Regional media will need more good bastards like Fred Tulett

I don’t think Fred Tulett got the better of me when we were both newspaper editors but, in death, he has achieved something to which I could never aspire: He filled the front page of his old publication with news of his demise.

I doubt that I will merit a page three brief when I head for the great newsroom in the sky, let alone sole occupancy of the front page of the New Zealand Herald.

Last Wednesday the Southland Times relegated a story about a drink-diver being discharged without conviction (despite being caught driving at double the legal alcohol limit) in order to celebrate the life of the man who had been at its editorial helm for 15 years. On Saturday the paper marked his 50-year career again with another half-page story in the obituaries section.

The author of both pieces, Michael Fallow, observed in the weekend obituary that Fred would have ‘gone crook’ about hogging the front page. And he would have done so with gusto. The man who I described on Facebook last week as “a hard bugger but a good bugger” did not mince his words and the front page was hallowed turf. He would have wanted the drunk driver ‘up front’, or maybe the story of a trainee doctor missing meals to pay her rent.

Fred Tulett certainly had his unique qualities – a voice made for radio that was sentenced to echo off the walls of a newspaper office – but he also represented a class of journalists with two distinct and seemingly mutually exclusive qualities – bloody-minded independence and the willingness to champion a cause. Continue reading “Regional media will need more good bastards like Fred Tulett”