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Open letter To Robyn Langwell From NZ Truth

15 July 2005

Robyn Langwell Editor

North and South

Oh dear,

Your media pundit and husband Warwick Roger has woken up and discovered adultery is no longer the principal grounds for divorce.

Divorce has, in fact, been uncontested for over 40 years and Truth would be hard-pressed to publish “real” stories based on the evidence of a forgotten species, co-respondents.

And he has obviously overlooked last year’s prostitution reform.

In his August Media Matters column he makes a curious racism-tinged reference to “the pleasures of the East” provided by Truth’s advertisers, and questions whether these are some of the people Winston Peters rails against.

Prostitution is now a legal trade, whether or not Roger likes it. Given the decline of both North and South and the publication he once edited, Auckland Metro (which now has a lower circulation than Truth’s), Roger is on dangerous ground when he fires potshots over lame performance.

Perhaps he would like to compare a different measure – bottom lines. But given his apparently prudish aversion to the pleasures of the East and suchlike, I’m sure he would modestly decline.

Truth has been alive for 100 years. Metro’s and North and South’s rates of erosion indicate far shorter life-spans.

George Orwell once wrote an essay on the early 20th century British literary phenomenon the Penny Dreadful.

Those publications appealed to much the same segment of society as Truth. Orwell’s essay was critical, but it was also objective, fair-minded and wonderfully well written – all of which distinguish it from Roger’s piece.

But then Orwell was sympathetic to the working class. Roger, who grew up on the poorer outskirts of Remuera, and writes as though he spent much of his childhood peering enviously over his back fence, has shown repeatedly in his work that he has turned his back on his origins.

His remaining readers will not be surprised by his excessive use of the first person singular.

But “when I was a lad” the use of that phrase as an intro, followed by “when I was” repeated at the start of the next two sentences, would have led to humiliation at the hands of the chief sub-editor, chief reporter or, in the case of small papers, the editor.

This is hardly the standard of writing expected of a self-appointed Horatio of New Zealand letters such as Roger.

Truth is certainly no longer the “old thunderer” that Roger recalls.

But nostalgia has a way of re-painting scenes far brighter than the original.

A casual glance at the first page of our library’s bound volume for July-December 1965 shows an editorialising lead headed: Tour Looks Like a Bok Flop.

The intro thunders: Sadly for New Zealand rugby, this Springbok tour could be one of the greatest farces of modern football.

The front-page picture story shows then-Prime Minister Keith Holyoake standing next to a Chrysler Valiant Regal outside Parliament Buildings. Readers are told these pictures appear in Chrysler magazines worldwide. Hardly stunning stuff.

Roger questions whether a league column would be more appropriate than my boxing column. He implies that the “ubiquitous Jim Mahoney” is also the egotistical Jim Mahoney, who made the decision to publish his own work week by week. I began writing my boxing column for Truth in 1998. I was appointed editor last year.

He says there are few pro fights in New Zealand, yet the Auckland Boxing Association has been holding such tournaments almost monthly for the past five years.

Once again, Roger, who I have never seen at a boxing match, is confused. I suggest he does his homework better in future. I also suggest that in his quest for soft targets he look at Marvel comics.

He might make another stunning discovery – there isn’t much text! But Marvel comics post-dated his youth and will probably be overlooked.

Roger’s career has been distinguished, if that is the right word, by cheap shots at fellow journalists.

Unfortunately, in this case, if he will permit me a boxing metaphor rather than the no-doubt-more-appropriate league analogy, he appears to be writing from memory.

Jim Mahoney

Editor, New Zealand Truth


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