4 Feb 2024

With one last hurrah, goneburger is goneburger

From Mediawatch, 9:10 am on 4 February 2024

When James Shaw tweeted the phrase "James Shaw goneburger", it was the zenith of one political reporter's eight-year effort to goneburger every departing politician in New Zealand. But Jo Moir is now leaving Twitter (X) - and goneburgering - behind.

James Shaw and, inset, James Shaw's tweet saying 'James Shaw goneburger'

James Shaw and, inset, James Shaw's tweet saying 'James Shaw goneburger' Photo: RNZ

Stuff’s piece explaining the lay of the political land ahead of Parliament’s first sitting day on Tuesday was mostly run-of-the-mill.

There were tidbits about National and Labour’s priorities and some remarks about Chris Bishop’s distinctive grin. So far, so banal.

But 14 paragraphs in was an apparent bombshell about the Greens. Almost off-hand, it added: "Co-leader James Shaw’s departure is also hanging over the party. It will lead to a months-long leadership selection process."

Readers who made it to that point in the article might have been forgiven for saying ‘huh’, ‘what now? or ‘James Shaw is resigning!?’

Though it was stated like common knowledge, those of us who hadn’t spent the summer relentlessly boning up on New Zealand politics might have been taken aback to learn the co-leader of Parliament’s third-biggest party was on the way out in the final spluttering paragraphs of a story about something else.

At least Stuff’s scoop aged well. Shaw's resignation was announced at 11am and led TVNZ's Midday News.

Perhaps Stuff’s journalists have sources inside the Green Party. Perhaps they picked up an early copy of the embargoed press statement. Perhaps they’re just adept at summoning messages from the political spirit realm.

Whatever method they used, it wasn’t revolutionary. Few journalists seemed to be shaken or even slightly stirred by Shaw’s resignation.

TVNZ political reporter Lilian Hanley told Midday News it wasn't a surprise. 

Over at NewstalkZB, political editor Jason Walls was similarly nonplussed: "Let's be honest - we knew this was coming." 

Some pundits had been predicting Shaw’s departure.

"Is it time for Shaw to bail out?" The New Zealand Herald’s Fran O’Sullivan asked in a 20 January column. She argued he was lost in “a sea of activists fast running the Greens’ brand into the ground”, while deftly eliding the fact that the party recorded its best-ever result in October’s general election.

But some of us – namely me – were still surprised by Shaw’s resignation and it would be nice if the political press gallery could give me more notice of upcoming unsurprising news next time, so I don’t end up prattling about it for five minutes on the radio like a turkey.

Goneburgering reaches its zenith

Thankfully, Shaw kept at least one resignation shock up his sleeve.

He announced his own departure on Twitter with 'James Shaw goneburger'.

For many, particularly those not on X, the style of that announcement would have been slightly odd.

But for one woman, it was the culmination of years of toil; the crowning achievement of a near decade-long effort to entrench her favourite phrase into New Zealand political lexicon.

Newsroom political editor Jo Moir first tweeted the word "goneburger" back in 2016: Murray McCully goneburger at the next election.

Her tweet garnered just four likes and two replies, one of which was from her.

But she persisted - and Moir has goneburgered hundreds of people, concepts and ideas since then. 

Dr Ashley Bloomfield… goneburger

Michael Wood goneburger

Louisa Wall goneburger

Simon Bridges leadership bid goneburger

Rob Campbell goneburger

Rob Campbell goneburger (again)

young henry cooke goneburger

Peace and love goneburger

Andrew Little goneburger

Stuart Nash goneburger

Barry Soper goneburger

Social insurance scheme goneburger

And Ian McKelvie, goneburger 

Moir's goneburgering has spanned six National and three Labour leaders. 

It hasn’t always been popular. To take one sample reply to her tweet announcing Little’s goneburgeration:

"Andrew Little is not "goneburger  . . . . . he RESIGNED from politics. You are truly awful to make such a comment about a hardworking public servant who gave his time to serving the people. If you have nothing positive to say, say nothing. Less is more."

But Moir’s commitment seem to waver just once.  

"Goneburger makes it to Mediawatch - my work here is done," she tweeted In April 2022.

It turns out she wasn’t done - and neither were we.

Shaw’s announcement shows an obscure term first recorded in the Kiwi Slang Dictionary in 1995 is now influencing the highest levels of our democracy.

Moir told Mediawatch she never intended for this to happen when she first goneburgered Murray McCully eight years ago.

"It was just this weird thing that I was doing that took off," she says. 

She insists she never meant the term to be disrespectful or pejorative - and several departing politicians have told her they see being "goneburgered" as a rite of passage.

"For every person who tells me I'm disrespectful, there's three who say, 'I come to Twitter just to see that you've done this tweet and I love it'," says Moir, who is rejoining RNZ this month as its political editor.

"It's 100 percent neutral. James Shaw choosing to goneburger himself has probably proven that."

Moir says Shaw's resignation message is a nice capstone for her goneburger career - because she's leaving X, nee Twitter.

"It's a busy job. There's enough going on without dealing with the backlash that you get. Increasingly, the backlash is worse than the fun bit. It just seems like a good time to say 'see ya'."