Brian Edwards Media

Archive for August, 2009


microphoneDear TV reporters, sports commentators and presenters,           

I want to let you into a little-known secret:  that thing you’ve got pinned to your lapel or clutched in your hand – that’s what we call a microphone.  A microphone is a magical device for picking up sound, and the sound it picks up best is the sound that is closest to it – your voice. 

So even if you’re surrounded by roaring crowds, or the camera is across the road, YOU DON’T NEED TO SHOUT, because your microphone is only centimetres away from your mouth.

It is bizarre to witness people who appear to be right in front of you yelling their heads off. Bizarre, annoying, unprofessional and totally unnecessary. It’s even weirder when it’s interspersed with voice-over commentary at a normal level. Read the rest of this entry »


Sir Robin Day’s “Code for Television Interviewers”


I recently re-read Sir Robin Day’s autobiography, Grand Inquisitor.  Robin Day, who died nine years ago,  was the doyen of political interviewers in Britain for more than 40 years. Rejecting the idea that interviewers should be deferential to those in power, he was the first to put probing questions to his subjects on behalf of the viewers and listeners.  His autobiography includes this  Code for Television Interviewers, which I recommend as required reading to Paul Henry, John Campbell, Mike Hosking, Sean Plunkett, Larry Williams, Mary Wilson and one or two others of our interviewing glitterati. In particular they might like to pay attention to items 7 to 10.

Sir Robin Day’s Code for Television Interviewers

1. The television interviewer must do his duty as a journalist, probing for facts and opinions.

 2. He should set his own prejudices aside and put questions which reflect various opinions, disregarding probable accusations of bias.

 3. He should not allow himself to be overawed in the presence of a powerful person.

 4. He should not compromise the honesty of the interview by omitting awkward topics or by rigging questions in advance.

 5. He should resist any inclination in those employing him to soften or rig an interview, so as to secure a “prestige” appearance or to please authority; if, after making his protest, the interviewer feels he cannot honestly accept the arrangements, he should withdraw.

 6. He should not submit his questions in advance, but it is reasonable to state the main areas of questioning. If he submits specific questions beforehand, he is powerless to put any supplementary questions which may be vitally needed to clarify or challenge an answer.

 7. He should give fair opportunity to answer questions, subject to the time-limits imposed by television.

 8. He should never take advantage of his professional experience to trap or embarrass someone unused to television appearances.

 9. He should press his questions firmly and persistently, but not tediously, offensively, or merely in order to sound tough.

 10. He should remember that a television interviewer is not employed as a debater, prosecutor, inquisitor, psychiatrist or third-degree expert, but as a journalist seeking information on behalf of the public. 


Bouquets and Brickbats (An Occasional Series)






 To Q & A for being a bloody good programme. (But see below.)

To TV3, the producers, cast and all concerned with Outrageous Fortune (again) for the most entertaining hour on New Zealand television.

To Media 7 and Russell Brown for demonstrating that intelligent and discursive debate of social and political issues can be both informative and entertaining.

To Sky Movies (belatedly) for Shine a Light, Martin Scorsese’s brilliant documentary on the Rolling Stones’ phenomenal charity concert in New York. If you’re a Stones fan and haven’t seen it, or even if you aren’t, rush to your video store.







 To the Herald for publishing a picture of the body of Kashin the elephant being loaded by  crane onto a truck to be taken away and buried. Is this macabre sight to be Aucklanders’ last memory of a creature they had taken to their hearts and whose death many of them are grieving? Do crassness and insensitivity have to be the hallmarks of modern journalism?

To TVNZ for keeping Mark Sainsbury in a role to which he is patently not suited, as the host of Close Up. It’s simply a no-brainer that Paul Henry is the man for the job.

To One News for further desecrating the language by telling us that their reporters are “across” the story.

To One and 3 News and, I suspect, RNZ, for insisting on the nonsense of “an horrific, an hotel, an historic” and the rest, when the ‘h’ in such words is sounded. Only Cockneys and the French, who don’t pronounce the ‘h’, can properly say “an ‘orrific’, an ‘otel, an ‘istoric”. More to the point, no one uses this form in normal conversation. If someone says to me, “Where will you be staying in Wellington?” I don’t reply, “In an hotel in Lambton Quay, where I expect to have an horrific time.”

