Why weren’t these blokes all over The Herald on Monday?

My (poor, long-suffering) wife Delia gave me her ‘really, you’re going to bust a blood vessel if you go on like this, it CAN’T possibly be THAT important,’ look as I threw the NZ Herald’s business and sport Liftout down in disgust on Monday morning.

“But they’ve bloody well done it again,” I spluttered. “Put stupid f…k…g cricket and Sonny-Bloody-Bill Williams on the cover and given Scott, Shane and Fabian, what, four columns and 300 words written by a 14-year-old in the inside back (page)?

“Wankers. Bloody wankers…….”

So, there was never any question what my column was going to be about this week.

The only thing was I wouldn’t normally use a word like ‘wanker’ in a column like this one because I know that not everyone reading it shares the same easy way ‘so-called’ ‘bad’ language mixes with the ‘good’ when I open my mouth.

However, I Googled ‘wanker’ and decided that the definition provided  – (that of ‘a contemptible person’ used as a general term of abuse) meant that there wasn’t a better word for what I wanted to say.

As I delved further into the etymology (defined as the change in the meaning of words over time) of the word in the Urban Dictionary, I found, in fact, that the term ‘wanker’ had lost its primarily sexual meaning.

Instead, apparently, it is now perceived as a general slang term (albeit only in the UK, Aust & NZ) for someone ‘useless, inefficient or time-wasting, especially in a place of work and/or position of responsibility.’

To that end, I dedicate this column to all the, er, ‘useless, inefficient and/or time wasting individuals’ out there who have wasted my – and by association, your – time as I have tried to either promote myself, someone I have been working with, or the activity of motor racing itself through the media.

Wanker #1 in my (sadly now rather long) list of people who I would charitably describe as ‘no friends of the sport’ once told me in an email that the activity I was promoting at the time did not ‘sell newspapers.’

When (I thought) quite naturally I emailed the bugger back pointing out that I thought he was wr…..g, er ‘not right’ and that I would appreciate he reconsider my offer – free to him and his stinking Sunday bloody rag by the way – of a 100-150 word ‘ who won, what where?’ story plus a guaranteed spectacular colour photo delivered no later than 4.00pm on a Saturday afternoon (which was at least two full hours BEFORE his usual deadline), instead of a simple ‘thanks but no thanks, mate’ reply I got both barrels.

It’s years since I deleted his spittle-infused rant about what a ‘wanker??’ I was for even suggesting such a travesty but the gist I got out of it was that the only picture that ‘sold newspapers’ was one of a rugby player dressed in black and unless I was offering him one of those I might as well whistle Dixie.

The silly thing was, that – initially anyway – at the time I had a really good working relationship with the bloke who’s responsibility it was – to put motorcycle racing into the sports pages of The Herald – and he (so he told me a year to so later) just happened to be in the newsroom one afternoon when the paper’s ‘Picture Editor’ called him over and asked about ‘that amazing bloody pic’ my man had run with a report from a recent round of the National Championships from down the line…..which (long story short) I had provided.

“If there’s a round up this way any time soon, howzabout flicking me one so I can use it up front,” he said.

As luck would have it there was a round of the championship just down the road closer to Christmas, and I can still remember the buzz of excitement I felt when I flicked through The Herald the Monday after and there was a story and crazy spectacular photo, not of some muddied rugger bugger or (seeing as how it must have been around this time of the year) some flannelled fool (cricketer) but of one of ‘my’ motorsport chaps looking like a cross between Levi Sherwood and a pro water-skier.

In other words it was the type of image that would have ‘lit up’ the back page of the Sunday paper had ‘old mate’ given me a chance, rather than blowing me off because of his own blatant bloody bias.

Not that The Herald was (or indeed still is) blameless when it comes to decisions  relating to sports which don’t involve one bloke throwing a ball around and another either trying to wrestle it off him or hit it with a stick!

There used to be another ‘wanker’ with a deep and abiding love of all things ‘athletic’ and therefore contemptuous of a sport involving motors, who worked the sub editor’s bench of a Sunday.

Woe betide any feckless photographer, who would return from a ‘another one of your bloody motorbike races’ (his words) at Pukekohe ‘without’ a crash shot.

One year I distinctly remember the hype around the annual national road race meeting (again, at or around this time of year) when the late, great John Britten was at the height of his powers and wild young Palmerston North rider Jason McEwen was being touted as the bloke who – on the Britten V1000 or V1100 or whatever it was at the time – was going to ‘deal to’ established star and Pukekohe specialist Robert Holden riding  a well-trick Ducati.

