Sir Paul Holmes’ former colleagues and his political adversaries have paid tribute to the broadcaster, who died early this morning.
Leighton Smith announced Sir Paul’s passing on his Newstalk ZB talkback show.
After reading a statement from the Holmes family, an emotional Mr Smith said, “Although we knew this was coming, I find it a very emotive moment. For 22 years we worked in this studio together – him first, me second – and we both shared that prostate thing. And I’ve got to say that I’m very sad.”
Mr Smith said he hoped part of Sir Paul’s legacy would be to bring a greater awareness to the need for early detection of prostate cancer.
“If Paul had discovered it early enough, we wouldn’t be talking about this now.”
Weather presenter Jim Hickey worked at TVNZ with Sir Paul for decades, and remembered him fondly.
“I was the link between the finish of the news hour and Paul coming into the studio, usually late, and with great bluster and gusto,” Mr Hickey told Mr Smith on Newstalk ZB.
Mr Hickey said he would often end up on the receiving end of Sir Paul’s repartee.
“If there was a big story or he was fired up about something, he’d fire a few salvos at me!”
“He was a man who could entertain – he was a master of the occasion, there’s no doubt about that.”
Brent Harman was general manager at Newstalk ZB’s predecessor 1ZB in 1987, and hired Sir Paul for what would transpire to be the turning point in his career.
Mr Harman described Sir Paul as a “tenacious broadcaster and journalist” who whetted New Zealand’s appetite for talk radio.
“He took a totally different approach to news,” Mr Harman told 3 News.
“He added his own sense of humour, his own touch of irony. And I think it took time, but when the listeners gravitated towards it and heard it and started to enjoy it, they never looked back.”
Mr Harman said Sir Paul was a one-of-a-kind storyteller and a hard worker who would begin researching for his show at 2:30am every day when the first copy of the New Zealand Herald rolled off the press.
“We will never see a journalist and broadcaster as gifted as Paul again – I’m absolutely confident about that. He had an array of special talents. In a way, what made him a great journalist was he was interested in people. He was interested in good, in fairness – and that allowed him to approach news with his own special touch.”
Admiration from interviewees
Those on the receiving end of Sir Paul’s probing questions say he will be greatly missed.
Prime Minister John Key has called his passing “the end of a broadcasting era”.
“Paul Holmes was a gentleman broadcaster,” Mr Key said in a statement. “He conducted his interviews with intelligence and insightfulness, and while he never suffered fools, his interviews were never without kindness and empathy.”
“He was a trailblazer in New Zealand journalism with a style that was all his own.
Mr Key said he counted Sir Paul as a friend, and was honoured to attend his investiture ceremony in January. He said New Zealand media wouldn’t be the same without him.
“Paul has been part of New Zealanders’ lives since the 1970s. For more than a decade he was compulsive viewing at 7pm and, up until very recently, he was still on Q&A and his radio show. It is hard to imagine a broadcasting spectrum without him.”
Labour leader David Shearer said Sir Paul was an everyone’s man.
"He was hugely respected not only by his peers but by New Zealanders across social and political spectrums," he said.
"He had a fine sense of the `ordinary Kiwi' along with an uncanny understanding of the issues of the day."
Greens co-leader Metiria Turei said Sir Paul was adept at holding politicians to account.
“His focus was on the people listening and watching, not on making life easy for the politicians,” she said.