Us Two: Martin and Jack van Beynen

Martin van Beynen and his son Jack work together in Fairfax's Christchurch office.

Martin van Beynen and his son Jack work together in Fairfax's Christchurch office.

Martin van Beynen, 59, is an investigative reporter and columnist for Fairfax NZ, and the man behind the hugely successful Black Hands podcast about the Bain family murders. His son Jack, 24, is a Stuff entertainment reporter who works in the same Christchurch office, though you won't catch them sharing a lot of tea breaks.

Martin/ When Jack started talking about being a journalist I worried he was too gentle and sensitive to do the job.

I had bigger plans for him, more lucrative ones, so that he could look after his broke parents in their old age. Given his genetic background, I perhaps should have been less ambitious.

He was a creative kid from an early age who could absorb huge amounts of information about things he was interested in. He loved trains, then whales, then dinosaurs, then medieval lifestyles and native birds.

I remember when Jack was voted the nicest kid in his class at primary school by his peers. I was very disappointed. He'd clearly learned nothing from me.

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Jack was a serious, worried-looking kid from the moment he was born. We drove home from the hospital with this little package in the front passenger seat looking around with these big dark eyes.

Jack is a bit of a loner and once said his ideal job would be a high country shepherd.

He took to journalism quite easily, though he had to work hard on overcoming his shyness and natural reserve. Journalism, for some reason, attracts shy, introverted people, and that is a blessing and a curse.

We now work on the same floor although for different parts of the organisation. Except for the occasional greeting, we hardly talk, and when I see him at weekends with his partner, it's as though I haven't seen him for weeks.

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I hear about the witty stuff he writes and people tell me his writing can be funny and clever. He is great with technology and can put an iPhone video together in record time.

I think he is a bit PC and I know I embarrass him with some of my views. He loves to see me being humiliated and criticised by all those bozos and lefties on social media. He told me he had joined some feminist society but I treat that as a form of healthy rebellion against his elders and betters. His table manners are shocking, despite my years of nagging.

He has always been good in crisis. He keeps thinking when others are losing their heads. While my head fills with red-hot blood, he is calmly talking people down and alerting people to coming pitfalls.

We don't do a lot together. We go on the occasional mountain jaunt because he loves the mountains and outdoors, but he is so fast that I get left behind and we meet at the top.

As the oldest of three siblings in our family, he sort of sets the tone for family relations. Fortunately, it is a friendly, good-natured tone, which means his siblings love him to bits. That is not to say he was the perfect brother, but he was pretty good.

We were on holiday once and his mother was reading this headline: "What are men good for?" Jack, who was only 5 or 6, piped up and said men were for love. I was gobsmacked.

Jack/ He likes to think of himself as the family's provider. He's the one who puts food on the table; who shields us from the sometimes cruel outside world. Mum called him "Martin the martyr", because he was always putting us ahead of himself.

When we were kids, our family would go on these long, nomadic road trips. At each campsite, once the tents were up, Dad would get to work building these structures, like a bench to cook at or a fly overhead to keep the rain off. He just used whatever was to hand; bits of wood, rope, parts from the car.

Sometimes it would be pissing down with rain, and we'd sit in the car while he was out there trying to construct some kind of shelter.

When I moved out of home he came to my flat and built me a desk using this bit of old bench he'd scrounged from somewhere, and a set of drawers he'd filched from the office. Like everything he builds, it was really over-engineered. This was in Christchurch, 2011, and I'd hide under it during big aftershocks.

I didn't realise what a big fish he was in the world of journalism until I started working for Fairfax. Then several people described him to me as a "legend of the game", and I kept getting comms people going: "Are you any relation to Martin?"

His work persona is quite different to what he's like at home. He's more curmudgeonly, more kind of overtly cynical, and you get more of a sense of his ego. People call him "Marty" or "MVB", which I find weird.

But he is very good at what he does, and he's really passionate about it. I don't think I'll ever be as good a journalist as him because I don't have that hard edge he's got. He likes getting into fights with people, which is the part of the job I hate.

As I get older, though, I hear myself sounding like him more. Usually it's when I'm talking about money – we're both pretty tight – or having an argument. I'll stop and go: "Jesus, that sounded like something Dad would say."

He likes to think he's a bit of a critic, which means you can't take him anywhere without getting a verbal review afterwards. He's hard to impress; even in the good places he'll complain about the cost. He's much happier cooking up a feast for everyone at home.

 - Sunday Magazine


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