In some ways Tony Ciprian was the journalistic cliché, familiar from dozens of movies: gruff and grey-haired, he was a man who cared deeply about words but often didn't need to call on too many of them, when cutting an upstart novice down to size. Ciprian was a stickler for detail: a newsman who seemed to know everyone and cared about getting it right. Al Jazeera news anchor Kamahl Santamaria, one of many who learnt valuable lessons from him when starting off in Kiwi television, wrote that he “moulded and guided and shaped us — sometimes without us even realising — and turned us into half-decent reporters”.
Antony Ciprian — or 'Cippo', as he would later come to be known — was born on 10 November 1932. He began his four-decade broadcasting career after eight years as a policeman, a job that saw him investigating car crashes and doing time on the Auckland Wharf Police.
In his late 30s, Ciprian joined the NZ Broadcasting Corporation in Gisborne as a journalist. It was 1969; within three years he was “in charge of radio and TV news for Radio 2ZG”, as the Gisborne Photo News put it. Inbetween radio stories there were occasional television reports, working alongside a cameraman with an 8mm silent camera (the footage was then couriered by car or plane to Wellington.) Ciprian also found time to play Sir Lancelot in a local production of musical Camelot.
Television seems to have been in mind from early on. He was fond of saying he began presenting the sports news for state TV “way back in the early, exciting days of TV”. By the 80s Ciprian was alternately producing or presenting the nightly sports bulletin for TVNZ's primetime news, with Richard Long. Some nights he might play reporter for one of the pieces, produce that night's sports coverage and also present it. In 1986 he travelled to Edinburgh to help cover the Commonweath Games.
In 1989 a long discussed private channel finally hit New Zealand television, and Ciprian began roughly two decades as TV3's sports producer, despite a couple of attempts at retirement. TV3 News and Current Affairs Head Mark Jennings argued that though he could be irascible, “there was never any doubt that his heart was in the right place”. Ciprian and fellow longtimer Mike Brockie “played a major role in shaping 3 News”.
He also mentored many reporters, displaying a keen eye and ear for grammar and pronunciation. Many an overconfident young journalist arrived in the newsroom to learn valuable lessons about the perils of cliché, and the idea that more words might be better than less. 'Cippo's Guide' was a bible for many TV3 reporters.
Ciprian attempted to retire in 2002, but was back within six months. As TV3 sports reporter Michelle Pickle put it, "he missed it too much".
Ciprian kept his hand in even after finally retiring in 2010 to Hervey Bay on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. He contributed to local radio, and showed little of the fear of social media sometimes seen in those old enough to remember the sound of a typewriter.
Cirpian died in Hervey Bay Hospital on 13 January 2013. He was 82. TV3 sports presenter Michelle Pickles wrote for many, when she tweeted “Sad day at TV3 and for NZ broadcasting. Cippo was a legend, a character and a bloody good guy”.
Profile written and researched by Ian Pryor
'Veteran sports news producer Tony Cipran dies, aged 82' TV3 website. Loaded 13 January 2015. Accessed 15 January 2015
'Michelle Pickle' (Twitter entry) Loaded 12 January 2015. Accessed 13 January 2015
Kamahl Santamaria, 'In Praise of Tony Ciprian: 1933 – 2015' In Praise of the Written Word website. Loaded 13 January 2015. Accessed 15 January 2015
'Lavish Production', Gisborne Photo News No 196, October 7 1970, Page 16
'About People - Six Months in Aussie', Gisborne Photo News No 204, June 16 1971
'30-year media vet still reporting' New Media Times website. Accessed 15 January 2015
'Antony CIPRIAN' (Death Notice) - The NZ Herald, 15 January 2015