find someone who can do that job without behaving badly, but the managers aren’t paid to do what is easy.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • andrew r,

    I have zero thoughts on topic. He was successful in his craft. But to me Paul Holmes was mostly about Paul Holmes. I find folk like this tiring.

    auckland • Since May 2007 • 100 posts Report

  • Ana Simkiss,

    Very very good piece Russell. I too am uncomfortable with the whitewashyness of Holmes coverage since and even before his death. Mind you, I think he might have been too. Perhaps it was something he came to later in life but in his last few public utterances he seemed quite aware of his flaws.

    Mixed feelings about the new Seven Sharp. All 3 of the presenters are great and I wish them well. But I just can't imagine who is going to watch it. My impression of TV1's loyal 6-7:30 pm audience is that they are likely to be older, tending conservative and not very into change. Basically my inlaws. All the young-uns watching Shorty or Campbell Live are not likely to switch over surely.

    I will try it out tonight to see if it is as cringey as I expect and then probably switch back to Campbell forever (well, when I'm watching TV at 7) because I like my actual journalism and current affairs. But it would be nice to be pleasantly surprised.

    Freemans Bay • Since Nov 2006 • 141 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to andrew r,

    to me Paul Holmes was mostly about Paul Holmes

    Creature of his time with the whole 'media celeb' culture as Russell notes. But the man's self-regard is why I would have used him as an example for young journalists of how *not* to interview, despite his empathy skills others speak highly of.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    If you can’t do the job without being a bully or an arse then you shouldn’t be doing the job.


    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Geoff Lealand,

    I guess, like others here, I remain ambivalent about Holmes. Last time I saw him in person was at a Wintec ‘’Media Bites’, hosted by Steve Braunias a couple of years ago. As with his other media performances, it was a mixed bag–some wit but some ‘jokes’ that went down like a soupçon of sick,
    But he was deluded in believing that he championed opposition to ‘the Establishment’ for he was very much part of it. How could he possibly perceive of Radio New Zealand as being a organisation dominated by ‘lefties’?
    I think I might have warmed to him more if there had been a little more humility and a little less hubris,

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2562 posts Report

  • Scott Chris,

    Interesting and balanced insight. Thanks Russell.

    For better or worse, Holmes has had a significant impact on the evolution of New Zealand's media culture.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2012 • 167 posts Report

  • Scott Chris, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    But he was deluded in believing that he championed opposition to ‘the Establishment’ for he was very much part of it.


    Auckland • Since Feb 2012 • 167 posts Report

  • Damian Christie,

    Having worked fairly closely with Paul - sort of - over the past 4 years on Q+A (I wrote his opening monologue from the outset, sometimes with, sometimes without his input), channelling his voice etc, I have been struggling with my feelings on the whole topic, and deciding whether the world really needs another piece from a "former colleague". In the end my laziness/busy-ness may win out over my desire to put forth any of my own thoughts on the man and his legacy. We'll see.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report

  • Islander,

    I very rarely watched Paul Holmes - and missed all the 'significant' shows...for me,
    John Campbell is a way better journalist & interviewer.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report

  • Ross Mason, in reply to Damian Christie,

    channelling his voice etc,

    A nightmare....recurring is it? you may need help Damian. Seek it.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report

  • Josie McNaught,

    The thing that stands with all the Holmes hagiography that accompanied him to the grave, is that it took his own death, staring him in the face, for him to finally get some self awareness - something that too few journalists seem to have these days. It means that when you get things wrong, and we all do in journalism especially given its fast pace, you make people's lives a misery. Holmes could be a complete prick with his uninformed, knee-jerk responses. With the backing of Newstalk and TVNZ he clearly thought he was omnipotent back in the day and his cringing mubblings about failed relationships and god - god?! were vile to watch. But do we learn? No we do not. The ghastly breathless rubbish published in Canvas in the weekend about the child TVNZ is marketing as the new 'Holmes', Jack Tame, illustrates that self awareness is still in short supply on the small screen. Like Tame's naive and rather silly views on TV (some drivel about moving around on screen) and his view that having to wear a Hallenstein's suit in his first job was beyond the pale. He also joked about living on $300 a week... lots of people do Jack, and they have a family to feed and are perfectly happy to don any suit - even one from Hallensteins. He's too young to see he is simply being manipulated by the TVNZ marketing people for their own ends and no one really gives a toss about his sartorial views, or anything else. Just report the story, you silly boy and stop being such a prat.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 25 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Josie McNaught,

