For the past sixteen and a half years I’ve contributed a daily quiz to Stuff. It’s called the Five-Minute Quiz and although it wasn’t originally my creation, I was asked to take it over in May 2005. Since then I’ve written roughly 50,000 questions.
I originally contributed the Five-Minute Quiz solely to the Dominion Post (I was given the gig by the then editor Tim Pankhurst, who has long since gone from the scene) but it was later picked up by other papers in the Stuff group, from Hamilton to Invercargill. (It shouldn’t be confused with Stuff’s online quiz, which has nothing to do with me. The Five-Minute Quiz appears only in print publications.)
It would be fair to say the quiz has acquired a very substantial following, though I’ve never quite understood why. It’s a daily ritual in thousands of homes and workplaces. Devotees include judges, professors, cops, farmers, public servants and trades people (who I’ve heard will often ring each other at smoko time to compare scores and brag when they’ve done well).
The quiz was sponsored for some time by Massey University, whose name appeared at the top each day. But Massey had nothing to do with the content; I guess they just saw it was popular and wanted to take some of the credit.
The authorship of the quiz, while hardly a state secret, has never been publicly disclosed. I preferred to remain anonymous because for much of the time that I compiled the quiz I also wrote opinion columns for papers in the Stuff group. Not all readers agreed with my opinions and I didn’t want the quiz to suffer because of any opprobrium I might have incurred as a result of my writing. I was always careful to ensure the quiz remained strictly non-political.
Anyway, the reason I’m outing myself now is that my last quizzes will appear next week. I’ve told Stuff that I no longer want to be associated with a company whose editorial values and policies are at odds with mine. Whether or not the quiz will continue is up to them.
For me, it’s the end of an association with the Dominion Post that dates back to 1962, when I became a Dominion delivery boy in Waipukurau. That association continued through several stints as a journalist and editorial executive for both the Evening Post (the “Post” in Dominion Post) and The Dominion, of which I was editor from 1989 till 1992.
The better part of my career as a journalist was spent on those two papers. I look back fondly on much of that time, but I’m severing the connection with no regrets. The Dominion Post as it exists now bears little resemblance to the titles it evolved from, and which I was proud to work for.
I should finish by saying there’s a possibility that the quiz will reappear elsewhere – most likely online – under a new name.