Brian Edwards Media

Campbell Live’s Tristram Clayton: Bloody Awful; Totally Superb!

Campbell Live team member Tristram Clayton has begun to make something of a name for himself as a slightly quirky, off-beat reporter. He’s very good at it, as a superb little television vignette he appeared in on Tuesday made abundantly clear. Sadly, there was Wednesday to come, bringing with it a lesson for Clayton and his producer – the cobbler should stick to his last.

So as not to finish on a sour note, I’ll start with last night’s appearance. 3 News had obviously got wind of the fact that Mark Hotchin was returning from overseas and had dispatched Clayton to meet him at Auckland airport. They no doubt expected two bites off this particular cherry, a clip for the 6pm bulletin and a longer piece for Campbell Live. The tone of the interview which Clayton was expected to deliver was made clear in a promo for Campbell Live by Rachel Smalley at the start of the bulletin:

‘And we’ve got him! Campbell Live speaks exclusively to Mark Hotchin about his extravagant holiday as he tries to slip back into the country.’

This is a disgraceful statement to appear at the front of a news bulletin. All pretence of objectivity is abandoned. A businessman returning home from overseas is effectively cast as a criminal, attempting to avoid the authorities: ‘And we’ve got him … as he tries to slip back into the country.’ Hotchin’s holiday, if it were indeed a holiday, is defined as ‘extravagant’, a largely irrelevant concept in the case of a multi-millionaire, but more importantly a matter for the viewer to decide, not the reporter to prejudge.

I don’t have much time for Hotchin myself, as a post I wrote in May makes clear. There are questions I’d like to see put to him, but not by a nervous reporter, clearly out of his depth, pursuing him through an airport arrival area. The outcome is an embarrassing mess, in which Clayton manages to look inept and wetly offensive while Hotchin keeps his cool, remains determinedly polite and comes across as remarkably forbearing in fending off this irritating gnat.

Clayton’s problem is that he isn’t sure of his ground. Hotchin corrects almost everything he says and he can’t come back. After Hotchin replies to an accusation that Hanover was over-valued at the time of sale to Allied Farmers, Clayton says, ‘Right, well that’s good to know.’ I think that’s called a retreat.

When he tackles Hotchin on the mansion at Paratai Drive, Hotchin matter-of-factly replies: ‘I can’t hide it. It’s there. It’s going to be finished and it’s going to be sold.’

Clayton: ‘That’s fair enough.’

I’ve got firsthand experience of Clayton’s difficulty, of being faced with a rather daunting interviewee, being expected to take a fairly aggressive line and knowing full well that you’re out of your depth. (The name Muldoon springs to mind) This accounts for Clayton stammering and stuttering his way through the interview and for those soothing verbal gestures he makes to Hotchin, who barely looks at him.

When Hotchin finally said, ‘Why do I keep talking to you?’ I thought this was the best question in the interview.   

Now, to be fair, unless Clayton put his hand up for this job, the fault wasn’t his but his producer’s for assigning him to a story not suited to his particular skills and exposing him to potential ridicule. Thankfully, the memory of his performance on the previous night’s programe still lingers.

Following an item in the Australian Herald Sun about homeless Kiwis being flown home to New Zealand, and a story about beggars in Melbourne making $300 a day, Clayton was dispatched to Melbourne to spend a few hours unshaven, in old clothes, wearing a beanie, and with a cardboard sign ‘Please Help – Homeless and hungry.’

Approaching passers-by asking for money is illegal in Melbourne, so this was not merely a difficult and embarrassing assignment, but had the potential for the reporter to be abused and even prosecuted. It required, it seems to me, a considerable degree of courage.

Clayton spent three hours on the streets of Melbourne, either sitting with his sign asking passers-by if they had any change or approaching people sitting outside cafes or walking past. In what he would describe as ‘the most humiliating and humbling experience of my life’, he would collect A$300, evidence, he concluded, that whatever we may think of the Aussies, ‘you can’t call them stingy’. The money was donated to the Auckland City Mission.

I thought this was a beautiful little item, beautifully executed, a small but valuable piece of social research with an unexpected and heartening result.

Here’s the link.

Well done, Tristram!

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  1. For once I totally agree with you Brian, the Hotchin interview was cringe worthy but I am very pleased you reminded me of the Melbourne piece as it was excellent.

  2. Brian I’d like to go off-topic a bit (once again). Your comment about the use of the word “extravagant” strikes a chord. I am watching Prime News while writing this and it grates so badly to hear the MPs outgoing travel perk referred to as “much cherished”.

    No evidence is adduced to support this. And it’s unlikely they could ever have such evidence because it goes to personal motivation and emotion which we are not generally privy to. Its whole point is to hype the implicit message of scandal.

