Gentleman radio host signs out

Last updated 12:58 01/04/2014

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Like a well-worn coat or a favourite chair there is something comfortably familiar about the voice of an enduring radio broadcaster.

Geoff Robinson, who signed off Morning Report today for the last time, has been such a fixture in the breakfast routines of New Zealand households for 38 years.

Critics have occasionally said he is not hard-edged enough to lead the public broadcasting news flagship, but it is difficult to hold politeness and a soothing southwest London accent against him.

It's just the way he was brought up and as he says, you don't have to be rude to ask questions.

He also sees reassurance as part of his role. He brought the news of many disasters into our homes, and his live broadcasting in the wake of the Aramoana massacre, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Canterbury earthquakes were works of calm professionalism.

His style has also been an effective counterpoint to the more aggressive interviewing techniques of previous co-hosts such as Kim Hill, Sean Plunkett and Mike Hosking.

Through it all he has remained remarkably low-profile, avoiding any hint of a flashy celebrity status in or out of the studio.

His career is also a testament to physical endurance, rising at 3.30am to prepare for an intense three hours of news and interviews, under time pressure and covering an extraordinary breadth of subjects.

Not bad for a man who started off in a London bank, decided it was not for him and jumped on a ship bound for New Zealand.

He saw a New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation advertisement for trainee radio announcers, and the rest is history.

Robinson, now 70, has made the right call to bow out now. He has admitted that he hasn't been achieving the standards he sets for himself. Even favourite chairs can wear thin.

Longevity can breed both respect and a certain tiredness. There are times, particularly with more media-savvy politicians, that a more aggressive approach is needed to get a straight answer, or at least cut through the deliberate padding.

There is a feeling, too, that his partnership with affable co-host Simon Mercep did not have the light and shade that distinguished previous hosting combinations.

With Mercep moving to afternoons, Morning Report will have a totally new sound and style from tomorrow when former Television New Zealand political editor Guyon Espiner and former British radio journalist Susie Ferguson take over.

Their style will be edgier and will no doubt provoke unease or even complaints among long-time Morning Report fans.

But as Robinson recalls, listeners were unhappy when Morning Report replaced musical programming on April 1, 1975.

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He has played a large role in making it a valuable institution, and now deserves a sleep-in.

- Nelson

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