Brian Edwards Media

I’m Not Finished With Duncan Garner Yet

I’m not finished with Duncan Garner yet. Having just caught up with TV3’s Political Editor hosting Saturday’s (and Sunday’s) The Nation, I’ve got quite a lot more to say about the man whose interviewing skills I dismissed as nonexistent a couple of months ago and whose suitability for his job I have more recently questioned.

On the basis of his showing on The Nation over the weekend, I conclude:

*That Garner is extremely good ‘to camera’. He looks comfortable and relaxed and conveys a natural authority. He ‘comes through the lens’. These are rare enough qualities among television presenters and both TV1 and TV3 currently have newsreaders less professional  in their delivery than Garner. 

*That when he is not trying to make his mark as the Stephen Sackur of Godzone, or trawling for headlines for the network news, he is a very good interviewer indeed. In his lengthy interview with Anne Tolley, he adopted a friendly but persistent approach which probably revealed more about the Education Minister and her policy on National Standards than the aggressive haranguing she is more often subjected to.

I regularly observe in these posts that the heckling style of interview almost invariably produces more heat than light, frequently degenerating into little more than a ‘did/didn’t’ exchange. By the end of Garner’s interview I had changed my opinion both of the Minister and of the value of National Standards. And that (Trust me!) is remarkable.

*That Garner can control a debate between high verbal opponents. He managed to give more or less equal time to Canterbury University Vice-Chancellor Dr Rod Carr and NZUSA Co-President David Do largely without either man talking over the other, a particularly difficult task when neither party is with you in the studio. Both TV1 and TV3 have hosts with their own shows who seem unable to pull that off.

At the moment The Nation is being taken to the cleaners by TV One’s Q & A.  Paul Holmes’ strong and often entertaining performance as host/interviewer on the TVNZ programme against the lacklustre Steven Parker on Three  will certainly have been a factor. The Nation would be wise to hold on to Garner, perhaps even to give him his head a little [God, am I really writing this?] if they want to make inroads into Q & A’s audience. But spare us the pointless ‘panel discussion’ – at least when the panellists, as was the case this week, appear to have nothing to say –  and the ubiquitous Bomber Bradbury until we get half-decent Broadband in New Zealand.

Oh, and before you ask, I have not altered my view of Mr Garner’s previous conduct. But credit must be given where credit is due.

, ,

31 Comments:

  1. I certainly agree that this interview with Anne Tolley shows Garner at his best. Impressive.

    The answers that Anne gave were extremely evasive and her assertions were unfounded.
    The actual scores on reading are from the usual high quality Assessing tools. The fact that kids are now scoring as at or below average is because it is the new Standards that do not reflect the Assessment tools.
    To be specific a child who scores 35% in PAT Reading Comprehension is just as average as one who scores say 65%. That is the nature of the test. The child who scores 96% is far better than one who is at 90%. So if the “National Standards”
    translates the 35% as below average then this is wrongly interpreted by the new system as a fail. Wrong. Wrong Wrong. The kid is at the level.
    That is just one example of why the teachers are trying to tell the Minister that the National Standards are flawed.
    What a pity that the Minister didn’t choose to spend the $30 million plus instead on helping all those kids who are underachieving. Poverty. English as second language. Overcrowded classes. Poor parenting, bookless homes and so on.

    Garner pass. Tolley fail.

  2. Interested to read that you’ve changed your opinions over Tolley and the value of the standards. Would like to read your revised opinions, given that Tolley and standards don’t look like they are going away, much to my regret!

  3. ASA: Yes. I was curious about Brian’s position as well. Understood position on Mr Garner but ….?

  4. Thanks Brian. This is a generous review and I take my hat off to you for the fact you have written it. I was pretty pleased with the way things went on Saturday (particularly the debate which was a really difficult challenge for everybody) but we are going to stick with the panel — when everything is working it should complement the interview as it used to do on Agenda. Often panelists can bring an insight which adds to what we can deliver from our research. There are obviously more changes to come over the next few weeks on the programme but if I have my way, Duncan will continue to do an interview each week. So thanks Brian — approval from you is praise indeed.

