Time at ‘Mail’ less of a job, more of a pleasure

Ashley Smyth, after a stint as acting bureau chief and editor, says goodbye to the Oamaru Mail — again.

On May 14, 2020, not only did New Zealand come out of its first Level 4 lockdown, but I started my second stint reporting at the Oamaru Mail, after a 20-ish year hiatus.

The first time I worked for the Mail, it was my first reporting job as a 21-year-old. The paper was a daily, and broadsheet (newspaper lingo for big pages), and Oamaru’s only cafe was Cafe Katz.

Things have definitely changed for the better.

There was a whole lot of self-doubt about whether I was up to the challenge again, with three young children occupying the majority of my headspace, but the Mail needed a reporter, and I needed a job.

I found myself working with a fantastic team of journalists (and, more importantly, people) with our then editor Rebecca Ryan at the forefront. All were passionate about this town and its people, and in turn I rediscovered my passion for writing and telling their stories.

I could never be accused of underwriting an article. I think every person deserves to have their story told — much to the frustration, I’m sure, of the subeditors putting the pages of the paper together, who weekly had to squeeze my 1000-word tomes into 500-word spaces.

It’s such a privilege when someone shares a window into their lives with you. I thank those people for trusting me with their stories, and hope I never cause somebody to regret doing that.

Since August this year, after Rebecca decided to move on, I have done my best to fill the very large shoes she left behind, as acting bureau chief and editor. Right up until this week, which is my last paper with the Mail.

Special mention must go to Kayla Hodge, my trusty adviser and prolific producer of news, who was a wise, calm head when I was close to losing mine. Also to Sally Brooker, who has temporarily returned from retirement to, literally and very capably, fill in the reporting gaps. I hope you get to retire again soon, Sally!

A huge thanks, as well, to Sally Rae and the rest of the Oamaru office, who have made coming to work here less of a job, and more of a pleasure.

Working full-time, while still trying to juggle being a mum, and keeping my head above water in all other areas of my life has been a challenge, and I have decided the time is right for me to move on.

I look forward to being able to be more present in my children’s lives again, but I will also continue to write, and share your stories, albeit in a different format.

I will forever be a fan of the Oamaru Mail — one of the country’s best community newspapers, and am grateful for the opportunities and satisfaction this job has provided me with.