    How about a competition to identify the most extreme and/or unknowable journalistic adjectives used to hype a story.

  3. First, is it not fatuous to hold an ‘interview’ on the run like that? What could possibly come out of it? Hotchin was always going to win that one. But that is TV for you.

    Secondly there is no point in conducting any interview unless research is done first. It would appear little or no research was done in this case; again typical of what passes for journalism on TV. I doubt that there is a single TV journalist who has any comprehension of the Hanover/Allied Finance arrangement because it actualy involves a bit of hard work which does not fit in with the need for sound bites.

    Thirdly what does sitting on the street beging have to do with journalism. It is a gimmick and tells us nothing about poverty. Of course it was humiliating; anyone with any sensitivity would be able to say that. Poverty is degrading but that is generally ignored by the media except when a cheap filler is needed or a power company cuts off the power of a sick woman.

    Al this does is remind me why I hardly watch television.

  4. the biggest problem I had with the begging story was that the money wasn’t donated to REAL homeless/beggars in Melbourne, it should have been filmed and aired. Giving the money to the Auckland City Mission was basically a fraud.

    • the biggest problem I had with the begging story was that the money wasn’t donated to REAL homeless/beggars in Melbourne, it should have been filmed and aired. Giving the money to the Auckland City Mission was basically a fraud.

      A reasonable point. The Melbourneites probablly didn’t imagine they were giving to Auckland.

  5. I agree with bigjed .It really isnt good enough to misrepresent yourself as a beggar and solicit money from goodwilled passers by.
    I hope Hotchin eventually gets his just deserts.Perhaps 30 minutes with Mary Wilson would have been closer to the mark.

  6. I didnt think it was possible to put Hotchin in a good light but he managed it beautifully because Clayton didnt have a clue. What Clayton did achieve was to inform the audience that Hotchin did the deal in good faith with externally audited accounts and perhaps “young man” you should poke your microphone at Allied Farmers and find out why they have so badly stuffed things up.
    I thought Clayton was going to wet himself at one point, truly cringeworthy.

  7. Off-topic – but maybe not (Brian, perhaps this might make another thread).
    Clayton-Hotchin is nothing compared to television’s coy coverage of the “surprise” overnight demolition of the Palace Hotel(formerly the beautiful heritage Aurora Tavern) in Auckland’s Victoria street last night.

    TV1 managed to cover it without even saying what building it was, or where it was located. Why?
    TV3 was only slightly more robust.

    Turns out it was the building that two Wellington Asians are planning to turn into a brothel right opposite Sky City (yep, great for the city). Also turns out that the cracks that were “discovered” during renovations were only in the annexes, not in the main building, which was described as still sound. (When I renovated our 105-year old cottage, the situation was the same – so I rebuilt the annexes.)

    Anybody smell a rat yet?

    Here’s how I would have reported it:

    The so-called Palace “Hotel”, owned by Wellington sex industry leaders (for which, read pimps) John and Michael Chow, who bought the beautiful old Aurora Tavern for $3.3million and were “renovating” it, mysteriously developed cracks in its annexes last night, and in a surprisingly swift move, a marvel of instant organisation, was demolished in 90 minutes flat, even though the original core of the building was describes as “still sound”.

    But there is an upside: the Palace Hotel is going to be a brothel right opposite that Temple to Mammon, Sky City, in one of Auckland’s busiest streets, in the latest move to make Auckland a really sophisticated and attractive city for visitors. We assume that this unfortunate mishap will at least allow the new owners to build a shiny and glittering brothel from the ground up, instead of having to accomodate tiresome heritage requirements.

    This continues the tradition that saw the beautiful old hall in Upper Queen Street, just above the Town Hall, turned into the White House brothel, on the grounds that it was the only business that could make the old heritage building viable.

  8. Following my comment above, today’s paper carries headlines along the likes of: “questions about demolition”.

    You read it here first :)

  9. Yes, I agree Wake Up, there’s something fishy about the demolition.

  10. Reports suggest that the vacant site is more valuable than than with than the heritage building on it. Any new building is going to be a lot taller than the one that came crashing down. We hope that the cause of the structual weakening wasn’t part of the Choy bros’ grander designs.

  11. “We hope that the cause of the structual weakening wasn’t part of the Choy bros’ grander designs.”

    Well, the casino’s just over the road. I wouldn’t bet against the house – if you get my drift.

  12. Both would’ve coexisted, quite comfortably. They’d even complement one another. The Skytower, viewed from afar, resembles a giant hypodermic
    syringe, there to drain away your soul. The sin Palace would’ve “sucked” the goodness from you as well. Just in a different way, that’s all.