News media · Obituaries

Vale Pat Booth, the fearless journalists’ journalist

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One of the great New Zealand journalists of my time, Pat Booth, died today. He was 88.

Pat is best known for his work at the Auckland Star investigating the police case against farmer Arthur Thomas, who was framed for murder, but freed, thanks to Pat’s tenacity, after almost a decade in jail.

He was a journalists’ journalist, of the tough, self-taught kind too-often looked down on by today’s mass-produced journalism graduates. I had the privilege of working with him at North & South magazine, where he was deputy editor when I started there in 1989.

Of course, I was in awe of working with such a legend. I remember him for his ready smile, his gruff voice and his total lack of political correctness. He would try to make me bite with some terrible lines. Writing about the new airline, Ansett NZ, he mentioned the aircraft’s tail markings and added: “Speaking of tail, the hostesses’ uniforms….” Of our first Maori governor-general, Sir Paul Reeves, he said: “Paul? I knew him before he was a Maori.” It was awful stuff, but said with a big smile and without malice. And whatever he wrote, Robyn printed it unchanged. You can’t edit a legend.

The Auckland Star for years had a motto that was typified by Pat’s work there, but seems quaint if all you know is today’s news media:

For the cause that needs assistance
For the wrong that needs resistance
For the future in the distance
For the good that we can do.

He republished it right at the front of his 1997 memoir, Deadline.

Pat died today in a rest home in West Auckland. What a sad end for someone so full of life, a journalist never afraid to chase a story, no matter where it led.

Picture: Pat in the Auckland Star printery in 1976 with printer Leo Smith.  Almost all males wore ties back then!