Reminiscences

Diana Goodman honorary doctorate

 

As part of the celebrations to mark 50 years of the Journalism School, in 2016 Massey awarded an honorary doctorate to Diana Goodman (class of ’70).

The award was made by Fran Wilde, a graduate of the founding year of the full-time course (class of ’66).

In this video of their speeches, both Diana and Fran include their reminiscences of their time on the course.

Noel Harrison interview by Carey Clements

Interviews by Miri Schroeter and Julie Iles

Kevin Milne and Judy Bailey having fun during their polytech year.

Judy Bailey and Kevin Milne

Famous Kiwi broadcasters Judy Bailey and Kevin Milne both attended the Wellington Polytechnic journalism course in 1970. Years later, they recalled their experiences in their autobiographies.

Our thanks to Judy, Kevin and their publishers for allowing us to reproduce these extracts and the photo.

Judy Bailey was still a teenager when she applied for journalism school…

Much to my father’s dismay, I was intent on becoming a journalist.  Dad was less than enthusiastic probably because he’d been on the receiving end of negative press as Chief of Air Staff. I, on the other hand, was full of crusading zeal and thought the Fourth Estate could change the world. Not surprisingly, we had some fierce debates, but once he realised I had made up my mind he had no option but to support me.

I had heard the Wellington Polytechnic School of Journalism was the best in the country, so I applied there and was called in for an interview.

There were five tutors at the school: Christine Cole Catley (who headed the course), Keith Gunn, Peter Trickett, Tony Curtain and Judy Callingham. They were all thoroughly approachable people so I wasn’t too intimidated. I knew they would probably want to quiz me on current affairs, so I’d boned up on the papers and felt reasonably confident. But then came the question: Who is Barbara Castle and what is she famous for? I knew she was the British Minister of Transport – but what on earth was she famous for? And then I had it – she was Minister of Transport but she couldn’t drive a car! But it wasn’t the answer they were looking for. Apparently, she instituted compulsory seatbelts for all drivers – but, hey, trivia was good too! So on the strength of the interview, and against their better judgement because I was only seventeen, I was accepted.

The course was divided into two specialities – news and magazine journalism. I enrolled for the magazine side of the course.

The Journalism Department was housed in a rabbit warren of prefabs. The first day of the new semester rolled around and I turned up uncharacteristically early as I knew it would be tricky to find my way around. I followed the signs for the Journalism diploma and found myself in a prefab with an eclectic mix of stroppy, opinionated fellow students, among whom was Kevin Milne. I thought, this is great!

We’d been in class for most of the morning when it eventually dawned on me that my navigating had let me down – I was in the wrong prefab! This particular course had nothing to do with magazines and everything to do with news. I should have moved, but by then I was already a goner, seduced by news. So it was that my career in news came about completely by accident.

The diploma course was a year-long intensive one, during which we were given the basics of reporting practice. It was very much geared to print media and a career in broadcast journalism was frowned upon. You were expected to earn your stripes on newspapers because that was where “real” journalists worked!

We had drummed into us those five fundamental questions that are the basis of every news story – Who, What, When, Where and Why? We also learnt how to negotiate our way through the minefield of New Zealand’s defamation laws. We were expected to produce our own newspaper and were very quickly out on the road unearthing our own stories. It was heaven!

In the holidays we were expected to work in a branch of the media. I opted to get into an NZBC newsroom. [NZBC was the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, which ran the government-owned television and radio stations]. I applied to go to Christchurch and, joy of joys, was accepted!

One of my first assignments involved going out to get a radio interview.  It was an important story that was to be included in the evening bulletin.

“Can you operate a tape recorder?” I was asked.

Well, I wasn’t going to own up to being completely incompetent, so of course I said, “Yes.”

“This is absolutely idiot-proof. See – stop button, go button, pause button.”

Off I went for my very first solo job, full of the confidence of the very young. The interview went really well. In the middle I pressed pause to gather my thoughts, then we continued and finished it off. I raced back to the office, flushed with success.

