Brian Edwards Media

The Last Post – on the little known connection between Ritalin and ‘terrific’ TV interviewing

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[Update: Susan Wood was admirably restrained in her interviews on Q & A a week after this post appeared.]

In the check-out line at Victoria Park New World this morning I bumped into my regular co-panellist on the media review segment of TV3’s The Nation, Bill Ralston. After comparing notes about why men enjoy supermarket shopping and women generally don’t, Bill asked me if I’d watched Q & A which follows the Sunday edition of The Nation on TV1 and is, I suppose, our competitor. No, I hadn’t watched it, but I’d be looking at it later on MySky. Bill thought I shouldn’t miss it. Susan Wood was ‘terrific’, she’d demolished David Shearer and given much the same treatment to National’s Nikki Kaye.

By coincidence, Bill and I had earlier been talking on The Nation to freelance journalist Karl Du Fresne who’d penned an article entitled ‘RNZ must right its lean to the left.’ Karl’s position was that there was strong evidence of endemic left wing bias by Radio New Zealand interviewers and he cited Kim Hill, Kathryn Ryan and Mary Wilson as examples.

I don’t agree with Karl’s thesis any more than I agreed with those who claimed right-wing bias on the part of the media when Helen Clark was running the country. Journalists have, in my view, an obligation to call to account whichever political party or coalition holds the reins of power, to be, if you like, an informal opposition.

Anyway, when I got home, I watched Susan Wood interviewing David Shearer and Nikki Kaye.

So did I think Susan Wood was ‘terrific’?    

Well, I suppose that depends on your criteria in judging what constitutes ‘terrific’ interviewing. Here are some of mine: (For convenience I’ve referred to the interviewee as ‘he’ and the interviewer as ‘she’. Anything else is just too clumsy. Blame the language!)

*The interviewee and his views should be the main focus of the interview;

*The interview is not a platform for the interviewer’s opinions;

*As a general principle, the interviewee should do more of the talking than the interviewer;

*Unless the interviewee is obfuscating or deliberately avoiding answering, he should be allowed to make his  points without undue interruption;

*With the same proviso, the interviewee should be allowed to finish his sentence or the point he is making;

*The interviewer should be more interested in what the interviewee has to say than what she has to say;

*The most important interviewing skill is careful listening.

And here are three more from the doyen of BBC interviewing, Sir Robin Day’s  Code for Television Interviewers:

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

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

*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.

So how, on these criteria, did Susan Wood do in her interviews with David Shearer and Nikki Kaye? Was she, as Bill believes, ‘terrific’?

Well, to be really fair, you should watch this morning’s Q & A ‘on demand’ and not just take my word for it. I’m kind of ‘old school’ on this topic. But I’d say that Susan failed to meet any of the criteria I’ve suggested while providing a classic illustration of the three interviewing crimes I’ve cited from Sir Robin Day’s Code for Television Interviewers.

Meanwhile, David Shearer made a reasonable fist of bumbling his way through Wood’s hyperactive barrage, quite properly demanding the right to finish at least one or two of his sentences; and Nikki Kaye’s opinions on food labeling received marginally more air time than her interviewer’s.  It’s a start.

But ‘terrific’? I don’t think so. For ‘terrific’ check out Duncan Garner, Rachel Smalley,  the late Sir Paul Holmes or, curiously enough, Susan herself in some of her earlier incarnations. In the meantime, I suggest she up her Ritalin dose. Guyon Espiner might choose to do the same.

[With possibly the occasional exception, this is my last post on Brian Edwards Media. I blog no more. Rob Muldoon once said that the only reason for my broadcasting success was “an intriguing Irish accent”. You can still hear that once a month on Jim Mora’s Afternoons programme and every Sunday morning on The Nation with the aforementioned Mr Ralston. Cheers!]

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75 Comments:

  1. “With possibly the occasional exception, this is my last post . . .”

    I look forward to those exceptions. I enjoy your writing and appreciate your well reasoned posts, even the political ones which don’t fit my blue-tinted views.

  2. Brian, I posted this on the other thread, but it seems more appropriate here. Trust your comments above re this being possibly your last blog is just a bit of pre winter blues!

    After watching Susan Wood on Q&A with David Shearer today I would certainly say I am tired of that particular style of interviewing on our screens. Overbearing, pointing and nearly leaping out of her ‘blue’ dress!!

