Last Friday I looked, as is my wont, for my Friday fix of Jim Hopkins in the NZ Herald, but alas my search was fruitless.
Neither a column nor an explanation for its absence were there.
This morning I looked more in hope than expectation and found to my delight he’s back but only fortnightly as, I gather, is the case for other columnists who aren’t on the Herald’s staff.
Tough times no doubt lead to tough decisions but this isn’t the right one for writer or reader.
For several years I wrote a weekly column for the ODT, then I got a call from the editor saying they wanted to reduce my contribution to a fortnightly one and the space left in alternate weeks would be filled by a staff writer.
That was the beginning of the end. When I was doing the weekly column I established a pattern: gather ideas and mull them over, mentally writing, discarding errant phrases and refining the ones that worked while I was doing whatever else needed doing until a couple of days before deadline. Then I rang the friend who did a picture to accompany my words to tell her what the column was going to be about, the next day I wrote it and began gathering ideas . . .
The fortnightly deadline broke the rhythm, two weeks was too far away to start the gathering of ideas for anything which might be topical by publication date and the week off in between made it much harder to get the creative flow going again.
I approached other editors in the hope of getting a weekly stint, or a space in the alternate fortnight but they weren’t interested.
The difficulty with the stop-start writing was my problem but the fortnightly offering didn’t work for readers either, they kept telling me they couldn’t find the column and then they stopped looking for it because they thought I’d given up.
The Herald may not be worried that they’re making writing more difficult for columnists but they ought to be concerned about disappointing their readers.
Unless it’s considerably more generous to its freelancers than other papers, cutting their contributions in half isn’t going to save much money. But every cent counts and if they think this is a necessary economy measure, they’d be better to get rid of half their contributers rather than halving the output from them all.
That said, I don’t want Hopkins to be one of those that goes. He’s one of very few satirists writing in New Zealand and as such he should be accorded the respect due to a member of that endangered species which has both the wit and words to poke the borax at those in high and not so high places.
Take this from today’s column, for example:
The fact that senior people in gummint departments aren’t able to write a decent letter suggests we’ve got an education system so useless it can’t even teach kids how to light a fire by rubbing two policy analysts together.
But that’s a story for another day. The point here is, if anything, even more disturbing. It turns out Winz has been dashing off lots of “badly written” letters. Seriously! Judge for yourself …
You can judge more for yourself by reading more here.