“I’ve got it – he was great, said some wonderful stuff. Listen!”

I pressed replay. And there it was – my fatal mistake – half an interview. I’d forgotten to release the pause button. So much for idiot-proof tape recorders. Remarkably, my dear boss was his usual understanding self.

The polytech year continued in a haze of cigarette smoke – most of us smoked in class, and by day’s end you could scarcely see from one end of the room to the other – and endless assignments.

My polytech year drew to a close and final exams were held. I managed to graduate near the top of the class. First was John Bowie, who eventually eschewed journalism for a successful legal career. David Boddy and I shared second place. He went on to become Maggie Thatcher’s speechwriter – sold his sold to the politicians and did very nicely, thank you!

It was time to hustle for a job. My tutors disapproved of my passion for broadcasting. They felt I’d gain a much better grounding by working on a newspaper before venturing into the rather flashy, rarefied air of television. I was not to be diverted though – I’d set my heart on a job with the NZBC and nothing less would do. Fortunately, my technical ineptitude had been overlooked in Christchurch and the NZBC offered me a job, and so I headed south.

 

Kevin Milne was 20 years old and working as a bank clerk when he decided on a career change…

I rang Wellington Polytechnic and was put through to a woman who told me she was one of the journalism tutors. I told her my situation and that I was keen to take the course. She said I didn’t quite meet the academic criteria, but given I’d had some life experience she’d be happy to arrange an interview.

That woman turned out to be Judy Callingham, now a successful writer and broadcaster, and married to Brian Edwards. When we met for the interview in Wellington, she had with her the chief tutor of the course, Christine Cole Catley.

The interview went well and I was duly invited to take the course. I was ecstatic. My mother was happy for me but was suspicious of journalism as a long-term career – a bit bohemian.

After I got to know Judy Callingham – we worked together on Fair Go – she told me that, when I called, she couldn’t get over how sexy my voice was. She was dying to meet the young man behind the voice. That’s why she arranged the interview. She also confided, in the nicest possible way, that when I fronted up she was more than a little disappointed.

Christine Cole Catley recalled that after interviewing me, she mentioned to her husband that a young bank clerk was wanting to get on the course. Her husband replied, “For goodness’ sake, put him on. Could there be anything worse in the world than working in a bank?” So she did – and, in doing so, changed my life.

I think of 1970, my year at journalism school, as maybe the best year of my life. From the first day, I knew it was for me. I graduated one of the top students.

We had many excellent tutors but Christine Cole Catley was the heart and soul of that course – the course mother. She would support her students’ endeavours to the hilt. We all felt a very special affinity with Chris and I certainly credit her with much of my later success.

There were outstanding people on that particular course, some of whom I still work with. Then there was this gorgeous, charming, long-haired 18-year-old brunette, with the rather plummy voice – Judy Morrison. You may know her by her married name, Judy Bailey. Judy and I became great friends.

Towards the end of the polytech year, Judy and I were among the small number invited by the editor of NZBC news, Ben Coury, to join the corporation as journalists. It was as easy as that.

From:
Judy Bailey. (2006). My Own Words. Auckland: Penguin.
Kevin Milne. (2010). The Life and Times of a Brown Paper Bag. Auckland: Random House.
Reproduced by permission.

The Way it Was - 1973

By Megan Richards

It’s 44 years since I was shipped to Wellington to become a journalist.

This was a default position really – I was no good at maths or science.

At my interview for a place on the 1973 intake I cheerfully admitted to the panel that my knowledge of world affairs began and ended with the daily cartoon in The Press.
I’m pretty sure their notes would have read “Knows nothing. Can talk. Put her down for Broadcasting..”

On the long ferry sailing from Lyttelton to Wellington I achieved the first requisite of journalism as we knew it then. I learned to smoke.

It took hours and considerable determination to overcome disgust and nausea but by the time I stepped ashore --17 years old, a little wide-eyed, clutching a small suitcase and a large, fluffy stuffed dog -- I was well on my way to my new status as a 60-a-day chain smoker. I was very pleased.

