The belated inclusion of a knighthood for Paul Holmes makes this year's Honours List something very much out of the ordinary. No one could say, however, that the accolade is not totally merited. During his five decades in broadcasting, which ended earlier this month because of poor health, he never received his due. Now, finally, he has received a recognition more than warranted by his place in the pantheon of New Zealand broadcasting.
Sir Paul entertained New Zealanders in his own quirky manner, challenged them and occasionally offended them. His phenomenal longevity owed much to a talent for recognising the major issues facing the country and articulating them effectively to all parts of society. His perceptive interviewing was another particularly strong suit.
This exceptional range of ability led him at one time to host both the country's leading early morning radio and evening television programmes on the same day. Hosting just one of these would have placed him at the forefront of broadcasting. The extent of that achievement resonates more now than it did at the time, as does the way in which he became the face of TV One during virtually any important live broadcast.
His departure has left a hole simply because he contributed so much to this country's national life during a career that set a new benchmark.
This is indeed a most generous editorial from the Herald, notwithstanding that Sir Paul Holmes contributes a weekly column to the paper. But the Herald's response is far more generous than some of those who have vented their spleen on Twitter or on a few blogs today.
We're by no means the head of the Paul Holmes Fan Club, but our opinion of him has softened markedly this year. We have come to enjoy his Saturday morning radio programme when we have been at the office on weekends. We love the friendly, conversational style, and have listened to some wonderful interviews; none better than the one with Henare O'Keefe from Flaxmere about which we blogged earlier in the year.
Sir Paul Holmes is not a well man. In all probability, he is far more ill than he has been letting on. A knighthood is a just reward for a long career in broadcasting, as well as for his efforts in recent years to fight the Methamphetamine epidemic in New Zealand. That he stared down the Headhunters gang and survived may yet end up as one of his most notable achievements.
We add our congratulations to those of the Herald's leader writer, and to the many other messages of support that Sir Paul has received today. New Zealand radio and television will not be the same without him.
UPDATE: Dr Brian Edwards blogs similar sentiments:
Well, the rest really is history. Paul would become a seminal influence in New Zealand broadcasting. He would change the landscape. Though many fine broadcasters preceded him, he was our first real ‘star’. And, in that sense of the word that suggests Hollywood and glittering lights and show dancers and theme music and Emmys and Oscars and your name on the pavement of Hollywood Boulevard, he may well be only real star that our small nation has as yet produced.
As the inevitable corollary perhaps, he has also been our most controversial broadcaster, a polariser of public opinion. In a sense his very fame may have served on occasion to deny him the respect that his intellect, his extraordinary talent, his humanity and generosity required. He was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit some years ago, but the truth of the matter is that most Kiwis have very little idea of what our New Zealand awards mean. Paul’s knighthood changes all that. It is the ultimate expression of the country’s respect for a truly great broadcaster and communicator.
One must be careful not to write in the past tense. This is the guy who holds the New Zealand record for near-death experiences. To all today’s accolades, add ‘survivor’.