Thursday, May 1, 2014

What else did Kirk's biographer get wrong?

Browsing through a copy of the recently published biography The Mighty Totara: The Life and Times of Norman Kirk, by David Grant, I came across a reference to the late W P Reeves.

Wellington newspaper readers of a certain age will remember that name. Bill Reeves was editor of The Dominion from 1964 to 1968 and for more than two decades thereafter, wrote an eloquent weekly column called Stand-Off: A Radical View.

To my astonishment, Grant - a Wellington historian - describes Reeves in the book as "an unashamed right-winger". He couldn't be more wrong.

As I wrote in this blog at the time of Bill's death in 2009, he was a gentlemanly, left-leaning liberal of the old school. If Grant had taken the trouble to read his columns, he would have realised this.

I wonder whether he made the mistake of assuming that because The Dominion was founded by conservative business and professional men, and taken over in 1964 by a young Rupert Murdoch, anyone who wrote for it must have been, ipso facto, a reactionary. But Reeves certainly wasn't, and it's an insult to his memory to suggest he was.

In fact the Dom, paradoxically, was staffed in those days by journalists who generally tilted to the left. Even Murdoch himself was something of a liberal then.

It's worrying that an error like this will become part of the historical record. I can't help wondering what else Grant might have got wrong.


Anonymous said...

Hi Karl,

Just a general comment: really enjoy your blog/columns, whether I agree with them or not.
Keep 'em coming.

Karl du Fresne said...

Much appreciated, Chiefs Fan.