  5. This is a very gracious post and high praise given your recent comments on Garner.

  6. A little off the subject but…The teachers are not trying to show the government that the national standards are flawed. They are running an ideological campaign (the idea being that anything proposed by a centre right government is inherently wrong)in cahoots with their left leaning unions. In so doing they are refusing to follow legitimately issued instructions mandated (as Tolley keeps telling us) by the last election. Somehow they seem to believe they are not employees but participants in some mutant democracy where they call the shots – I wonder where Gen X and Y got their values? The correct response of a public servant to an instruction which requires improvement (if indeed that is true of the standards)is to work with the system to improve it, not whinge, whine, and dispute its legitimacy. Go Tolley….

  7. It’s high time, you and Dunc, met up for a coffee at that Blake St.cafe, and set yourselves down for a long tête-à-tête. And, see if you can’t be good buddies at the end of it all. Take what ever time you need. And never mind the disapproving looks from people who think you’re hoggin’ the table. There are greater things at stake here, than their trifling inconvenience.

  8. @Tony: “The teachers are not trying to show the government that the national standards are flawed. They are running an ideological campaign”
    I wish that you would actually address the issue. I wonder how a doctor working in a Public Hospital would react if a politician gave instructions on how to do a good job of doctoring? If the doctor even accepted such instructions, would he be obliged to speak up if he thought the instructions were not in the best interests of the patient?
    Wonder why you ignore the issue of validity of National Standards?

  9. To my mind I have addressed the issue. I would happily accept that there are some professions most of the time (medicine) and most professions some of the time where professional knowledge trumps management/policy direction. In fact that is probably a useful definition of a profession. This is not such an issue. This is a relatively minor change, supported by some but not by others which effectively amounts to a line call. The politicians have a perfect right to make policy adjustments on it. Any claim to superior knowledge as a basis on which to oppose it is just silly. And at that point one looks for other motivators.

  10. The immediate problem with national standards may not be the standards themselves but the rushed implimentation without proper trial and refinement.Because a policy seems popular doesnt nessessarily mean it is viable. Mindless obediance of instuctions doesnt always lead to a satisfactory result.
    Brian and Duncans head to head may be impractable especially if they cant find a suitable seat.

  11. @Tony: The standards are educationally flawed. There is an overwhelming weight of opinion from distinguished educational researchers, who have no connection with the teaching union and teachers in general, that lays this out in great detail. Even the research paper produced by the Parliamentary Library raises many issues of concerns. Tolley/the govt’s refusal to acknowledge this high level of educationally sound concerns raises other issues, such as why are the so called standards being pursued so vigorously? Of course schools/teachers/educationalists want children to attain a highest possible level of education, so let’s set that straw man aside. Reducing the wide range of educational needs of children to the catch phrases of ‘standards’ and ‘achievement’ poses a great risk to the quality of education that our children will need as they enter the workforce and incidentally, care for us in our dotage. There was a very good letter in last Saturday’s Dominion Post, written by Cedric Croft, who spent his career as a researcher for the New Zealand Council for Educational Research. I suggest you find and read that letter, with an open mind (if you can find one handy) and then you may understand why the educational experts of New Zealand are so concerned about the threat the so called standards pose. We are fighting for the educational future of our children and grandchildren. We are already nearly 10% of the way through the 21st century and my 2 yr old grandson has a reasonable chance of living to see the 22nd century. Please explain why and how 19th century educational tools will benefit the adults of the future? And, to avoid being distracted by the straw man, let’s take it for granted that of course kids need to be highly literate and numerate.

    Sorry Brian – this is a long way off your good post about Duncan Garner!

  12. @ Tony; Your post is not of the subject at all.

    Education is a subject deer to my heart. I can tell you right now all those teacher’s whom want shot of it are scared there mediocroty skills will be discovered. NZCA has been a disaster introduced by the Helen Clarke goverment and all her other minister crony’s. It has dumbed down our school standard’s where you can get merit
    points towards the certificate by just going around and picking up litter from the school play ground during recces. You need to bring back school certificate and university entrance exams back as a yardstick. Teacher’s dont want national standard’s because they will be scared of being assesed. I promise you this that our education system and the currant crop of teachers is failing our kid’s, because I can tell by my own childrens’ home work that there numerical,literacy and reading levels is becomming quite atroshus when compared to the
    same age when I was going to school.

  13. Tony: If the policy direction had been, “Find a way of spreading good practice of reporting Assessment.” That would be OK.