    and his cringing mubblings about failed relationships and god - god?! were vile to watch.

    Ease up, Josie. We all have to reach our own accord with mortality, and if Holmes in his final days found that in the idea of God, that's his business and his right. I fail to see how it's "vile".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Shaun Lott, in reply to andrew r,

    But to me Paul Holmes was mostly about Paul Holmes.

    As a relative new-comer to these shores, I have always felt that I was missing or had missed something when it came to Paul Holmes - some great feat he had performed back in the day that had allowed him to subsequently have a ubiquitous platform from which to broadcast whatever crossed his mind. But for a long time, I have felt that his primary concern was to maintain his own public profile. Unfair perhaps, but for me the man (or the persona?) had long since got in the way of any message he may have been trying to impart.

    Waitakere • Since Aug 2009 • 113 posts Report

  • Josie McNaught, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Of course he can whitter on about mortality and anything else he likes when he's dying, but if he's doing it in public, and it's breathlessly reported word for word, then he has to expect a reaction - and that was mine. 'Lady' Deborah's pompous pleadings for privacy were almost as bad.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 25 posts Report

  • ThoughtSpur,

    Russell, I think Josie expressed her sense that the interview with Paul Homes felt vile to her. I felt the same way (in part that I was disgusted with my self for being drawn in as a voyeur - in the past I would rather have watched Geordie Shore for insights into the human condition over anything fronted by Mr Holmes).

    You're quite right to say that, if Holmes felt the need to cling to the hope of a paradise as real life slipped away, then that was entirely his affair (and instructive if part of the purpose of the interview was for us to understand him as a subject). After all, he was Paul Holmes not Christopher Hitchens (whose book Mortality is well worth the reading because, unlike the interview in question, it is thought provoking and not maudlin in the least).

    Like so much of what happens on TV a lot of the uncomfortable moments came not from Holmes' words, but from the editing and the line of questioning and the feeling that 'reality' is whatever we are led by the nose to believe.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2007 • 15 posts Report

  • Cecelia,

    I felt a real sense of sadness when I saw a frail and dying Paul Holmes but I was never a fan. I remember that the best week or fortnight on Holmes was when Linda Clark presented it way back when.

    Hibiscus Coast • Since Apr 2008 • 559 posts Report

  • TracyMac, in reply to Shaun Lott,

    Don't worry, I've lived here most of my life, and I never got the fascination with Holmes either. Nearly all of the causes he espoused - and I include Eve Van Grafhorst in this - had an air of the dogwhistle about them (in that instance, while he was probably genuinely shocked at Eve's treatment, there was a big helping of "We're better than those Aussies" about it).

    Thanks for the balanced obit, Russell, and here's hoping that will be the end of all the slavering from the rest of the media. This past couple of weeks of pre-obits has been incredibly irritating. I think the only day when there wasn't a story was the day before he actually passed away.

    I'd also be interested if Damian can crank something out, because I'd like to understand what the fascination was with this so-called champion of the "underdog" was (John Banks? Don't make me larf).

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to TracyMac,

    John Banks? Don't make me larf

    Holmes' picture of him wearing drag, right when he was getting bitter on gays, made me larf. I think that's the nice memory I have of Paul Holmes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Hebe, in reply to Josie McNaught,


    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2899 posts Report

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