Real Hovels of News

Smokes and typewriters

Media sage and consultant colleague Gavin Ellis, the former editor-in-chief of the New Zealand Herald, sent in this classic hovel picture from more than 50 years ago. Thanks Gavin.

This is the New Zealand Herald reporters room in 1966-7. In the foreground is chief reporter (NZ equivalent of the Australian chief of staff) Gerry Symmans who later became press secretary to Prime Minister Robert Muldoon. Reporters’ desks were jammed close together — reporters were all at their desks for the photograph but on an average day some would have been out on assignment and others braving the staff cafeteria lovingly dubbed The Greasy Spoon.

The pervasive atmosphere was cigarette smoke (note the ash tray on Symmans’ desk). There was hardly a desk that didn’t have the scars of forgotten fags burnt into the varnish. The Imperial 66 typewriter was the standard issue weapon. 

The picture is from “The New Zealand Herald Manual of Journalism” edited by the late John Hardingham, who went on to become one of the paper’s finest editors. In a chapter of the book on the flow of news, Hardingham wrote “Of all the problems associated with newspaper production, none is so forbidding as the daily challenge of compressing a quart of raw news into a pint pot of space.” Half a century has passed and, irrespective of the medium, nothing has changed on that score.

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