    If the policy direction was “Identify those children who are Underachieving so that support can be provided such as smaller classes, and specialised support, training and resources.” That would be great.

    But National Standards does none of that.

    PJR and ASA You have identified the problem very clearly, but I suspect that the pro-National Standards have no intention of engaging in the discussion. I have yet to read a credible reason for NS.

  14. “Education is a subject deer to my heart. I can tell you right now all those teacher’s whom want shot of it are scared there mediocroty skills will be discovered. NZCA has been a disaster introduced by the Helen Clarke goverment and all her other minister crony’s. It has dumbed down our school standard’s where you can get merit”

    Tane if education is so dear to your heart perhaps you could learn the correct use of the apostrophe, not to mention the differences between ‘their’ and ‘there’ and ‘deer’ and dear’. I have rarely seen such egregious examples of ignorance in the use of the apostrophe. Even where one is required you get it wrong: children’s NOT childrens’ (children is already plural).

    If you are a product of our current educational system, the case for National Standards must be overwhelming.

    On re-reading your contribution I wonder whether you are trying a deliberate ‘wind up’. I cannot believe that you think atroshus is the correct spelling of atrocious. If this is a bit of heavy handed irony on your part my apologies.

  15. I find it interesting you have resvisited Garner and heaped him with praise. Does Mr Edwards feel he was a little hard on Duncan? Or has he felt the heat from TV3′s legal team perhaps…

    • I find it interesting you have resvisited Garner and heaped him with praise. Does Mr Edwards feel he was a little hard on Duncan? Or has he felt the heat from TV3′s legal team perhaps

      Cynicism seems to be infectious today. I do not feel I was ‘a little hard on Duncan. I have not felt the heat from TV3′s legal team. My reasons for writing what I wrote are given in the last sentence of the post: Credit must be given where credit is due.

  16. @ Tane: when did you attend school? If your point is that standards have plummeted, your appalling punctuation and use of the wrong “deer” and “there” may well prove the point.

  17. This is to confirm we have not ‘threatened’ Brian with legal action for anything.
    Cheers, Duncan. (the real one)

  18. My last word on the debate around education – which I have enjoyed. I stand by my view that civilisation will not end with national standards and therefore opposition based on a claim to superior or inside knowledge (presumably of children) is silly. The fact is that children are resilient little blighters, all life is an experiment and no one gets it absolutely right. In the long run it simply doesn’t matter too much what tools are used to educate children. I learnt by rote and taught my own kids that way (after school) and it was fine. So too with this stuff. It is simply not such an issue as to warrrant the current hysterical oppostion.

  19. Bill and Ben — your just being pidantic about my English. Contesting the next election, are we?

  20. Tane:

    ‘Pidantic’, ‘deer’, ‘mediocroty’, ‘whom’ instead of ‘who’ … you’re taking the piss, right?

  21. Tane, you really are as ignorant as I first thought. My God, the education system is in worse shape than I first thought. God help your children if you are helping them with their homework.

  22. A request to Ben, Billy, and Paul Corrigan: please do not feed the troll.

  23. Lets go beyond Garners simpering narcissistic posturing. “Q and A” and “The Nation”(NZ?), NZ’ers only source of public/govt “discussion?”, both have deeply buried timeslots, while “US lifestyle/reality programs” infest every hour of the other 168 available each week. (Great guys, keep serving your public)
    Sth and West Auckland infested with LA Rapper and Desperate Housewife clones. Massive unemployment problems in NZ across the board, a weekly debt that just cannot be sustained, a health, education and social system that has been endlessly cheapened until they now simply don’t work anymore. (This is Govt is it?)
    And our broadcasters (I use that phrase jokingly) assign completely “dead” air time to debate our huge and pressing problems. The problems of NZ are HUGE and the commitment of the NZ TV business towards debating them is simply NON EXISTENT.
    Who wants to watch two self interested “unaware” people(they are both solidly employed in a completely unreal business), debate something that they themselves know almost nothing about. Do Paul Holmes or Duncan Garner understand the “reality of current NZ life”? To me the only thing these two TV clones relate to is their make up mirrors and the now particularly unreal world of commercial TV.
    What a joke? Neither Q and A or The Nation serve anyone but their tight fisted, frightened corporate masters(thats exactly why they don’t rate). Make money, but don’t offend anyone they are told, especially the pollies and especially the audience? What an appalling tiny pond broadcast ethic.
    I challenge both channels to take your programs to the streets (if your bosses have the courage…they don’t by the way)and to ask real NZ people whats actually happening in our jobs, health, education and housing sectors. Do what you are supposed to and give NZ’ers a voice instead of pussy journos asking pussy questions of cloned politicians.Drone, drone, drone.
    Duncan and Paul “Nero” fiddle, while beautiful, beautiful Rome burns. Personally, I don’t know how either of you can look yourself in the makeup mirror every day. Oh Thats right, the makeup mirror is your best…and only friend in TV? It doesn’t answer back or call you an inconsequential twit like a real human might)
    “Quote from song: “Don’t ask me what I think of you, cos I may not give you the answer that you want me to”.
    What is a Journos job in a world full of dire problems? You tell me.

