Colin James taking leave of his relentless weekly scribblings

I’ve known of Colin James for a long time. He has been a relatively quiet but thinking political journalist.His work wasn’t about him, it was about his subjects.

He is retiring, and talks a bit about himself and his job in his last post, A lifetime learning. There comes a time.

Journalists live two lives: the inner and the craft.

When David Lange died and the Greens stood in his memory opening their 2005 election campaign, I the journalist stayed sitting while I the inner person behind the journalist secretly stood. There was the same wrench when the Council of Trade Unions conference in 2015 stood in memory of the fine Peter Conway.

The privilege is to spend a lifetime learning.

For a half-century I have had that deeply enriching privilege.

The utu is to listen with respect.

For some, expression is journalism’s pleasure. They are would-be writers and journalism is as close as they can get.

For me, writing it down was the grind. Words shuffled off the keyboard or sat stuttering. They often said to readers different things from what I thought I had said. Words, I found, are wilful and wayward.

Nevertheless, for five decades generous editors and readers encouraged me in my attempts at this exacting craft. They privileged me to go on learning.

So I have had a working life beyond any of my youthful imaginings. It usually scarcely felt like work. I often pinched myself: surely I can’t be here doing this.

My beat was politics and policy, a high privilege. Since politics is power, I met those in power and their advisers and came to understand and respect them, even those I could not admire. Many I the inner person came quietly to like.

Almost all in politics mean well. I learned they are different: they see, or affect to see, only one side of each many-sided story the journalist sees.

And since politics seeps into almost every corner of a nation’s life, I met thousands of interesting people from nearly every walk of life.

Almost all were thoughtful and courteous. The tiny few who were angry or abusive almost all recovered the courtesy and decency that is in everyone when I replied with courtesy and respect.

Courtesy and respect seem to be sadly lacking in a lot of our politics and media, which is a real shame.

The Otago Daily Times set me on this path when young and in my twilight took me in again. It is 50 years since I first left the ODT, shortly afterwards to perch, perchance, in the parliamentary press gallery.

Now, as politics takes a fresh turn, into the post-baby-boom era, it has come time for this baby-boom fellow-traveller to take leave of his relentless weekly scribblings.

Thank you for having me.

Thanks to Colin for contributing and informing us about New Zealand politics so well and for so long.

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