The 'Outing' of Amanda Millar & Co
It’s been almost seven years since I started running my own business. Seven years since I left the 60 Minutes office. Seven years of operating successfully via word of mouth. And it’s taken seven years to admit to myself that I need to get online.
I’m finally ‘outing’ myself.
Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do as a communications consultant. But it’s taken me this long to openly admit that I am one.
I now realise it wasn’t so much admitting to others that I was working on the ‘dark side’, as journos call it but rather admitting it to myself. After all I had spent more than 30 years in TV news and current affairs. I used to call myself the ‘P dealer’ in TV; perverts, politicians, pedophiles, prostitutes, pathologically disturbed people and property developers…normally crooked ones. They were my gig. And I loved it. I lived and breathed it. It was a drug and it was hard to pull the needle out of my arm.
But something changed with the Pike River Mine explosion in November 2010. The media landscape was morphing into the digital space. There wasn’t the money for long-format current affairs (read investigative journalism) or for senior and experienced journalists anymore. Plummeting ratings weren’t helping either.
While we were part of the international stable that pays its US reporters $10s of millions, the 60 Minutes Wellington crew that was dispatched to Greymouth had no internet capacity on their phones and no laptops provided by TV3. We were digitally marooned.
As every crew flew in from around the globe and set up satellite dishes and canvas edit suites on every corner of Greymouth’s main street, we were resorting to listening to updates on the car radio, calling our Auckland office for developments and using the local petrol station’s, Yellow Pages to try and find the phone numbers and addresses of the families of the victims of the explosion.
If it weren’t such a tragic story, it would have been a joke. It was also a sign that the industry had changed forever and the prestigious “60 Minutes” brand hadn’t kept up in New Zealand.
For me, the epiphany came when I had to do the dreaded ‘death-knock’ on the door of the Rockhouse family. Two of their sons had been involved in the explosion. Ben was killed while the other son, Daniel, had managed to escape. I had petulantly refused like a spoilt child to get out of the car – telling my colleagues I felt I couldn’t do it. I was too ‘old’ for this stuff. They just barked at me, “You’re the face of 60 Minutes so get out and do it.”
When that door opened and Sonya Rockhouse, stood in front of me with absolute disdain on her face, I got it. I felt it. I knew it. When I uttered who I was she swore at me. Again, I understood her anger. All I could do was splutter as tears rolled down my face. I was crying at the futility of it all. Not professional. Not a good look. However, Sonya Rockhouse in her pain, had done me a favour.
On that long, humiliating walk down their path as the family watched me from the window, I made the decision that this was my final story for 60 Minutes.
After working 120 hours in five days, we put our Pike River Explosion story to air. Three days later, TV3 announced staff cuts to current affairs, including the disbandment of the 60 Minutes office in Wellington.
It was indeed my final story after decades with TV3/Mediaworks. Thank you Sonya Rockhouse for changing my life and my career.