Philip Sherry spent his career in and out of newsrooms, from Wellington’s WNTV-1 to the NZBC, to the launch of TV3, s well as time at Radio New Zealand. Although his statemanslike style moved in and out of favour with broadcasters, he always maintained an air of authority with viewers and listeners nationwide - he was nicknamed 'Mr Credibility'.
Sherry belongs to a generation of news readers who were committed to the formal bulletin format. The style, which Sherry would in New Zealand become emblematic of, was focused on a single reader concisely delivering news, without personal comment. As his sometime colleague Dougal Stevenson put it “When we did the news, it was hard, and it didn’t masquerade as anything other than the news.” Although the approach would be phased out by TV One in the 80s and then by TV3 in the late 90s, due to its difficulty maintaining ratings compared with more entertaining formats, it is often regarded as the more serious method of news presentation.
Born and raised in Wellington, Philip Sherry began presenting radio in 1960 on the local station 2YD. As television was introduced, 2YD followed the wave of the future, becoming WNTV-1 in 1962. Sherry led the Wellington bulletin when it first began, although his stay there was short-lived. He headed abroad, taking radio announcing jobs in Vancouver, London, Hilversum, and Berne.
He returned to New Zealand in 1967 and began working on Town and Around. When the NZBC launched the first nationwide news programme in 1969, Philip Sherry was at the forefront. He was one of three newsreaders, alongside Dougal Stevenson and Bill Toft, who rotated announcing duties. He also return to National Radio again in 1975, on the Morning Report. “I started work at 5am for radio and would be reading the television news at 9pm. It was a longish day but very disciplined.” However the introduction of TV2 meant major change for the NZBC. The evening news was brought forward from 7pm to 6:30pm, and was fronted alternately by Dougal Stevenson and Bill McCarthy, with no room left for Sherry on the bulletin.
Sherry was not to be long off the air however. After his brief return to radio at RNZ, he was brought in to host TV2’s new late bulletin News at Ten with Tom Bradley in early 1976. While the early show Two at Seven, quickly replaced by News at Six to more directly compete with TV One, was intended as a typical daily news bulletin, News at Ten was a combined news and current affairs show. The show won a Feltex Award in 1976, however the threatened amalgamation of the two networks by the government led to the show’s cancellation in 1977. In spite of this he was awarded 1977’s inaugural Bill Toft Memorial Trophy, for Broadcaster of the Year.
In 1986 TVNZ were beginning to modernise their approach to news, which meant switching to the more internationally popular format of having male and female co-presenters. TVNZ instated Judy Bailey and Neil Billington (who was shortly thereafter replaced by Richard Long) as co-anchors, once again leaving no room for Sherry. Again, it was back to the wireless, reading the morning news bulletin for 1ZB between 6am and 10am. He also began presenting a string of programmes for the Christian Broadcasting Association.
The launch of TV3 in 1989 presented another new opportunity for Sherry. He signed on as the solo anchor of the station’s half hour 6pm news broadcast, and led the bulletin for 3 News' first day on the 27th of November 1989. The return to television was to be short lived. In June 1990, citing poor ratings, he was replaced as 6pm anchor by Nightline newsreader Joanna Paul.
After staying on the radio for a little while longer, Sherry retired from newsreading in the early 1990s, and moved into local body politics. He spent six years as deputy chairman of the Auckland Regional Council, representing North Shore and Takapuna. He later became a councillor in the Bay of Plenty region, and was a list MP for the ultimately unsuccessful Christian Heritage Party.
In 2014 Sherry returned to the news desk to present another bulletin — a public service announcement for Macular Degeneration Awareness Week — more than half a century after his first broadcast. In 2018 he was named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the yearly round of New Zealand Honours, for services to local government and broadcasting.
Profile written by Simon Smith
Barry Shaw, 'Sherry a fillip for TV3 news' - The NZ Herald, 15 August 1989
John Drinnan, 'TV3 dumps news anchorman Philip Sherry' - The Dominion, 9 June 1990
Jane Bowron, 'Evening Stars' - The Dominion, 6 March 1999
Sarah Stuart, 'Return of the ‘Dinosaurs’!' - The New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, 22 June 1992
Unknown writer, 'Weekend Profile: Environment BOP councillor Philip Sherry' (Interview) - The Bay of Plenty Times, 14 November 2004
Unknown writer, 'The Classical Style of Philip Sherry' - The Listener, November 1977