The front page: the newspaper column is longer than Facebook, Twitter and Buzzfeed

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Way of life

Ana Samways, the mastermind behind Sideswipe. Photo/Michael Craig

Before the social media giants of the world put out little bits of content, author Ana Samways did it on the back page of the New Zealand Herald.

His popular Sideswipe column was first launched in 2002 and has since amassed a whopping 5,000 likes. You would be hard pressed to find many columns longer than this in the New Zealand media.

On today’s episode of the Front Page Podcast, Samways joins us to discuss longevity and whether she could imagine handing this big responsibility to another journalist in the future.

• Follow the front page podcast here.

The story of the column begins in the Auckland newsroom, where Samways had the responsibility of answering the phones. The young journalist was answering the phone after her recent return from her OE.

That’s when this opportunity crossed his path.

“The publisher at the time was looking for snippets for short attention spans for the last page,” Samways recalls.

This simple idea was to turn into a permanent search for New Zealand curiosities to feed the beast on a daily basis.

Samways has many options to choose from, but after all these years, there are few that really stick with it.

“I remember a woman who was a moderator on a big website. They did a story about a dog attacking a penguin and she was terribly upset, and wrote a comment saying, ‘What if it was a kid in disguise? into a penguin, then that dog would be ready to be murdered.

“Then there was another one that came from the Papatoetoe Cossie Club minutes. They wanted to turn the air conditioning down because it was affecting the flow of their darts.

“Simple things to say are quite funny.

Not all correspondence Samways has received over the years has been so desirable.

“I used to get these encrypted messages sent by post on the back of envelopes, and some were really scary,” she says.

“It’s nothing new for a woman with a profile, but I’m glad it’s over.”

What didn’t stop, however, were the columns. They came back every day, pasted on the last page to the delight of readers.

And after 20 years, Samways has not yet lost its motivation. She is always on the lookout for the little curiosities that make New Zealand such a special place to live.

Could she imagine entrusting this sacred responsibility to someone else?

“From my cold, dead hands,” she laughs.

The Front Page is a daily news podcast from the New Zealand Herald, available to listen to every weekday from 5am.

• You can follow the podcast at nzherald.co.nz, iHeartRadio, Apple podcast, Spotifyor wherever you get your podcasts.

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