The Spinoff Weekend: How to keep calm in the face of chaos
Every story we loved reading this week...
Mōrena and welcome to The Spinoff Weekend. With protest violence, omicron spreading and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it’s been a taxing week. So we asked newsreaders, the people who deal with bad headlines all day, how they cope. They’ve got some tips you might find helpful. If that’s too much for a relaxing Saturday morning, we’ve got plenty of distractions, a look at a strict employee grooming code, an update on a costume company’s struggles, and we talk to Emily Writes about how her new newsletter’s going. As always, a freshly brewed cup of Coffee Supreme will help the medicine go down. Stay safe out there. Kia pai tō rā whakatā.
-Chris Schulz, senior writer
When a tearful Samantha Hayes took to Instagram Stories before her Tuesday night broadcast this week, she warned viewers: “I'm not sure if I'm going to make it through the bulletin tonight without crying.” It proved that newsreaders aren’t robots and can be affected by shocking stories just as much as those watching them. We wanted to find out how those that seem calm and composed on air really feel off it. “It’s important that the news is out there and that it’s going on and stuff is going on to stop it [but] you can’t let your mind keep thinking about that story after you’ve read it,” says Nicola Wright, an award-winning broadcaster from Radio NZ. Others say it’s the moments you leave the building that the gravity of the situation can hit you. “It can be quite hard to step back and say, 'People's lives are on the line here,’” agrees James Tapp, a young bFM newsreader who’s just quit his job, saying it all got too much. Find out how they’re coping with protests, plagues and Vladimir Putin here.
The grounds of parliament are empty of protesters this weekend, and plans are underway to rebuild the bridge, and regrow the grass, undoing the damage of the past 23 days. But the occupation isn’t over. Police are still scrolling through footage to identify those who took part in Wednesday’s violent attacks. In typically calm tones, Toby Manhire sums up what happened on the day the grounds of parliament burned, and what might come next. Elsewhere, Dylan Reeve shows the power of misinformation and confirmation bias by examining a key seven-minute period in a livestream in his piece, When misinformation spreads like fire. Finally, Anna Rawhiti-Connell says she struggles to comprehend her conflicting emotions about the occupation. “My anxiety about the protests is my anxiety about the pandemic. That is why attempting to make sense of them is so taxing and upsetting,” she writes. “It is an anxiety about a life, a country and a world, forever changed. Rationally, I have known this to be true for some time and that the only course through this is to become comfortable with uncertainty.” Read her piece in full here.
When The Hertz Grooming Guide landed in her inbox on an idle afternoon, Alex Casey couldn’t help herself. “I recall scrolling through it and laughing with my editor at how absolutely absurd some of the rules were,” she says. “What particularly tickled me about it was that Hertz was so concerned with keeping up appearances when dealing with car rental customers, 100% of which would be in Tom Hanks Castaway holiday mode and are probably not even wearing a shirt, let alone shoes.” Her piece outlined encouragement like, “Team members should be mindful of their working conditions and ensure they are mindful of perspiration odours.” For Alex, the guide contained got serious when she came across some thinly veiled assumptions about people’s cultural backgrounds. “It’s encouraging to see that they are now reviewing their guide with employee feedback,” says Alex. Read her piece here.
With kids continuing sports classes, schooling and play dates, one thing is on every parents’ mind right now: what do you do if your child tests positive for Covid-19? Emily Writes runs through every potential scenario you might face, and what to do if things get serious, here. In other omicron news, emergency department doctor Elspeth Frascatore tells of life on the front lines right now, Siouxsie Wiles explains why we need a new version of “flatten the curve”, and for all of those readying for international travel plans later in the year, Jihee Junn reveals how it will all work. Finally, Alex Casey talks to diehard lipstick lovers who refuse to let pesky things like masks change their morning makeup habits.
A year ago, Emily Writes was ready to give up on writing. That’s a tough call, because she’s very good at it — and it’s also in her name. “I was tired. Exhausted really,” she explains. “I was parenting while trying to meet deadlines while doing multiple side hustles, while still being asked if I could give content for free for ‘exposure’ while being asked to speak at events for ‘charity’ (I’m a charity!) I was also copping relentless abuse on social media by faceless men who hated that I was a woman and had opinions.” Along came Substack. While the jury’s still out on the newsletter portal that gives writers a direct line to the inbox of fans, Emily’s found it’s worked like a dream for her. “Being on Substack has made me love writing again and it’s given me my life back,” she says. “I write about things I care about. Things that matter to me and my community. I am having fun with my writing again. If I have nothing to say — I don’t say anything. I answer to an audience that is thoughtful and compassionate.” You can listen to her interview with Duncan here, and check out her Substack here.
Whenever someone needs a costume, a prop, or a three-metre-high gargoyle, there’s been one place in Tāmaki Makaurau able to provide that. For 40 years, First Scene has helped event planners host epic parties, and partygoers prepare for them. The Avondale-based business also dresses TV and film sets, like The Hobbit and Power of the Dog. Thanks to Covid-19, that’s all at risk. “We’re talking months, not years”, First Scene’s owner Jo Pilkington told Sam Brooks this week about how long the company has until it will have to close. Jo estimates her business has lost $1 million in the past two years due to the pandemic. “We have a very short amount of time to try and get through this.” What will be lost? “It’s 400,000 items collected over 40 years,” she says. “It’s not replaceable … it won’t come back.” Since his story was published on Wednesday, Sam says the response has been encouraging. Jo told him: “We’ve had a lot of support but getting even more traction from your story. Every time someone talks about our situation it’s encouraging.” Find out how you can help here.
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Everything else we loved this week:
A Dunedin student thought she’d found the perfect Wellington flat for her big city move. Packed and on the road, her worst nightmare came true.
Tributes are flowing for Shane Warne, the legendary Australian spin bowler capable of turning a ball at near right angles, after his death at the age of 52.
The headline says it all really: “I'm common as muck and spent £150 in a Michelin star restaurant to see if it was worth it.”
New Zealand expat Tom Doig reflects on what it’s like to live through the record downpours, torrents and floods affecting Brisbane right now.
Veronica Schmidt’s searing report for RNZ, ‘The town that backed a child sex abuser,’ is investigative reporting at its best.
Queer life in Aotearoa today is a result of work that began 50 years ago at a small student forum. We went back to find out how it started.
Remember The Osbournes? The Ringer’s oral history 20 years on reminds just how fresh the Ozzy Osbourne fronted reality show was back in 2002.
This (paywalled) New York Times interview with the only black man on the jury in the Ahmaud Arbery trial, is devastating reading.
Why would a Real Housewife of Auckland go to the parliament protest? Alex Casey interviews Anne Batley-Burton about exactly that.
Finally, if you need anything to watch this weekend, West Side Story is on Apple TV+, Spencer is on Amazon Prime Video, and The Batman is in theatres now. Find plenty more options in our streaming guide.