John Armstrong, one of America’s greatest journalists and the unparalleled chronicler of recent political history, died over the weekend.
John Armstrong had a remarkable journalistic career – a formidable thought, beautiful writing, keen judgment, humility, leadership and one of the role models and inspirations for generations of congressional press conferences. It’s one.
His professional bravery and achievements in over 30 years in parliament, covering 7 prime ministers and 10 elections, reflects his personal bravery in working and living with Parkinson’s disease for over 20 years. was comparable to
He was a distinguished observer and writer for The New Zealand Herald (and Otago Daily Times) from 1987 to 2015, and later as a columnist for TVNZ.
Good writing comes from good thinking, experience, and wisdom.
There have been many minds who have walked the floorboards of the Houses of Parliament and galleries, many of whom looked up to John Armstrong.
There are many journalists who have written articles about our politics for quite some time.
Many brave columnists have called things out as they saw them.
There are great learned writers.
The journalist was trusted and held in high esteem by many political circles.
Political editors who newspaper and broadcast editors rely on for guidance and reinforcement on the important issues of the day.
A commentator whose readers share their innate convictions with what is really happening and why it is important to them and society.
John Armstrong had all these dimensions and more.
Having worked with John Armstrong for nearly 30 years and served as editor, he has the best combination of political instincts, competitive news acumen, and intuition about the interests of his readers that I know of. I think
Everything was delivered in a nuanced phrasing without clichés. Memorable, memorable moments.
John doesn’t let weasel words or non-statements stop him from revealing what’s really going on, or calling out failures, poor policies, and failures to implement political gameplay. I saw through it. And when he called about political controversies and cabinet ministers’ scalps, everyone knew it.
But he always cared to be right and fair, and a bouquet of flowers to a left- or right-wing leader was equated with his brickbutt.
He had an international perspective, was well read and informed on diplomacy and defense, and regularly reported from international summits. Guardian Weekly And long before it became a trend, economistwrite with the interpretive skill and dexterity of those publications.
After his last Saturday column in the Herald, a reader studied his column over the years and found that he was neither “left” nor “right”, “worker” nor “national”. It turned out that he had correctly concluded that it was not.
His theory was that Armstrong was, more than anything else, focused on the people who were in power at all times and how they used it.
John had a strong intellectual curiosity about politics.
He has guided us through the ages from Marv Wellington to Mojo Mathers, Bill Ralston to Paddy Gower, Winston Peters to Winston Peters.
(As an aside, he was always right about Peters. In his farewell column, he said, “His career is the stuff of Shakespeare’s tragedy, or the psychologist’s couch, or both.”)
John joined The Herald in 1986 as a political reporter after working for the national news agency NZPA in the Press Gallery and before that for the Christchurch Star. He became a political editor and political correspondent to devote himself to regular commentary in the early 2000s as the effects of Parkinson’s increased.
Years ago, he told me that he was still interested in how the political process worked from the inside, so he was considering working as a political party press secretary.
He would have been a great strategist, pissed off in his tent.
But readers, colleagues, friends, family, political tragedy, and the country congratulated him for not going the other way.
A life member of the Press Gallery, he was made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit in 2016 for his contributions to journalism and politics.
68 year old John when he died Saturday in Wellingtonhis partner Ann Riley and their adult children Tim and Alice survive.
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