    • Lets go beyond Garners simpering narcissistic posturing. “Q and A” and “The Nation”(NZ?), NZ’ers only source of public/govt “discussion?”, both have deeply buried timeslots, while “US lifestyle/reality programs” infest every hour of the other 168 available each week. (Great guys, keep serving your public)

      Well, I’m sympathetic to what you say, but it is rather unfair to the broadcasters. TVNZ has been forced by successive governments to operate on an almost entirely commercial model. 95% of its revenue comes from commercials. It makes nothing from Q & A which is broadcast in a non-commercial slot. TV3 is a private company. It has no obligation to do anythng other than sell audiences to advertisers. Want something better? Elect an entirely different party to government – the Greens perhaps.

  24. The problem with “no relevance” journalism is that is just that, all talk and absolutely no consequences. Why won’t people read or watch this sort of crap Current Affairs? Because it is simply not relevant to their real lives. No relevance, no ratings. Go Dunc and NZTV! Controversy equals ratings on TV, non controversial “Current Affairs” programs equal no ratings (Look at Campbell and Close Up! Yawn yawn. I would have thought that was basic.
    Mr Edwards, for you of all people to advocate inconsequential “no responsability” journalism is somewhat amazing to me. The man who ripped up the bosses questions(Robert Muldoons)and paid forever (now that took balls)now advocates a kind of “Im only doing my job within a budget” journalism. What happened to the old Brian, did age and small pond NZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz rob you of your courage or your independant thinking? Crap is crap Brian and thats what we have on TV across the board nowadays, just look at the ratings.
    You bloggers are the only ones interested on Q and A and The Nation, no one else is gives a toss anymore for self interested Journalistic navel gazing. I have to resort to Monty Python because its the only thing that now makes sense. “Say no more”.

    • Mr Edwards, for you of all people to advocate inconsequential “no responsability” journalism is somewhat amazing to me.

      Most of the ‘crap’, pretentious crap at that, seems to be in your comment. What’s more it’s distorting, dishonest crap. Nowhere will you have found me advocating ‘inconsequential, no responsibility journalism’. On the contrary, the commonest theme of my writing and broadcasting over 40 years has been the need for discursive, in-depth current affairs programmiing. It’s largely absent from our screens because of the commercial imperative that successive governments have imposed on TVNZ. If you want ‘quality’ broadcasting, you have to have government funded public service channels, which they have in Australia, the UK, Canada, the USA and many other countries. In the meantime, abusing the journos who can’t do anything about this situation doesn’t make a lot of sense to me other than to expose your smug, self-satisfied and largely uninformed opinions. Have a nice day!

  25. Paul, you’ve become so jaundiced with your views against public broadcast TV, that everything you express, comes across as a rant. Your employment dispute with TVNZ, has left you so embittered and scarred.

    Let it go, my friend. Let it go.

  26. I’ve read the following several times without being able to discern your meaning;

    “But spare us the pointless ‘panel discussion’ – at least when the panellists, as was the case this week, appear to have nothing to say – and the ubiquitous Bomber Bradbury until we get half-decent Broadband in New Zealand.”

    I honestly don’t know what you are trying to say about BB. Was he a panellist? Did he or didn’t he have something to say? What does this have to do with broadband? Sorry for my excessive clarification of my problem, but if I am not too late, please provide a clarification. Thank you.