I just found out that my book, Stop Press: the last days of newspapers, was shortlisted for the inaugural Bert Roth Award for excellence in labour history. The award, set up by the Labour History Project, honours the memory of New Zealand labour historian and archivist Bert Roth (1917-1994).
The award was for any contribution to the field of labour history in 2013 – not just books but pamphlets, a film, an article or even a body of work of a period of time. The judges defined labour history broadly and they included non-paid labour in their understanding of what could be nominated. What a great idea.
Stop Press, which documents the collapse of newspaper manufacturing in New Zealand and Australia, was one of seven shortlisted projects. It didn’t win – that honour goes to journalist Rebecca Macfie for Tragedy at Pike River Mine – but I still feel like I’ve won something by getting on the shortlist.
This is what the judges said:
“We just don’t hear about it much…for very good reasons that Rachel Buchanan describes in Stop Press: the last days of newspapers, another strong candidate for this award. This is a brave account of how the newspaper industry has been downsized and outsourced, almost into oblivion. Buchanan takes us from her own jobsite as an outsourced subeditor, contracted by Fairfax Media for Australian newspapers (other teams subedit for NZ nsps), to the soon to be closed Tullamarine printing plant in Melbourne to the downsized Tasman mill in Kawerau.”
I don’t see myself as a labour historian but one of the things I wanted to do with my book was to think about newspaper people as labourers and to describe the nature of this labour and the dignity of it. As well as providing a (well paid) livelihood, newspaper work has been a great source of pride and meaning for many people and I wanted to capture the remnants of that before it was gone.
It’s great to have this side of the book recognised by people I respect but it’s also lovely to be on a shortlist with Anne Else. Anne was a co-founder of the feminist newspaper Broadsheet (1972-1997). I was lucky that Huia contracted Anne to edit my first book, The Parihaka Album: Lest We Forget (2009). She did a great job and I loved working with her.
Anne’s labour history book is a food memoir, The Colour of Food. The judges said: “this beautifully written e-book told Else’s life history through the meals she ate and the meals she prepared. Else describes significant changes in the work of home cooking as New Zealand food culture changed”. The book has done so well in the e-format that Awa is putting it out on paper too. I look forward to buying my own copy and to reading the Pike River book and other works on the Bert Roth shortlist.