I also remember wondering why – considering the hype heading into the meeting, and the fact that McEwen had crashed hard in the esses chasing down Holden – the paper had such a small and insignificant report on the action the next day…..

If you’d guessed what I suppose we might as well call ‘the Wanker effect’ you’d be right.

The shooter, had, so the story went, produced  a veritable feast of fantastic action shots but was up at the other end of the back straight when Jason loaded up the  front tyre of the Britten once too often, and speared off at Castrol in what would become known as a textbook Britten front-end tuck (or lowside).

At least we got something ‘in the paper’ on the Monday morning. Unlike just last week when there was precisely zilch/nothing/nada about the big Supercross meeting that had – by all accounts – entertained thousands of fans, and I would have thought, potential Herald buyers, at Mt Smart on Saturday November 16.

The bizarre thing in this case was that veteran Motorcycling NZ contracted photo-journalist Andy McGechan covered the meeting. But rather than run a report in Monday’s Herald it was picked up by the Bay of Plenty Times and loaded onto Herald owner, NZME’s web site that way.

Not sure which ‘wanker’ was involved in that decision, but I do know that someone on the sport’s staff must really love their rugby, their cricket and their league.

And how do I know this?

Because, because, because……only this week, the day after one Kiwi – Scott McLaughlin – claimed his second Virgin Australia Supercars Championship title at the final round of this year’s truly epic series, a second (Kiwi), Shane Van Gisbergen again ended up runner-up while a third, Fabian Coulthard, missed out on third place but was good  enough for fourth, all the bloody Herald could muster was the desultory 300 words I wrote about at the start of this column tucked away on the inside back page of the sports Liftout.

Not only that but 24 hours before – and perfectly timed for a serious old splash across all three ‘Sunday’ papers – there was actually a ‘history-making’ or ‘history-repeating three-peat’ (I’ll let you choose which sub-editor’s cliché you prefer) with three Kiwis from the NZ Herald’s circulation area (Shane and Fabian from Auckland and Scott from Hamilton) taking the first three places in Saturday’s race.

Throw in Shane’s truly amazing performance to go from P10 to pole in the Top 10 Shootout and you had the raw ingredients for a story – several stories in fact – which surely was worth the coveted ‘back page of The Herald’s Monday sport Liftout.’

OK, I can’t report back on the Sunday papers because I stopped buying them years ago when they went ‘all tabloidy.’ But we still get The Herald delivered every morning and I can say with 100 percent certainly that neither Scott, nor his second Aussie title, even that amazing podium lockout at Newcastle made the cut.

Instead we got some bloke who looked like he had just hit a ball with a stick (couldn’t tell because there was no sign of the ball!!) and a sub headline  with a pic of Sonny-Bill Williams’ leering mug inviting us to delve inside to read what turned out to be (I checked in case someone called me out on the subject) a puff piece speculating how much the bugger ‘might earn’ when he returns to league…..

The silly thing is I don’t think I’ much different to any other motorsport – or sport in general – fan out there in that the LAST thing I want is for the sports I have a passion for is the sort of 24/7 scrutiny rugby, cricket and league get.

All I would like is, sometimes, when somebody does something exceptional (Levi Sherwood bowing out of a stellar global career with a double back flip at the Mt Smart Supercross, or Scottie wrapping up a second Virgin Australia Supercars title at Newcastle) that a newspaper with the standing in its community like The Herald simply acknowledges the fact with the full force of its resources (i.e. big colour pic/s on the back page of the Liftout and some decent in-depth reporting and background feature work inside.

It can then go back to what it sees as its core sports until the next time.

But no, time and again it ignores the obvious in favour of the obtuse.

Don’t go blaming the foot soldiers either, because the likes of Eric Thompson, Colin Smith, and Matthew Hansen have done some excellent work in obviously trying and very much thankless conditions over the years.

No, from where I am standing the problem is systemic. And sadly I see no easy fix until a bunch of ‘useless, inefficient and/or time wasting individuals, especially in a place of work and/or position of responsibility,’’ further up the chain retire!

The wankers!

Ross MacKay

Ross MacKay is an award-winning journalist, author and publicist with first-hand experience of motorsport from a lifetime competing on two and four wheels. He currently combines a day job editing NZ4WD magazine with contract media work, weekend Mountain Bike missions and towing his 1989 Nissan Skyline drifter to grassroots meetings around the North Island.

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