Just before you go, Sonia . . .

Last updated 08:48 02/11/2012
Sonia O'Regan
Sonia O'Regan

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The first time I spoke to Sonia O'Regan, she phoned to interview me.

It was May 2010 and I had just been appointed editor of this newspaper.

I was sitting in my office in Invercargill, looking west out my little window and watching a plane bounce in for a windy landing at the airport. I was thinking about the changes ahead when the phone rang. Funny how you remember those little details.

The call was from the Sonia, the chief reporter at the Express, who was doing a story for the paper announcing the new boss.

She wanted a few details.

She was friendly and businesslike, and wrote a nice story on a dull subject.

But at the end of the call, I remember thinking she had cleverly sized me up without me realising. Clever.

A good skill in a journalist.

I've never asked her whether that first impression was on the mark.

Since then I have come to rely on her, as every editor does with a chief reporter.

They are the person who keeps the newsroom ticking over, assigns the reporters to stories, does the rosters, keeps the diary going, mentors and encourages, deals with hundreds of emails a week, dozens of calls a day and occasionally even gets to write a story. They are herders of cats and jugglers of knives.

Sonia fits the bill.

We are not close friends but we have grown to know each other quite well. Or at least she knows my habits well and ribs me about them - like pausing before she walks out of a meeting because she knows there will always be a "hey Sonia" before she gets far.

We have a similar approach to news and both find it hard to say "too late" or "no time" to someone calling in with a last-minute picture or story idea.

After working together for 2 years, though, she is leaving.

Going off to relax for a couple of weeks and then concentrate on freelance writing.

I suspect she even dreams of writing a bit of fiction.

Some of her writing I have enjoyed the most was her series of columns on training for the St Clair Half-Marathon two years back. Shame she hasn't had the chance to do more of that.

I can't say much more than I will miss her skills and her sound judgment a great deal.

She has been here only since December 2005 but has a wide knowledge of the region, the people who live here and the organisations and businesses they are involved in.

She covered the wine industry when she first arrived and that knowledge has been so important to us, helping guide reporters moving into that area for the first time, and sorting out the noir from the gris, so to speak.

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Everyone who has dealt with Sonia over the years will know her as someone who cares about what is going on in the region; certainly not just the big news stories, but the community events, the fundraisers, the pet days and awards ceremonies, the shows, the fairs and the open days.

More than anyone, she has done her best to make sure they all get some coverage.

And I can see her rolling her eyes if she ever reads this, as if to say I've made it sound more like an obituary than "thanks and go well". Because we'll see her around. She's not leaving town and I hope she'll be back at the Express at some stage.

So I won't labour the point, Sonia, and will just say thanks, go well and see you soon.

And before you go . . .

- The Marlborough Express

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