Jim Hartley was our course leader; an amiable Irishman who wore a permanent expression of tolerant exasperation – the look of a zookeeper whose primate charges had run amok again.

When things went wrong and there was a gap in the schedule, in desperation Jim would suggest a singalong to fill the time. We always obliged, with a raucous and hyperbolic rendition of ‘Danny Boy’.

I often felt sorry for Jim.

My class tutor was Brian Joyce. I saw him a few years back just before he died and he was the same then as he’d always been; laconic, kind, a little brusque and disinclined to make a fuss.

He had a natural bent for pastoral care and I got good advice and free counselling, particularly as I stumbled into a relationship with another student on our course who, eventually, I married.

Characteristic of the times, this student’s dress sense ran to shabby corduroys, a sagging jumper of indeterminate green with fraying cuffs, and a mass of waist-length hair from which protruded a fine Jewish nose and a single shark’s tooth earring.

I took this apparition home one holiday and my parents were duly aghast.

I hated Wellington at first. It seemed bleak, dirty and windblown until I discovered my future in-laws’ home high in Kelburn and saw the city and the harbour from a more comfortable perspective.

Home for me in Wellington, at least at first, was in Thorndon in a rambling wooden boarding house for young ladies, run jointly by Maori Affairs and the Anglican Church.

My parents, alarmed at the prospect of a wilful teenage daughter let loose in the capital, thought this would be a safe place.

Every Wednesday the Anglican Minister came to visit, for religious observance.

“Gels! Gels!” he trilled. “Let us gather together to give thanks for the wonderful food Matron provides!”

There were weevils in the food; I’d not met weevils previously. Even so I ate, and ate fast - a bad habit I’ve retained to this day. Portions were small, we were hungry, and ‘seconds’ were limited.

The cook was a graduate of the Porirua mental hospital, as were others on the staff. If too many of us pressed against the servery hatch, jostling for a second helping, she backed away moaning, hands in the air.

She died in her room not long after I arrived, from blood poisoning caused by a cut finger. Apparently she had no spleen.

One of the other refugees from Porirua was a red-headed woman who had suffered the unthinkable tragedy of accidentally killing her own child, run over on the driveway of her home.

She wanted to go to the media over working conditions for mental health patients on outplacement, whose employers were said to be threatening to return them to the psychiatric hospital if they didn’t do as they were told.

There were huddled conferences in the bedrooms of the boarders, and they asked my advice. From my lofty perch as a nearly-journalist a few weeks into the course, I counselled them not to do it. A bunch of teenage girls and an officially deranged woman were no match for the authorities I feared. I told them they risked losing control of the story and further damaging our red-haired friend.

I was probably right, but it would have been a good story.

There was a second death within 3 months - a very beautiful Maori girl named Pearl was killed in a car crash when her forehead smashed into the rear vision mirror . The boarding house was plunged into sorrow, and I left.

I found a damp basement flat cut into the hillside in Hataitai. There was black mould growing on the wall next to the bed and I promptly got a chest infection that lasted for months.
Money was tight. I wore jandals all winter and got a job as a cleaner at The Dominion, where I was shocked by the casual dirtiness of my journalistic role models who left me paper cups half full of cold coffee and cigarette butts every night.

Then Matt Bennett was killed. Matt was on our course. He died in a motorbike crash in Tirau. He was the son and only child of my landlords, who lived above me, and I was driven from the flat by the sound of the footsteps as his grief-stricken father paced endlessly overhead.

In between all this, we somehow picked up shorthand and touch-typing (I still have to look when it comes to numbers) and did battle with intros and mixed tenses. I got over my phone phobia, got some good stories, got signed up for a cadetship at the Napier Daily Telegraph, got a future husband and at the end of the year got a prize that was just exactly enough money to pay for my air ticket back to Christchurch for Christmas.

Not exactly a breeze, but not a bad year’s work.

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