To TVNZ for continuing to marginalise Q & A at 10am on Sunday morning, when the programme not merely provides intelligent and discursive debate of political issues, but each week provides One News with several political news exclusives.

 Your bouquets and brickbats are welcome.


Media Tip: Is there a Public Right to Know?


Journalists like to talk of the ‘public’s right to know’, but in most circumstances no such ‘right to know’ exists. In fact you are the one with a right – to conduct your personal and business affairs in privacy.

You forfeit that right if you break the law, if your behaviour invites public scandal or derision or if you have chosen celebrity.

The lawbreaker cannot expect to remain anonymous. Name suppression in criminal cases is anathema to the media and rightly so.

But you don’t have to break the law to forfeit your right to privacy. People who achieve public prominence, whether they seek it or not, are subject to greater media scrutiny than the average person. If, for example, you are the chief executive of a large company, or the executive director of a major organisation, or a prominent member of the clergy or the spokesperson for an influential lobby group, your words and deeds are likely to be of considerable interest to the media. This is particularly true if your words are at odds with  your deeds. Read the rest of this entry »


A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

Pic. Kenny Rodger, NZ Herald

Pic. Kenny Rodger, NZ Herald

Larry Baldock celebrates the victory of the pro-smacking lobby in the referendum.

While Bob McCoskrie spells it out:

Pic: Mark Mitchell

Pic: Mark Mitchell


“I’ve always thought it would be better to give parents certainty and just say use your hand, and then you know exactly what the force is. At the same time, I hear mums say they prefer the wooden spoon and sometimes that has the same effect as an open-hand smack. I do have a problem with belts… we should stay right clear of that level just to avoid any doubt.”  SST


Why I Am Opposed To Gay Adoptions

ba_marriage124jrs1I am opposed to any change in the law which would allow gay couples to adopt children. My opposition is not rooted in homophobia. I was an early and vocal supporter of homosexual law reform in New Zealand; I approve of civil unions; I can see no good reason why gays should not be able to marry; I don’t doubt that a gay couple can be loving and responsible parents; I regard the argument that children raised by gay parents will turn out to be gay themselves as nonsense. Sexual orientation is genetically determined.

My opposition to allowing gay couples to adopt is rooted in my own early experience as the only child of a solo parent, my mother. I never knew my father.  I described the  lifelong effect of that situation in my memoir Daddy was a German Spy:

Read the rest of this entry »


Photo-Op PM

Photo: Michael Field

Photo: Michael Field

Recently I bumped into Paul Henry having coffee with his daughter in trendy Herne Bay. He’s really very nice when you meet him in person off the box. Or maybe it was the civilising presence of his very nice daughter.

Anyway, we got to talking politics, as you do. He was enthusing about John Key whom he’d interviewed that morning. ‘The thing about him,’ he said, ‘is that he just answers the question. You ask him a question and he just answers it. ‘

I’d formed precisely the same impression watching Key on television. He seems natural, unaffected, nice. There’s no sense of the wheels going round in his head as he searches for a clever, stay-out-of-trouble answer. Nothing obviously  Machiavellian. No evident side. ‘He just answers the question.’

Read the rest of this entry »


Chocolate as it should be.

dairy-milkAll power to the consumer! Cadbury is removing the palm oil from its chocolate and going back to cocoa butter.  There has to be an acknowledgement of the media here – without the media coverage, who would have known they’d ever put the darned stuff in our favourite food group? Ethical and ecological issues aside, chocoholics claim that the new recipe had an icky texture, but if it’s got chocolate in it, you can get used to anything.

What was impressive was the information that Cadbury contacted and talked to Auckland Zoo, which had protested and withdrawn the brand from sale. All too often big business is arrogantly dismissive of those down the chain.

It’s one of those rare win-wins.  We get decent chocolate – the forests get a tiny reprieve.  So, well done, Cadbury.


