Jim Tucker: Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for service to journalism

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Jim Tucker was recognized for his services to journalism in the 2022 New Years Honors list. Photo / supplied

When it comes to journalism in New Zealand, you could say that Jim Tucker wrote the book on it. In fact, he has written several books, including two journalism textbooks over the years.

Tucker was named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for service to journalism in this year’s list of New Year’s Honors, released this morning.

This service to journalism refers to a career in the field that began in 1965 and resulted in six national awards. From his early days as a junior reporter at the Taranaki Herald in New Plymouth, Tucker has worked as a reporter, editor, editor and photographer as well as a journalism lecturer at three different institutions.

The honor was unexpected, Tucker says, so unexpected that he did what any reporter does and did his own fact-checking before being convinced it wasn’t an elaborate joke.

“The first contact was an email, and I had just written a controversial anti-vaccine column, which led to me receiving very strong threats as well as someone who created a fake character. online Jim Tucker. So to then get an email from what claimed to be the government, saying oh you’re gonna fuck yourself, well, the idea was there that this might be an elaborate joke in some way or another. another, so I called them and asked them if it was for real.

After confirming that this was the case, “for real,” Tucker told his wife, son and brother, photojournalist Rob Tucker, and began to understand the government honoring a reporter .

“I think that’s the really important part, that it’s for journalism services, I hope it’s something that all journalists can be proud of in some way. It doesn’t normally happen. to journalists we are not trusted, we are not understood, and certainly when it comes to government, local and national, we are there to hold them to account, to question and to challenge, so to get an honor like this from government is a great thing. “

With a career spanning more than five decades, Tucker has covered many important stories, but when asked if there are any particular highlights, he doesn’t have to think for a second before answering.

“It’s very easy to answer, there was a big one in the early 70’s. I realized how serious our rivers were, a few surfers called the Taranaki Herald office, where I worked, for us. tell how they could see the pollution in the ocean, they could smell it too, and notice that if they cut themselves while surfing, it takes ages for them to heal. This sparked my curiosity, because it was what i had seen at several country council meetings. The officers worried about pollution from dairy factories or farms, but they were dismissed by the advisers. I realized that some of the advisers were themselves farmers or had ties to agriculture, so I started to deal with it.

As a reporter in a busy newsroom, Tucker couldn’t have time to do serious investigative work during working hours, so he started pulling out his camera on weekends, evenings and on days off, looking for the cause of the polluted waterways in the area.

This work gave rise to a series of articles exposing the pollution leading to widespread cleaning up of rivers and the causes of their pollution.

The series of articles earned Tucker what he calls “a gong” from the New Zealand Conservation Society as well as an award in that year’s New Zealand Journalism Awards, as well as cementing his reputation as a talented and determined journalist.

After working for the Taranaki Herald for over a decade, Tucker moved to Auckland where he worked in newsrooms as well as a few years as an editor for a magazine. From there he ran journalism schools at Auckland University of Technology, the Western Institute of Technology and Whitireia. He has also served as the Executive Director of the New Zealand Journalists Training Organization and has served as a media commentator and media awards judge over the years. A life member of the Journalism Education Association of New Zealand, he was invited to join the organizing committee of the Global Intermedia Dialogue and received the Race relations Commissioner Award for New Zealand Diversity Action.

And over the years, he still found time to write several books, on journalism and other subjects.

One of his first books was Kiwi Journalist, written while teaching journalism in Auckland.

“I realized we didn’t have a manual, so after deciding we needed one, I wrote it.”

This was followed seven years later by Intro, published by the NZ Journalists Training Organization after approaching it saying that a book was needed with a broader scope, to cover radio and television as well as print media. Tucker wrote some chapters and edited the remainder of the resulting book, which went through three editions and was the primary school of journalism textbook until 2007.

Tucker has also written several books on various Taranaki peoples as well as one commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Taranaki Hospice. A collection of his selected columns was also released this year as a fundraiser for Hospice Taranaki.

His next writing project is due out in February 2022 and is, he says, the first part of his memoir.

“At this rate, it’s going to be a trilogy,” he says of Flair and Loathing on the homepage.

“My mom kept clippings of all the great stories I wrote, I have a lot of material to go through as I write my memoirs.”


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