Beloved Aotearoa investigative journalist Paula Penfold has lifted the lid on navigating a “triple-whammy” of painful life events that occurred in quick succession.
Speaking to rova podcast Grey Areas with Petra Bagust, Paula said she faced a trio of major obstacles over the course of just a few years, which completely threw her life off its course.
“There was my father's death, I got made redundant, and then I got divorced. And so there was a kind of a triple-whammy going on in that decade. But I found a way through all of those things and came out better on the other side.”
Now a senior journalist with Stuff’s investigative Circuit team, Paula was married to high-profile newsreader Mike McRoberts until their divorce in 2018, a relationship breakdown she describes as “traumatic” and “devastating”.
She revealed they had actually broken up a few years prior to their divorce, recounting evenings staying up until 2am drinking whiskey and smoking on her deck as she processed her emotions – a habit that came at great personal cost.
“Feeling absolute sh*t when you have to get up and go to work is a big price,” she said.
“The second time [we broke up], which I knew would be the time that was once and for all, I drank herbal tea. I didn't drink whiskey or smoke cigarettes; I looked after myself and I knew that I had to be healthy if I was going to get through this.”
With the support of friends, workmates and her children, Paula says leaving the relationship has ultimately proven to be “better for me”, and the wounds between her and her ex have healed.
“He and I get on just fine. We don't hang out, but when we see each other, everything's easy. It's nice to see his family and it's nice for him to see my family. And we're now very grown up about it.”
In 2016, around the time of her relationship breakdown, Paula faced another major upheaval when she and many others lost their jobs at TV3 – a company she had worked at for 13 years across the long-form current affairs shows 60 Minutes, 3rd Degree and 3D.
“You have to remind yourself that it's not personal, but sometimes it's hard not to take it personally when you've given a lot to a company… There was a lot of hurt amongst us all,” she told Petra.
“But [some of us] were lucky because we got picked up by Stuff immediately and got a better job, so we ended up being able to do journalism that we really, really wanted to do without the constraints and confines of the medium of television. And it's been wonderful.”
“Now I can look back on it and also not be quite as fearful about it happening again because it's going to be okay most of the time.”