Kathryn Ryan is one of the glittering jewels in New Zealand’s media crown. Formidably smart she conducts no-holds-barred interviews every weekday morning on her Radio New Zealand show, Nine to Noon. An Otago girl from way back, now in Wellington, and always making the most of the great outdoors all over NZ, we chat to Kathryn about what inspires her.
What’s happening in the world of Kathryn Ryan for 2016? Learning, working. Navigating the big changes that are happening in the media world, with all their challenges and opportunities. Spending weekends in the outdoors, sea, or mountains, and blissing out on the beauty of this place. Enjoying friends and family and supporting their adventures and endeavours. Trying to keep fit, cooking, reading – not all of these complement each other!
Describe the most generous person you know. How have they influenced you? Each and every one of the people who shares their stories, their knowledge, their highs, their lows, their disappointments, their successes, their failures, their joys, and their losses on Nine to Noon. This generous spirit of making yourself vulnerable – because someone else may hear something that changes their life, or illuminates what they're going through, makes them feel less alone, or encourages them to try something, or make a change. It is humbling to be part of that, and I never cease to be amazed at the trust, wisdom, and goodness of the thousands of people to put themselves out there and do it. Also, the kind of people who generously share their homes, their families, and their lives, without reservation. My life is full of them to a ridiculously undeserved degree.
Can you name an everyday action that makes the world a better place, yet is underrated? Kindness. Making the effort to look for and say something positive about someone. Not faked or forced – it's not hard to find these things. The small, subtle interactions that build someone up or change the way they are thinking or feeling; enough of it can change destinies, and it's contagious.
Can you tell us three stories that inspire you and why? Philosophically, the writing of Dame Jane Goodall and Peter Singer. Both forever changed the way I think about the rights of animals, and our responsibilities as a dominant species to not misuse the intellectual superiority we have to abuse and exploit other species egregiously. We've done nothing but pay a price for doing so, but more fundamentally, what right do we have to do so? Dame Jane's brilliantly lived life, including her worldwide work encouraging youth to action, and Peter's latest book on giving, and our ethical and moral imperative to give as much as we can, have added further layers of challenge! Also, the late Sir Paul Callaghan, who modelled brilliantly how to lead public discourse and debate in a way that never threatened, or intimidated, or antagonised people. He was without arrogance, encouraged participation, and made everyone feel welcome and worthy of it. He was an astounding role model for effective influence.
Secondly – great photography, art, and journalism. I love the style of ‘New Journalism' – which is now getting pretty old! I'll name two more recent books: Christopher McDougall's Born to Run, and Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, which combine my fascination with human physical and mental endeavour, with the environment, and fantastic journalistic writing.
The last thing is a real-life story that's unfolding right now. The activities of a whole generation of young, smart and inspiring business and social entrepreneurs, mostly in their 20s and 30s, in New Zealand and overseas. Many of whom are using new technology and new media to lead the way in redefining entrepreneurial endeavours. They knock me sideways with their calibre and their energy and give me hope we can, and will, fix a good few things that need fixing – and they're lots of fun to be around!
Photography by Pat Shepherd.