Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The last Stand-Off

I’m a few days late with this, but I think it’s worth recording nonetheless.

Monday’s Dominion Post reproduced parts of The Dominion of July 22, 1969 – a special issue marking the first moon landing.

That 1969 edition contained several erudite, reflective pieces, including one contributed by the late Kim Keane, who for many years had been the Dom’s greatly respected chief reporter, and another by the then editor, Jack Kelleher. Jack died only a few months ago.

But the one I particularly want to comment on was the typically eloquent column written by W P (Bill) Reeves, whose Stand-Off column (subtitled “A radical view”) was an institution in the Dom for more than two decades.

Bill died in Rotorua on July 14, only days before that commemorative publication appeared.

Himself a former editor of the Dom from 1964 till 1968, Bill was dumped in favour of Jack Kelleher because Rupert Murdoch, who had a controlling interest in the paper, thought Jack was more attuned to tabloid-style journalism. At that stage the Dom was about to go tabloid. Murdoch thought because tabloid papers worked in Australia, they would work here. He was wrong, and the Dom reverted to broadsheet format in 1972.

It was characteristic of Bill Reeves that he bore Murdoch no ill will. In fact when he graciously agreed to provide a memoir for the centennial history of the Dom that I put together in 2007, he wrote kindly of Murdoch. A gentlemanly left-winger (a diminishing species these days), Bill admired Murdoch’s drive and newspaperman’s instincts and wrote that the Australian never interfered in his attempts to give the traditionally conservative Dom a more liberal image. In fact he recalled that Murdoch himself was something of a left-winger then.

After moving from the editor’s office to a back room, Bill devoted himself to crafting stylish and insightful editorials and Stand-Off columns, continuing the latter until well after his retirement in the 1980s.

It was a further measure of his equanimity that he appeared to bear me no ill will for curtailing his column when I was editor. Looking back it strikes me as having been a breathtakingly impudent action on my part, given Bill’s distinguished history with the paper.

A tall and imposing man, but quiet and modest, Bill had a formidable range of friends and contacts from every point of the political compass. It was typical of him that he didn’t want an obituary written, but his good friend Phil Campbell, editor of the Rotorua Review, quite rightly disregarded his instructions. I understand Phil’s tribute to Bill will appear in the Dom Post in due course.


Ms B said...

Kim Keane was my grandfather. I never knew him. But would appreciate any information you have regarding him. The only time I have seen my father cry was the night he died.

Michael Keane said...

Hi Karl,
I imagine the previous comment was by my daughter. I too would appreciate any information, impressions, etc you could supply about my father, the late Kim Keane. I had no contact with him after my mother and he split up when I was 7 yo and Kim went to NZ. Thanks in advance. Michael Keane

Robbie Muir said...


Kim Keane is my grand father too.

And my Middlenames are Michael Keane.

We must come from Different parnters of Kim.