He’s broken the news at Mountain Scene since 1985. To mark the 50th birthday of Philip ‘Scoop’ Chandler, Celia Williams digs into the secret life of the editor-at-large.
Had Queenstown not lured him, Philip Walker Chandler – once a diligent and pious young teetotaller – was set for a priesthood in the footsteps of his prominent Anglican grandfather.
But the resort’s seductive ways lured the straight-laced Cantabrian into a different calling.
“Before he went to Queenstown, he wouldn’t drink anything in the liquor sort of line,” his mum Mavis recalls.
“He certainly wasn’t into the pub scene or anything like that, not at all.
“That just emerged from Queenstown – it just seemed meeting in bars was the way to find stories.”
On May 7, 1959, Oliver and Mavis Chandler welcomed their first child.
The infant Scoop showed signs of high intellect early on, excelling at school – particularly in history and English – with first-in-class prizes.
He took up piano at six and later violin, continuing with piano throughout his Christ’s College years and completing grade eight theory with distinction.
He also sang in the Royal Christchurch Musical Society with his late father.
A keen sportsman, Philip was best-known for off-field talent – sporting trivia.
“If you asked him about the All Blacks and who won a match way back in the Thirties, he could tell you”, Mavis says.
The boy completed his BA and Masters in politics and American studies at Canterbury University and travelled around New Zealand with his dad recording inscriptions on monuments, documenting them in notebooks.
Philip also wrote an unpublished biography of his Anglican Dean grandfather, Charles Walker Chandler, Mavis says.
“At one stage everyone thought Philip was going to go into the Church as a vicar.”
But it wasn’t long before the holier-than-thou young man converted to journalism, becoming a cub reporter at Mountain Scene on March 5, 1985.
Finding himself – and that moniker
The rookie newshound soon discovered how to get good stories. Often sitting quietly in a cafe or bar, someone would whisper a tip in his ear – and there was next Thursday’s lead.
Back then there was no internet, email or even faxes and copy went to a Gore printery for typesetting – via NZ Railways buses, says former Mountain Scene publisher and co-owner Frank Marvin.
“Deadlines were close-run things so invariably our slim young cub would have to hare out of our offices above Alpine Supermarket and dash down Shotover Street to where Steamer Wharf is now, tossing the copy bag on to the bus as it pulled out.
“One mad dash was a source of amusement to two chaps called Morrie and Mace who had a deli below us – they thought the young gun was chasing his latest hot news story and bellowed out:
“So the moniker was born – and it’s stuck.”
Despite partying hard, Scoop – editor for 14 years – is always first in the office, often at 5am-6am, former colleague Ryan Keen says.
Ex-Destination Queenstown boss David Kennedy says his close mate is a genuine, kind and generous soul who “really delights in meeting people”.
“He’s like Queenstown’s own Wikipedia – he knows everything about everyone. He’s the font of all knowledge on things Queenstown.”
Another friend, Peter Fleming, adds: “We should all be humbled by Philip’s honesty and integrity, and sincerely thankful for his friendship and the pleasure he brings all of us.”
Scoop often admits he “makes the most of being a single man” by taking photos of young beauties for Mountain Scene’s social pages.
It’s a far cry from earlier days, jokes mum Mavis.
“Every time I say to him, ‘You should get married and buy yourself a decent house’, he always says, ‘These things take time. It’s not good to rush these things’.”