Shayne Currie, editor of the New Zealand Herald, will be able to put his feet up for one day as former All Black and anti-depression campaigner Sir John Kirwan steps in to take over the editorial responsibilities for the 10 December edition of the paper.
Monday, 9 December, will be the first time that the paper, which recently celebrated its sesquicentennial anniversary, invites a guest editor into its Auckland-based office.
“When I was first asked, my initial reaction was ‘wow, what does that entail?' and then I went home and thought about what an incredible honour this is ... I'm going to give it my best shot, dedicate myself to it and hopefully inspire those people around me in the newsroom,” said Kirwan in response to being selected as the inaugural guest editor.
Despite Kirwan’s lack of editorial experience, Currie is confident that the former rugby star will be up to the task of putting the edition together.
“We've asked Sir John Kirwan because he epitomises the very best characteristics across a wide range of interests – sport, business, charity work, family, travel, fashion... not to mention his passion for Auckland,” he said.
And the rugby legend hasn’t wasted any time getting content together. He has already commissioned 12 assignments, including the creation of a souvenir cover, for the unique edition.
In addition to collating the main features, Kirwan will also lead the daily news conference, in which the news, world, sport, business, illustration and online editors will present their content lists and ideas.
What many will look forward to most, however, is the editorial, which will offer a glimpse into the troubled psyche of the celebrated sports hero.
Although guest editing is new for the Herald, it is by no means a world first. Various publications abroad have taken it as an opportunity to tap into the appeal of celebrity involvement, and the trend is becoming more popular.
In October, the New Statesman invited Russell Brand in to guest edit its publication, and his editorial, which spoke of the need for revolution of the consciousness, became the centre of furious online debate between detractors and supporters.
Although not as incendiary as the frazzle-haired messiah of modern revolutionary thought, Michelle Obama also recently served as a guest editor for iVillage. And BBC 4’s Today programme will this year continue its annual guest-editorial tradition, which started in 2003, by hosting Lady Manningham-Buller, Anthony Jenkins, PJ Harvey, Michael Palin and Sir Tim Berners Lee over the Christmas period.
But the enthusiasm for guest editors isn’t shared by everyone, with one Independent writer describing it as a worn-out concept that now only serves as a celebrity-marketing stunt under the thin veil of fresh editorial perspective.
Currie, however, is optimistic about employing it in New Zealand, and he said that several other guests are likely to follow Kirwan in 2014.