Wednesday, June 5, 2024

A monumental piece of work


By anyone’s standards, my friend and long-ago employer Ian F Grant leads a very busy life, especially for an 84-year-old. But the past week has been exceptionally full even for him.

Last Thursday saw the launch of Pressing On – Volume II of his monumental history of New Zealand newspapers – at the National Library. Volume I, Lasting Impressions, covered the period from 1840 till 1920 and was published in 2018. The second book brings us almost to the present day.

I say “almost” because Ian wisely chose the year 2000 as his cutoff point. After that, things started getting messy in the print media and there would have been little point in charting subsequent trends and events, given the industry’s highly fluid state and uncertain future.

Lasting Impressions was a prodigious piece of work for the sheer depth and detail of Ian’s research into an aspect of New Zealand history that had previously been largely overlooked. Pressing On bears evidence of the same exhaustive research, but it’s probably fair to say that it has wider appeal simply because it covers newspaper titles and industry personalities familiar to current generations.

Lifelong newspaper enthusiast Sir Hugh Rennie (a co-founder, with Ian, of the National Business Review) and the retired political journalist Colin James addressed the gathering at the launch and there was an elegiac tone to their remarks – an acknowledgment that the book covers a golden age of New Zealand print journalism and that society and democracy will be much the worse for its decline.

By an apt coincidence, the launch was followed only days later by the announcement that Ian had been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature and historical preservation. His inclusion in the King’s Birthday honours list followed similar recognition of his wife and publishing partner Diane 22 years earlier.

As founders and co-owners of Masterton-based Fraser Books, the Grants are prolific authors and publishers and show no sign of cutting back their workload. I keep urging them to slow down, partly because they make me feel wretchedly slothful, but they haven’t taken my advice in the past and I don’t expect them to do so now.

You can read a fuller account of the book launch here: Wellington.Scoop » Not dead, but …. 

Pressing On sells for $69.50. Copies are available from


David McLoughlin said...

I will be buying this book. Yes, Karl, "the book covers a golden age of New Zealand print journalism and that society and democracy will be much the worse for its decline." I feel somewhat proud, and pleased, to have worked in print media during the latter part of its golden age and even beyond into this century. The continuing and accelerating decline has been tragically sad to watch.

DW said...

The launch of the Herald on Sunday in 2004 was one of the few bright points of the post-2000 newspaper age.

Steve Plowman said...

I totally agree with David McLoughlin. Like David I consider myself lucky to have worked with some very fine journalists during that golden age of journalism when facts mattered and journalists didn't see themselves as ideologues or activists. Ian does New Zealanders readers a great service with this book. I heard Ian interviewed recently and though I don't know him personally, Karl's description of his book as a "monumental piece of work" is indeed apt.