a love letter to the lost magazines of aotearoa

My parents really like reading the newspapers in the morning. They’re a little older than most, have spent slightly more time on this earth, and they always like sitting down with the newspaper at about ten am —scattered orange light filtering through the leaves of the plum tree outside, while mum drinks her coffee (instant, with milk) and dad occasionally throws out news headlines to the world at large, though no-one is really listening.

I never really got into the newspaper. For the most part, learning about boring things going on in the world never interested me as a kid, when I could be reading about the Baudelaire orphans trying to escape evil Count Olaf, or Nancy Drew solving mysteries.

What I did like, however, was the Listener.

Most Saturdays, my father would drag me out of the house, along with the dog, and we’d take a trip to the dairy on Ormond Road to get the papers. It wasn’t our local, wasn’t anywhere near it, but my dad liked it, so that was where we went.

I wasn’t that reluctant, really, because as soon as I was in the car, I would schmooze up to my dad to get him to give me ten cents — or so — so I could buy eskimos, or licorice, or the immensely superior sour cherry coke bottles as my payment for going into the dairy itself to pickup the paper.

(It usually worked.)

I’d shove the papers themselves aside on the drive home, because I didn’t much care for them, to find what I was truly looking for.

The Listener.

The pages were just tactiley-interestingly enough that I could find it without even really having to look, and though, as a kid, I wasn’t that interested in most of the stories, there was always something fun I looked at. Whether it was flipping to the section about the movies coming up on our screens for the next week, or looking at the political cartoons or quips from around the country, the Listener’s been a part of my life almost as long as I remember.

Even as I grew up, moved out of home and went to uni, my parents would still cut out articles from the Listener and send them to me. When a show I was working on was lucky enough to get a bit of press, they sent me the article about it. I’ve still got a Phil Parker cartoon from around the time of the 2016 election stashed somewhere in my pile of notebooks, and I always used to catch on the columns I could online.

It wouldn’t be too far fetched to think that some of the tone of my writing comes from reading fantastically-written humorous columns when I was far too young.

But it’s not just the Listener.

Plane flights are the bane of my life, but even amongst staving off panic attacks, stuck in a metal tube 32,000 ft in the air, I’d always take the time to read the Kia Ora magazine, trace the outlines of the little planes in the back few pages with my fingers and look at fantastic holidays I’d never be able to afford.

Though I didn’t much care for the subject matter, I would always flip through Women’s Day when I was waiting at the doctor’s office, catching up on goss that was only about six months out of date.

North and South held well-researched, leafy-green pieces about Aotearoa’s people and places, and I always followed Metro, despite not ever being an Aucklander, because of the sheer quality of its writing and excellent opinion articles (as well as just… comedy. Just good, good comedy.)

These magazines were a part of my childhood, and a part of my adulthood too, and it’s unthinkable to consider what we’ve lost today.

Bauer Media — the owner of the publications listed above — announced its closure of its New Zealand company. 200+ members of staff — journalists, writers, editors, photographers, designers and the like, all laid off, due, at least mostly, to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though the magazines differ in genre, and not all have been around since the 1930s, they’ve all been a part of Aotearoa’s media landscape for generations, shaping and challenging New Zealanders through most of the biggest events of our history.

I owe a lot to these publications, and so do many, many other New Zealanders.

It’s heartbreaking to consider what we’ve just lost.

Much love to everyone affected by the closure of these publications.

If you have the means, now is the time to support the journalists in your life. Become a member of the Spinoff today, and support independent journalism in New Zealand. The Herald and other such publications have their own ways to subscribe too.

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kiwi theatremaker and artist.

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