An old school reporter retires

A lot of things have changed significantly in New Zealand and in the world over the last fifty years. One of those things is journalism along with the means of distributing news and views.

Dave Cannan started as a cadet reporter for the Otago Daily Times in 1970, moved on to work for newspapers in Christchurch and Timaru before returning to the ODT where he rose to the position of chief reporter in the first decade of this century.

To mark his retirement from the newspaper business the ODT has a profile of him and his career as a reporter.

ODT: It’s news to us all

”The Wash” wound up on Friday last week. In a strange twist of timing, it also marked the 65th birthday of Cannan, who is putting behind him a career in journalism that has spanned almost five decades – specifically, since January 20, 1970, when a 17-year-old Mosgiel youth started as a cadet reporter at the Otago Daily Times. Back then, New Zealand had yet to hear of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe (killed six months later at Pukekawa, Waikato). The same year, John Rowles sold a million copies of his single Cheryl Moana Marie, and Hogsnort Rupert claimed a Loxene Golden Disc Award for Pretty Girl.

I was still at school then but remember those things – I followed the Arthur Allan Thomas trial in the ODT, but I wasn’t a fan of either Rowles or Hogsnort Rupert.

Anyway, after being sent home from Wanaka by mum, I saw an ad in the ODT for an apprentice photo-lithographer. I got an interview – which was in the old ODT building at Queen’s Gardens – and basically got offered the job. But I mentioned I was interested in a job as a reporter and was taken up to the editorial department to see [then chief of staff] Clarke Isaacs.

”(In those days – and until the early 1990s – the ODT took on youngsters as cadet journalists; they started on the bottom rung of the ladder, typically learning their craft from a variety of industry veterans.)

”It was pretty rough and tumble and not particularly politically correct, you might say. But you got to learn from people like Clarke and from senior reporters.

”Once I got the job I had to get my head around what reporters actually do. As a cadet you’d get some menial tasks – the fruit and vegetable column,  the fire calls, the shipping news – but they were a good way to learn the basics of the craft, from ringing people up to checking your facts and figures.”

Details of his reporting career follow that, to:

Appointed chief reporter in 1999, Cannan looks back with some pride on his tenure of what is, typically, one of the most challenging positions in daily journalism.

”I’d been deputy for a while, so had a taste of it, but, when I think about it now, I had no managerial training. In journalism, if you are any good, you just get pushed up the ladder.

”I was chief reporter for nine and a-half years. It’s an emotional, passionate job. You live and breathe it. And sometimes, perhaps, I rode rough-shod over someone’s feelings.

”I probably upset a lot of people because I did it my way. I tried to lead by example and got it wrong a few times. I made mistakes and annoyed a few people. Looking back, I was probably in too much of a hurry to get things done.

”But the buck ultimately stops with you. You have to believe in yourself. If you don’t, you’re buggered. There was a lot of pressure to that, a lot of long hours.”

From what I’ve heard it was not a glamorous or particularly well paid job, but it was hard work.

This is an interesting profile of an old school reporter.