Opinion: The Clarke Gayford 'takedown' was a soft ball

OPINION: Don't we all love Clarke Gayford? Between the manly fishing habit and the future nappy changes, he's surely the perfect fusion of Neanderthal hunter-provider and metrosexual dreamboat.

And yet in breaking news yesterday, one journalist presented an alternative idea. Reprehensive ne'er-do-well zeitgeist resister Deborah Hill Cone dared to suggest that perhaps there is more to Gayford's 'good bloke' media brand than meets the eye.

Perhaps, she suggested, he is loving this moment in the limelight more than we like to think.

Perhaps this reboot of his celebrity - from reality TV star to music TV presenter and radio host to internationally beloved 'first man of fishing' - helps boost ratings for his television show. Perhaps all this keenness is a touch cringey.

And yet as the New Zealand media clamoured to defend Gayford yesterday, the man himself had little to say.

In a carefully worded tweet, he used the NZME column to give his fishing show a little promo (doing nothing to disprove Hill Cone's thinking), and then walked away.

If this was a personal attack, it was a soft ball. A character assassination it was not. It was the gentle ribbing of a man who appears to be enjoying some very positive international attention.

The outrage Hill Cone's column generated may have been the symptom of a slow news day, or of a small media industry in which everyone knows everyone, and daren't step outside the fray.

[Case in point: one journalist retweeted the Herald article, before quietly removing it from their feed as the braying grew louder].

Gayford doesn't bother me at all, but the groupthink sure does.

As a veteran of the media scene, Hill Cone has had her fair share of heat in the past. She knew exactly the furore writing something critical about New Zealand's first bloke would cause.

The article may have been mean-spirited - Hill Cone admitted as much by paragraph five. On the other hand, perhaps Gayford does enjoy the spotlight, and fair game to him.

But as anyone with a profile in New Zealand could tell you, with a public profile will come public commentary.

And the fans - those calling for the head of a journalist who dared disagree with them - have to expect and accept that not all Gayford's coverage is going to be fawning.

"I feel disquiet about his jolly japes because I worry for him," wrote Hill Cone. "Hopefully [Gayford] will be one of the few who can emerge from the shitshow unscathed."

Gayford does not need us to leap to his defence. He is fine. He is a media-savvy veteran of the industry who knows exactly what he's doing.

In a 35-word tweet, it seems Gayford was amused by the attention, made use of the publicity, and then moved on.

I'd say there's much we can learn from New Zealand's first man after all.

Maggie Wicks is Newshub's features editor.

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