Madeleine Chapman has written a column about Kate Hawkesby’s column about Deborah Hill Cone’s column about Deborah Hill Cone’s column about Clarke Gayford, and this is that column.
There’s something about Deborah Hill Cone and Kate Hawkesby that keeps nagging me every time I see their columns. At first I thought it was outrage, then disregard, and now I realise what it really is: empathy.
I feel for them because I feel what they’re feeling. Everyone got mad at Hill Cone for saying mean things about Clarke Gayford. Hill Cone responded by confessing “I lose my inner monologue.” Today, Newstalk ZB host Kate Hawkesby has stated she feels for Hill Cone because she too has been in a similar situation when it comes to her column. “I hadn’t intended for it to be read,” she said, referring to the way her scripted radio editorial was republished in the Herald, “and then boom there it was.” Reading an opinion column in a newspaper or online may lead you believe that there’s an editorial process behind such publications but as these two brave women have testified, that’s not how it works. Opinion pieces are shoehorned directly from the writer’s consciousness – I’m just saying things out loud at my desk and now you’re reading them – and there’s nothing we can do about it.
In fact, it’s happening right now.
Back when I first began at The Spinoff I was working oh good morning, Don. How was your night? Good, thanks. Just working on my column. Ha ha ha you’re telling me. It’s like the deadline creeps up faster and faster every week.
Back when I first began at The Spinoff I was working on a particularly sensitive story hey do you think we could push our meeting back fifteen minutes? Just trying to get this column out before deadline. Fifteen minutes should be fine, it’s only 800 words.
I was working on a particularly sensitive story and decided to make a joke which I knew my fans would understand. What I didn’t realise was excuse me, Toby, could you please stop yelling for just a moment? I’m so close to finishing this bloody column and your impersonation is distracting me. Oh that was Margaret Thatcher? Wait, do it again. It’s actually quite good.
What I didn’t realise was that people just want to be outraged. They will read my column, scanning for anything that will make them can you smell that? Is someone microwaving fish at 9am? Don, go check who it is so we can hold it against them forever. No, I can’t go I have to finish my column!
They will read my column, scanning for anything that will make them feel better about their sad lives with their no sense of humour. Yes, I yelled at a family for eating a burger. But the only reason people were outraged was because oh my god Clarke Gayford told the story of how he met Jacinda? When? Where? What was he doing at the Metro Restaurant Awards? Never mind, I’m writing my column. What’s it about? You’ll have to read it to find out. Hey, did you end up going to that boxing class last night? I’ve always wanted to go to one because it calms me down and stops me from blurting out my rage in a newspaper. No, that’s not what this week’s column is about. I’m still brainstorming ideas.
The only reason people were outraged was because it made them feel superior. We shouldn’t be apologising for our thoughts, especially when our inner voices are being put on the front page of the paper. Yes, Hill Cone may have said “I realise my antipathy is mean-spirited” and then a week later said “I didn’t think I was being malicious” which makes no sense whatsoever, but is it really a columnist’s job to make sense? Or is it simply a columnist’s job to ask plenty of rhetorical questions? Who’s to say? We all say things we I SWEAR TO GOD IF YOU DON’T SAVE ME A PR DONUT I WILL WALK OUT OF THIS OFFICE AND NEVER COME BACK. I’M TRYING TO FINISH MY COLUMN. CUSTARD. BISCUIT. CONTENT. GLAZED CLICKS.
We all say things we regret. Even you lovely and not-so-lovely readers. Even Clarke Gayford! Who met Jacinda Ardern at the Metro Restaurant Awards. What was he doing at the Metro Restaurant Awards? I’m honestly a really fun, funny, kind, never said a mean word about anyone, type of person. But sometimes that doesn’t come across in print because most of what I say is not meant for print. Yes, I have a column in a print publication but that’s beside the point. I will probably say more things that people will outrage over but you wanna know what’s more important?
Can you imagine?
What I’m really trying to say with this column is wow look at that, I’m at 800 words. Looking forward to your thoughts. Next week: I apologise for this column.
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The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning.