Confession time: I love All Blacks weddings. Not so much the insignificant ones, where the reserve prop who gets seven minutes a season off the bench against Scotland marries his high school sweetheart in the Balclutha Cozzie Club. The big ones. The ones involving a secret location, a guest list that can only be guessed at and a groom called Beauden, Richie or Kieran. WNSs – or Weddings of National Significance.
WNSs bring actual tears to my eyes, such is my love for them. Because these weddings are festivals of freedom. These weddings produce the same thrilling cocktail of emotions in me that Nelson Mandela must have experienced as he sailed away from Robben Island; that Schapelle Corby gets every time she posts an Australia Day selfie from the beach.
Because, you see, I was once an All Blacks weddings reporter. And it really sucked.
In the pantheon of jobs I’ve endured in the pursuit of less unhappiness, reporting on All Blacks weddings for a newspaper was vastly more soul-destroying than screwing in the same screw 1000 times a day on a computer assembly line. It left me feeling considerably less clean than my days as a cable layer – a job that involved actually being covered in dog manure most days.
I hated it with every fibre of my being.
The question of why, then, I did such a job, is easily answered. In a dying industry, beggars don’t experience the luxury of choice. In my case, the redundancy fairies came visiting at the same time the stork delivered our fourth child.
A choice between reporting on a round that included All Blacks weddings and no reporting round at all wasn’t difficult – not for someone whose CV includes rolling around in dog manure on the streets of London.
The question of why such a deplorable employment opportunity exists at all isn’t quite so straightforward.
When a New Zealand citizen politely requests to be able to conduct a family celebration without public intrusion – and in my experience All Blacks about to embark on WNSs just about always do – it shouldn’t be beyond us to grant that wish.
But it is. Always.
It’s easy to blame the editors who demand exclusive details about these intentionally un-inclusive affairs, easier still to resent the chief reporters who enforce editorial will on the poor bastard rank and file reporters.
But the reality is that the editorial direction comes from a company management obsessed with traffic levels, and WNSs click-off something fierce. And they click off because of … YOU, the dear readers.
Not you personally (this column’s readership is far too enlightened to indulge in clickbait), but the other yous, the yous who click on stories with headlines such as All Black Ties Knot at Luxury Lodge.
You people are awful. It’s your fault I suffered panic attacks whenever a chief reporter hovered into view during the WNS season. Because you were the beast that needed feeding.
It’s not that I’m overly precious. Since exiting my role as an All Blacks weddings reporter, I’ve worked on sports promotions, accepting with good grace vital marketing tasks such as dressing in a gimp suit and leading a donkey called Patrick around Suncorp Stadium; being tossed into a spa pool by Ali Williams wearing a teal cricket strip that was eight sizes too small; and assisting the Honey Badger with managing his social interactions during a night out in Dunedin.
None of that is glamorous work. But it sure beats harassing fellow Kiwis and attempting to invade their privacy purely for the titillation of others.
Said no budding journalist ever: “I really want to be a journalist so that one day I can find out and reveal to the public Dan and Honor Carter’s wedding breakfast menu.”
As much now as ever, the world needs journalism, and journalists – people with the skills and tenacity to shine a light in dark areas, hold the powerful to account and expose people who deal in lies and misinformation for personal gain.
Tragically, we have news organisations who dispatch these people to Waiheke in search of Beauden Barrett’s wedding venue, crushing their souls – and any pretensions they had at being one of the good guys – in the process.
It’s bloody wonderful that we live in a country where we’ll hound tourists to the gates of hell (Levin) for littering our beaches, stealing and being rude. But, when we allow our collective prurient interest in public figures’ private lives to skew the judgment of our major news organisations, it shows we have some way to go yet before achieving total enlightenment.
As the Herald warned on Monday: “Eyes are now turning to a third big sports star wedding of the summer”.
If you clicked on that hyper-link to find out who, you’re part of the problem, not the solution.
The answer is in our hands. If you don’t like trash news, don’t click on it. Ever.