From The Gisborne Herald to Three and the AM Show
Former Gisborne Herald reporter Maika Akroyd caught up with Three journalist and Gisborne woman Amanda Gillies, to exchange stories, share journalism highlights and korero about Amanda’s busy life in front of the camera and on the microphone.
“One of my favourite memories as a journalist was spent up the East Coast actually,” says Amanda Gillies. “I used to love sitting at the marae because you're embracing something that is so Kiwi and so New Zealand.
“The Maori community were so gracious, giving and understanding, and I would often have someone sit next to me and translate what was being said.
“They give you your time, especially when you go up the Coast. I think it set me up for the rest of my career . . . I knew in Gisborne I could make mistakes and learn from them.”
The youngest daughter of Betty and Archie Gillies, Amanda grew up in Gisborne, attending St Mary's School and Campion College.
“I was a good Catholic girl, Maika,” she says with a laugh.
In her school holidays Amanda would volunteer at Gisborne's Radio 2ZG (she later joined the station as the drive-time announcer, claiming she was arguably the “worst drive-time announcer in history”) and The Gisborne Herald, where she became a full-time journalist in 1998, covering news and sport.
It's a job she still treasures.
“It was just so much fun . . . I loved my time at The Gisborne Herald. I always just wanted to get there and start writing. I wanted to get there as soon as I could and become a working journalist.”
Every Saturday morning — “rain, hail or shine” — she would cover the netball in Gisborne. Amanda loved writing stories on couples who had been married for 50 years, asking them the secret to their success. A highlight of her time at The Herald was covering the East Coast visit of tennis great Steffi Graf.
After three years she left to join TV3, where she remains today, hosting the AM Show alongside Duncan Garner and former test opening batsman and TV character Mark Richardson, who Amanda describes as “a bit of a softie”.
“Mark hates me saying this but he's actually like a teddy bear. He plays a character on screen — a toughie — but he's actually very sweet and loyal, and the surprising thing is . . . he's a shy person off screen,” she says.
“I often tell him if I'm ever in trouble he'd be the first person I'd ring.”
Together they've interviewed everyone from movie stars Hugh Jackman and Rick Hoffman to sporting greats Sir Mark Todd and Richie McCaw. But it's not all glamour and fun.
“In this current job the hours are tough,” Amanda says. “My alarm goes off at 3.30 every morning, but you know, it's a privilege and I can never ever take that for granted.”
During her 18 years at Three, Amanda has been a correspondent in Australia, where she won the Qantas Award for Best News Journalist, and has also spent time reporting in Europe, America, Asia and Palau in the western Pacific, to name a few.
“It's amazing, I've been to places you wouldn't normally go to. I've covered Australian bushfires, an election in Fiji, a murder trial in Norfolk Island . . . and one unexpected but lovely one was writing about a street in Sri Lanka named Gisborne Street, after Gisborne raised funds for the people there following the Boxing Day tsunami.
“There's so much in journalism that you just love . . . and you love doing . . . and I don't use the word loosely, but it is a privilege.”
In terms of the situation with TV3 and the possibility of it closing down, Amanda says her “fingers are crossed” that the business is bought and can continue to be on air.
“I know that there are interested parties, there are so many really talented and cool people there.
“We'll fight for it to the bitter end. I just can't imagine a media landscape without TV3.”
Amanda and I agreed that having more women in journalism is important.
“Some of my favourite journalists are women,” Amanda says.
“Melanie Reid, Kim Hurring, Sarah Hall — they're all amazing journalists. We've got to have a voice. You need that female voice and perspective.
“I work with two very strongly opinionated males and sometimes it can get a little feisty in the studio, but I also work with incredible women and never take them for granted.
“There's also the fact that we're led by a woman, Jacinda Ardern, and she does things a different way.
“I think women bring so much to journalism — it's a really good time to be a woman.”
And Amanda encouraged this journalist to stay in the industry and keep my ultimate reporting dream.
“Just keep writing Maika . . . so when you come to TV3, TVNZ or Maori TV, whoever it is, you'll have work to show them that you're doing it. I'm so excited for you,” she said.
Amanda said she would have “loved” to have been in Gisborne for the Tuia 250 commemorations, both as a local and as a journalist.
“I thought Gisborne just did so well and really shone around that time. The weather too — oh my goodness — if there were ever an advertisement for weather it would involve Gisborne.”
Amanda lives with her partner in Auckland, and was excited to return to Gisborne for the summer before getting back on set with the AM Show on January 20.