Sickos Hold Party

images1I read in this morning’s Sunday Star Times that the leading lights in the pro-smacking lobby have booked an Auckland hotel for a celebration on Friday night of their undoubted victory in the referendum. The headline reads: ‘NO’ HOPERS BOOK HOTEL FOR SMACKING VICTORY

A party to celebrate the possible return of legislation allowing parents to use ‘reasonable force’ to discipline their children! A celebration of the fact that 4 out of 5 New Zealanders want to regain the right to hit their kids!  Are these ‘no’ voters going to bring their own children along to the celebrations? And, if they are, just what will the children be celebrating?

I’ve had some harsh words to say about these people in the past. But none harsh enough. What sickos you are.


Bouquets and Brickbats (An Occasional Series)


To Fair Go – still the best thing on television after 32 years. Whoever invented that show deserves a knighthood. (But see below.)

To Outrageous Fortune – Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant! Laughter and tears in full measure.

To TV3 – for raising more than $2,000,000 for the KidsCan Charitable Trust. Let’s hope all the money gets there.

To Sky’s Rialto channel for showing The Band’s Visit, one of the most charming romantic comedies I have ever seen. If it comes up again, make sure you don’t miss it.


m_27d014d6ba8188c17508471047d5f70511To One News, Close Up and Campbell Live for promoting the mumbo jumbo nonsense that is “faith healing” without any remotely serious attempt at investigating the preposterous claims of these dangerous idiots. All of you deserve the Skeptics’ Bent Spoon Award for your credulity and appalling lack of journalistic integrity.

To Fair Go for putting the name of a company CEO on its “wall of shame” for declining to be interviewed in the studio or on film, when the company had supplied the programme with a full statement and had dealt with the three complaints brought against it. You aren’t yet in a position to issue sub poenas to appear on the programme, my friends. Just a touch of arrogance here?

To the growing band of illiterate TV1 and TV3 news reporters who never learnt that a plural subject can’t be followed by the singular form of a verb, and who prefer to make the verb agree with the nearest noun. So we get sentences like: “Six members of the group is travelling to Russia.” Several examples in last night’s bulletins. Don’t you have to have an education to work in television news?

Your Bouquets and Brickbats are welcome.


TVNZ presents non-news – with live cross!

Here is the news.  Someone was in court today.  No name, no occupation, no age, no address, no specific charges. As is traditional, the Family Court suppressed details. 

And you’re telling us this because…?  Less a case of breaking news than a bad case of frustration and petulance, methinks.

However,  TVNZ presents this as a news item!


An Open Letter to Sir Douglas Graham

Herald on Sunday

Herald on Sunday










Dear Sir Douglas

In more than 40 years observing New Zealand politics there have been few Ministers of the Crown I could say I truly admired, and fewer still in the National Party. You were one of those very few.

Your comments, reported in this morning’s Herald, on the international travel subsidy granted in perpetuity to retired long-term members of parliament, caused me for the first time to question my assessment. They were, in a word, shameless. Read the rest of this entry »


Media Tip: “No Comment”? No Way!

got-a-comment-sirWhat do you do if you’re caught on the hop and don’t want to answer a journalist’s question?  Most people panic and revert to blurting out, “No comment.”

“No comment” is a cliché, and it has the ring of evasion to it.  While you might think it’s a perfectly neutral way to avoid a media debate, or even an attributed quote, the public will interpret it quite differently.  

“Aha!” thinks the viewer/listener/reader. “There’s a character with something to hide!  Something shifty, something fishy, something I’d really, really like to know about.”

Alternatively, if a journalist puts a proposition and gets a “no comment” in reply, that’s frequently interpreted as tacit agreement: “You might very well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment!”

Either way, you’ll do yourself no favours with this phrase.  There are lots of other ways of handling this: “I’m sorry, I can’t/won’t/am not prepared to talk to you about that,” “I think that’s a question you should put to …..  “You’re asking the wrong person, I’m afraid,” and you’ll probably be able to think up a dozen others.

Or you can just ignore the question, which is often the safest way.  If you answer, you can get yourself into a situation that’s hard to dig your way out of.  If you’re door-stopped and you don’t want to talk, just keep walking. If you think it’s going to happen, make sure you’re with someone else and deep in conversation.

And what if it happens in the middle of an interview?  It never should, if you’ve done your preparation properly, which may include laying down the ground rules for the interview.  If you haven’t and it does and you find yourself wriggling like a bug on a pin, you’ve only got yourself to blame.

More media tips