The second in an occasional series commending excellent New Zealand journalism.
Today we reissued Josh Drummond’s brilliant recollection of the time Rachel Glucina came to Press Club. I was in the audience that day, and it remains the most extraordinary of those occasions I’ve witnessed. Not the best: that would be the extraordinary Mihingarangi Forbes and Annabelle Lee, a couple of weeks back.
But Glucina was riveting. There was a real anger in the air, a scent of something dangerous. She appalled nearly everyone in the room. Not me. I’m fortunate, I suppose, in that she’s never directly harmed someone close to me. That wasn’t true for everyone in the room. The majority though, I think, were mainly angry at her politics, how nakedly and breezily she espouses them.
I don’t care about that. To me her politics are so brazenly displayed that anyone who’s swayed by their presence in her stories is an idiot – and likely to be blown back the other way by the draft from a firmly closed door. And a bad part of me likes having her around, causing trouble and making people mad. I don’t like it when things are too cosy, you know?
Anyway, I remember really admiring the heck out of her accepting Steve’s invitation. It takes some gall to walk into that room, knowing exactly what she’d get – and indeed got. She did well, I thought, rarely ducking a question, looking the audience in the eye, and she gave what I think were mostly plausible answers.
Today she launched her new website. We have covered it extensively – arguably too extensively – and it has a few good parts and more bad parts. But ultimately no one has any idea what Scout is going to be, any more than I have any idea what the Spinoff will ultimately become. We will see. We will definitely keep reading.
In the leadup, though, there were two very good pieces written about Glucina. Simon Day profiled her for the Sunday Star-Times, and it functions as a portrait of a lion in winter, aware she’s about to come out of hibernation, afraid and excited. She doesn’t say a lot, but Day still manages to give us a good sense of her, as she stands on the cusp of a big, very public play.
The best stuff is rightly near the top, descriptions of the mad-sounding Weldon internal broadcasts, and the seething newsroom when they found out she and Scout were coming.
Later on Sunday Russell Brown wrote a very perceptive response, which adroitly called into question the one part of the story. Brown writes:
What Glucina will do day-to-day isn’t clear.
“She is very good at her job, forging sources prepared to leak her information. People have proven keen to give her inside access to their events, cameras, and lives,” Day writes, but I’m honestly not sure if that’s true.
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Glucina’s Diary columns since 2012 read increasingly like the work of someone no one would talk to any more. She had few scoops and wrote terribly, especially when she attempted humour.
It’s a clear-eyed and well-argued response to a mostly illuminating piece. You should read them both.
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The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.