    I did think Shearer handled Wood’s spittle remarkably well, especially when asked if he considered himself a ‘rich prick’ he replied “no, but I do consider myself very fortunate, and not at all in John Key’s league”

    Will have to ‘tune in’ more to that particular Irish accent now.

  3. Thank you so much for you inciteful and balanced contributions over the years and here online, and I hope you will reconsider. The new media world needs those with insight rather than bluster. It is over endowed with bluster both of the left and right persuasion. A quiet and inciteful voice of a centrist leaning is very very necessary in this environment.
    Regards and best wishes.

  4. Sorry to hear that this is your last, you’ve added some interest to the blogosphere.

    “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.”

    BE, how would you suggest an interviewer seek information from Shearer that is not rehearsed PR lines? I don’t know if I have heard Shearer speak for what appears to be himself at all, certainly not over the last few months.

    • Well, Pete, not by constantly talking over him and not allowing him to finish almost anything he had to say. Have a look at Stephen Sackur on HARDtalk. An extremely tough interviewer – with some manners.

  5. 5

    Raymond a Francis

    Sorry to read that this your last post Brian as I have enjoyed your explanations for some of your theories?thoughts on life, TV and politics

  6. This is your last post????? :-(

  7. Hi, Brian,

    Two points:

    1. Had Sir Robin Day been working today , I am quite sure he would have said something different. What’s changed? Media training. It just isn’t viable any more to let a subject have her/his say for as long as it takes, because the result may be a stream of previously-devised bridging and babble that is of no use to an audience because it does not address the questions. I have significant regrets over one interview I feel I should not have allowed to go that way this year. I am in no doubt that in some cases, it is necessary to disrupt the the subject, even at risk of upset. That said, it’s better to carefully extract the truth rather than throw a molotov in the front window.

    2. You said much the same on The Panel, about John Campbell’s interview with Iain Rennie. Seriously? What I saw was was a persistent, purposeful and courteous interview, informed by the programme’s impressive work on the Kim Dotcom case. If current affairs can’t go that far then I despair for current affairs.

    • “the result may be a stream of previously-devised bridging and babble that is of no use to an audience because it does not address the questions.”

      Apart from the part of the interview on Shearer’s bank account, where he justifiably defended his position and privacy, and despite Woods’ aggressiveness, Shearer seemed to be determined to stick to “a stream of previously-devised bridging and babble”. Along with a few bloopers that question his understanding of what he is reciting.

      • Actually, Pete, I don’t think either Shearer or Ms Kaye got a “fair deal” during their reespective interviews.

        How can we actually learn what is on their minds if the interviewers jumps on the subject after about half a dozen words?

        If I’d been the subject of Ms Woods’ “interview”, I would’ve sat their and shut my mouth the moment Woods’ interupted. I would’ve kept shutting my mouth and simply allowed Woods to talk and talk and talk, until she realised she was doing most of the talking and not me.

        A clever politician could use an interview “style” like that to their own benefit.

        Which wouldn’t make for a very informative interview, would it?

    • This is what Robin Day had to say about politicians learning to defeat their interviewers:

      “When a TV interviewer questions a politician, this is one of the rare occasions, perhaps the only occasion outside Parliament, when a politician’s performance cannot be completely manipulated or packaged or artificially hyped.

      “The image-maker can advise on how to sit, or what hairstyle to have, or on voice quality. But once the interview has started, the politician is on his or her own….

      “Unlike a politician’s platform speech, or a politician’s article, or a politician’s TV address, an interview on television is one public act which is not in the hands of the advertising men, the pollsters and propagandists, the image-makers, the public relations experts or the marketing men….

      “In a TV interview, provided there is time for probing cross-examination, the politician cannot be wholly shielded against the unexpected. The politician’s own brain is seen to operate. His or her real personality tends to burst out. Truth is liable to raise its lovely head.”

      Well, he may be wrong and you may be right, Russell. But I doubt it. Kiwis are remarkably media savvy and we don’t need the interviewer to prove to us that the politician is hiding the truth. Most of us can see it.

      I know almost nothing about all these unscrupulous media trainers who are apparently out there teaching politicians and business people how to lie on the box. We don’t. Our mantra for 20 years has never changed: Be straightforward, tell the truth, admit your mistakes. The best reason for that is that it’s what works best.

