HB News’ Keith Stinson steps down
By DAVID CURTIS
Keith Stinson retired yesterday after 38 years in the newspaper and printing business.
With him went the company which was largely his creation – Hawke’s Bay News Ltd which controlled the province’s newspaper industry from Wairoa to Dannevirke, was a major shareholder in Radio Hawke’s Bay, and diversiﬁed into computers and ofﬁce equipment.
Keith Stinson became managing director of Hawke’s Bay News in 1982 following its takeover of the province’s two major evening newspapers, the Herald-Tribune and Daily Telegraph. It was a defensive merger aimed at keeping predators at bay.
The irony of the situation has not escaped Keith Stimson today and, even with the hindsight of the eventual takeover of Hawke’s Bay News by the Brierley-controlled New Zealand News, he still believes the decision was correct.
The 1970s had begun a new era for the New Zealand newspaper industry. In Hawke’s Bay W. A. Whitlock (Tribune) and Trevor Geddes (Telegraph), the last of the old-style proprietors, were gone. Newspapers were grappling with the new technology and Hawke’s Bay was in the van, throwing out linotypes and replacing them with computer keyboards and scrapping the thundering iron rotary presses in favour of web offset and the miracle of full living colour.
The business world was changing too. There was a need to modernise, expand and diversfy. These were challenging readily identiﬁed and accepted by Keith Stinson even though in the end Hawke’s Bay News may have presented a more identiﬁable single target to outside interests.
After a brief skirmish New Zealand News won the day in a takeover that completed a chain of events put in train almost a decade earlier.
But Keith Stinson’s story begins a lot earlier. Hastings born and bred, educated at the Convent and the then St John’s High School, he entered the workforce in 1944 as a Public Service cadet in the Internal Marketing Department (later to become the Apple and Pear Marketing Board).
The department’s main task those days was in producing, packing and forwarding vegetables to United States troops in the Paciﬁc.
Keith worked in both Hastings and Wellington, returning to his hometown in 1947 with the idea of joining a mercantile ﬁrm and becoming a stock agent.
Instead, he was offered a clerical post with the Herald-Tribune in 1948 and transferred a year later to the advertising department as assistant to the manager, Mr Fred Leicester.
For the next eight years Keith sold advertising for most of the day and in the late afternoons loaded up a Commer van to make the daily bulk newspaper run to Central Hawke’s Bay.
“Most days the press never rolled until 3.30pm or even 3.45pm so it didn’t interfere with my advertising work too much,” he recalls. “They were good days I got to know a lot of Central Hawke’s Bay people.”
There were other present-day staff members working on the Tribune when Keith joined Miss Melva Mildenhall (now credit controller) Lewis Knowles (now associate editor) and Bill Sleeman (now pressroom foreman).
Newspaper people are usually itinerant, but they, like Keith, have stayed loyal to the Tribune. There are others too remembered fondly.
There was that large-than-life Warwick Shooter, (racing editor), the thorough dedication of chief sub and news editor Norman Greig, the extroverted Ted Carne (advertising), and the dapper Bill Baillie, a Tribune institution on whom Keith Stinson had to work “mighty hard to get him to retire at the age of 89.” There was also the soundness and the puckish humour of former editor Ted Webber and, of course, W. A. Whitlock, who left no one in doubt about who was in charge.
Well remembered also are Sammy Cox, who Hec Cameron replaced as works foreman, and Steve Ryan, the very Irish general hand who seemed to have his own little business trading newspapers for cabbages.
The paper run ended with Keith’s appointment as advertising manager in 1956. This was followed by company secretary (1962), secretary-manager (1973), board of directors (1974), general manager (1976), and managing director (1979).
Although Keith Stinson’s role today is largely seen as with Hawke’s Bay News, he has always “looked on the Trib as the ﬂagship” of the company.
It is so something he hopes will continue in the inevitable changes still to come.
“I still see a future for daily newspapers…I can’t really see the day when the printed word will be entirely superseded by electronic gadgetry.
“But whether Hawke’s Bay can support two major evening dailies plus the Dominion in the mornings remains to be seen. Maybe there will be a major morning regional paper and an evening paper looking after the cities.”
He also believe[s] there be a place for the community give-aways.
“Right now the public of Hawke’s Bay is reasonably well served.”
He also has a belief in Hawke’s Bay and its future. Farming will survive the present painful restructure which has affected the economics of the whole province, which with diversification, enthusiasm and hard work will emerge stronger and with a wider base.
Keith Stinson is not bitter that Hawke’s Bay News no longer exists and sees advantages for the newspapers in Hawke’s Bay being linked with a big and powerful company.
With the takeover Hawke’s Bay News became redundant, basically a reporting conduit for the Hawke’s Bay units of New Zealand News to head office in Auckland.
There is obvious mutual respect and New Zealand News has recognised Keith Stinson’s contributions to the industry and the company with a generous retirement package which includes round-the-world tickets for Keith and his wife, Alma.
A busy life of community service
Keith Stinson has led a busy life both in and outside the office.
As well as the day today running of a busy newspaper he made major contributions to the newspaper and printing industries.
He was a member of the Newspaper Publishers’ Association’s industrial committee for 20 years, its chairman from 1978 to 1980, and a member of the general committee since 1980.
He was president of the Hawke’s Bay Printers’ Association from 1977 to 1979 and is serving his fourth term as a councillor on the New Zealand Printing Industries Federation.
In community affairs Keith Stinson has also been extremely active and is best known for his long and continuous involvement with the Hibernian Society. He was instrumental in the formation of the Hastings Hibernian Club in 1956 and guided it from a “locker” club to one of New Zealand’s ﬁrst full chartered clubs of the modern era in 1960.
He was president for 20 years, served two terms as New Zealand president and was the ﬁrst New Zealander to serve a term as Australasian president.
He was chairman of the Tenison College’s Board of Governors and regrets that the church authorities did not adopt the recommendations of the Stinson report which recommended the establishment of a co-educational school at St John’s College.
He was involved with the Hastings Lions Club and is a former president of the Hastings and District Chamber of Commerce, a service he still finds very rewarding.
“Hastings is the liveliest chamber in New Zealand outside the metropolitan areas. Its effectiveness is in asking some probing questions although the responses from local bodies at times are not as prompt as we would like.”
Keith Stinson is also active in the Employers’ Federation, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, the St Mary’s Seminary Advisory Board, the Hawke’s Bay Trust for the Elderly and is a director of Radio Hawke’s Bay.
It seems incredible that he ever found the time to indulge in his hobbies of elf-shore ﬁshing – soon to be replaced by an assault on Lake Taupo’s trout from the Acacia Bay holiday home – furniture restoring and gardening.
Photo caption –
In a traditional gathering round the stone last night Herald-Tribune staff farewelled their “boss” Keith Stinson who was retiring after 38 years in the newspaper industry. Three present-day staff members, Mr Lewis Knowles (far left), Miss Melva Mildenhall (second from right) and Mr Bill Sleeman (far right) were already working on the Tribune when Mr Stinson joined the staff in 1948. On behalf of the staff Mr Knowles presented Mr Stinson with two trout fishing rods and Miss Mildenhall presented a bouquet of ﬂowers to Mrs Stinson.
Speakers, including the Tribunal general manager, Mr Ron Hall, and Hawke’s Bay News director Mr Philip Whitlock spoke of Mr Stinson’s service to the industry and the community. They extended best wishes for a happy retirement to Mr and Mrs Stinson.