Cheers to you

by Pamela Stirling / 02 June, 2007

First, a thank you. The Listener was named Best News-stand Magazine at the Qantas Media Awards last week and every one of us here recognises the part our stimulating and influential readers played in winning that award.

If we were to believe the modern myths we'd have to simply accept that you couldn't be bothered reading a weekly current affairs magazine. According to the new wisdom, we've got 15 seconds on average before you turn the page. We don't buy that. You're too hooked on the internet to read? You're too busy flicking TV channels? Not true. We've read your letters - the best in the business - and we've talked to you. You love to read; you love to form your own opinions, love to engage in conversation.

And you support this magazine with a passion. The Listener has a circulation more than twice that of its nearest current affairs competitor and has an outstandingly loyal subscriber base. In fact, you support the Listener to such an extent that it sells more copies in New Zealand than the Bulletin sells in Australia.

Why? The judges say this magazine runs "stories that matter". Its acclaimed columnists include the superb Jane Clifton, who won Best Political Columnist and Best Columnist overall at the Qantas awards. At a time when we're witnessing via the internet the greatest explosion of individual self-expression the world has ever seen but where, paradoxically, there is at times less informed comment than ever before, columnists like Jane richly deserve professional recognition. The judges said, "Jane Clifton's patch is politics and she revels in its characters and machinations. Her insight and wickedly keen observations are delivered in stylish, incisive and entertaining prose. A columnist at the top of her game."

And then there is Joanne Black. Joanne won the award for Best Editorial Writer - beating out every newspaper leader writer. The judges praised Joanne as a confident and strong advocate whose editorials are challenging and informing.

This magazine has always had terrific writers. Bruce Ansley's 1995 article at the conclusion of the David Bain trial, reprinted in this issue, was so influential at the time that Joe Karam quoted it 12 years later as a motivating force. The situation has, of course, changed and this publication has argued that a new jury should have the opportunity to examine all the evidence - with an open mind.

Bruce still writes Inbox pieces but he is right now on a houseboat in France and his replacement as our South Island writer starts this week. We're delighted to welcome Rebecca Macfie, until now Deputy Editor of the New Zealand Herald's magazine The Business (which also just won a Qantas award). Rebecca has previously edited Unlimited magazine and has won many personal awards for her writing on business and human relations.

Rebecca joins a respected team that includes Deputy Editor Denis Welch, whose authoritative report on the "Disarming of New Zealand" won a Qantas award for Best Government, Diplomacy & Foreign Affairs magazine article. Other winners were staff writer Sarah Barnett, for her "Pain in Paradise" piece about Aids in the Pacific, and former Listener writer Nick Smith.

But there is a whole team of dedicated, passionate and talented people, including subeditors and a design and photo? graphy team, who put together this magazine. We aim to produce a compelling magazine that is not afraid to rattle a few cages but which is a positive, energising force in this nation's life. We know you want a publication with heart and humour; and a magazine that does not just shout from the sidelines but also gets involved - it's our pleasure this week to join the Royal Society and Bill Manhire in launching a new writing prize.

We could put together a whole book of humorous out-takes - including Jane Clifton's recent attempt, for example, to get a quick quote on deadline from a brain expert: the neurologist she'd been put in contact with turned out to be a urologist. (And, no, he assured her he wasn't taking the ...)

But the National Business Review's Mediawatch column praising the Listener late last year for the way it has refreshed itself, was generous enough to call this publication a must-read that "deserves to be purchased". It's what you tell us, too. You don't want a glossy magazine. You don't want a publication full of celebrities. You just want a magazine that covers the things that matter. Thank you.

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