Truth: The Rise and Fall of the People’s Paper, by Redmer Yska (Craig Potton Publishing, 2010), 200 pp., $50.00.
Every Thursday the presses would start at Garrett Street a stone’s throw from Wellington’s Cuba Mall, first hesitatingly, then faster, until a torrent of inky tabloids would roll down the rickety conveyer belt. During the frequent breaks when the roll of newsprint tore or a cog jammed, a crew of casuals would play gin or stare disinterestedly at the headlines screaming smut and scandal in 124-point type. Redmer Yska walked into Garrett St in 1977 as a proofreader, until punk rock – a shock/horror/probe-style story about the Suburban Reptiles’ abortive gig at Victoria University – won him a reporting job.
Redmer Yska and I both worked at the NZ Truth building in Garrett Street, central Wellington, in 1977. While I was one of the casuals, hired to unload Truth from the presses each Thursday, grabbing the streams of inky tabloids as they rolled off the rickety conveyor belts, he was employed up in the proofreading room, checking copy and learning first-hand how to sniff out scoop and scandal. It gave him an educated appreciation of yellow journalism, and a respect for sources and verification – it’s a comfort to have all the paperwork done when the writs come flying. It also gave him an ear for the sort of story New Zealanders want to read, but that the ‘respectable’ media were too sniffy to run, and an eye for the larger-than-life characters whose written-up exploits could brighten (or darken) the country’s provincial grey.