      Have another look at the Campbell interview. It essentially consists of John putting a series of laboriously constructed propositions to Rennie and essentially asking him for a yes or no answer on whether he agrees with him. For the most part Rennie agrees, calling him “John” in every answer. It’s all very polite, as you say.

    • Oh, and I forgot to ask: Did you actually see Susan’s interviews this morning? And do you actually approve of this sort of interviewing?

      • No, I haven’t seen them. I should have a look.

        But you’re still skirting around the point. I didn’t say that subjects are taught to lie. But they are taught to fill up the available time with what they want to say, and answer the question they want to answer, rather than address the point that the interviewer — and by extension, the audience — wants addressed. That’s the whole point of bridging and other techniques. The idea that a subject will simply reveal themselves if allowed to speak uninterrupted doesn’t hold up, in my experience.

        • Who is doing this teaching, Russell? My only thought is that you’re referring to in-house PR people who subscribe to the ‘key messages’ approach which generally means ignoring the question and reciting a pre-rehearsed mantra. It’s transparent and doesn’t work.

        • Russell you must be watching too much of S Joyce!

  8. Don’t always agree with you but sure will miss your posts. will just have to make do with you and Michelle on the panel. All the best Brian.

  9. I salute you, Sir. You will be sadly missed.
    I too find the purposely irritating, spitting form of questioning an interviewee to be repellent. Maintaining a reasoned and rational persona that does not seek the self aggrandizement so prevalent in opinion based journalism, is often a measure of my interest in the proceedings. I tend to empathise with those querulously skewered by harping righteousness, even if the interviewees political stance appals me.
    Campbell is good at it. It is a tightrope though. The need for ratings based on personality make it an astonishingly difficult task to be a powerful interviewer. Few are truly good at it. Fewer and fewer are getting the chance to hone and practice their art though. As I say, sadly missed.
    I failed to see the interview in question so make no judgement on that raised above.

  10. I don’t believe Robin Day would have compromised his principles one iota were he interviewing today. The current batch of politicians are second rate media training or no media training. Mere pygmies when compared to that master of the tv interview Harold Wilson, with whom Robin regularly locked horns.

  11. “Journalists have, in my view, an obligation to call to account whichever political party or coalition holds the reins of power, to be, if you like, an informal opposition.”

    And not calling the opposition to account?

    Rachel Smalley’s interview of Grant Robertson on The Nation – To me that was very disappointing from Smalley, it seemed to be a big Patsy. Probably not surprising, producer Richard Harman had signaled his admiration for Robertson on Firstline on Friday.

    Robertson has asked serious questions of Key (and Rennie and Fletcher), but I think Robertson’s methods and motives also deserve scrutiny. Or should he get a free forum because he is in Opposition?

    • Well of course Opposition spokespersons should be held to account as well. But they aren’t running the show, making the decisions and enacting the laws.

  12. Sorry that you have decided this is your last blog. I find your writing superb and your views stimulating, even though I don’t always agree. Best regards.

  13. Kia ora Brian

    1. I agree with you about Susan Wood. She is incompetent.

    I had not heard or seen Susan Wood until last week’s Q+A. I was disappointed at how poor she was and shocked that someone with such amateurish interviewing and panel moderating skills could be fronting what is meant to be a current affairs programme. On a number of occasions in last week’s panel discussions she spoke over Matt McCarten. So by the end I had the distinct impression that she is not of a left wing persuasion.

    Then today I saw her interview David Shearer. Again she interrupted him all the time which I found frustrating. In her next interview with Nikki Kaye she again interrupted far too much but not as much as she did with Shearer.

    Moderating the final panel discussion about China she seemed to have finally calmed down and let all the panellists speak in order to make their points. She then went and spoilt it at the end by making a gratuitous comment about Shearer.

    2. I expect an interviewer to put probing questions from all sides of the debate (within the constraint of time available). The interviewer should listen intently to each reply and when the reply is inadequate, follow up and probe more deeply. Often Wood has barely started to hear the reply before she interrupts.

    You mention Stephen Sackur. There are a number of other interviewers on Hardtalk who are equally capable. I would also point to Jeremy Paxman and Gavin Esler on Newsnight and Jon Snow and Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 News. They all consistently conduct high standard interviews.

    I have no inkling what the political leanings of those mentioned above are. And I do not expect to know their political leanings. However, I have the distinct impression that Susan Wood is right leaning.

    3. I do not agree with you that Holmes was “terrific”. On Q+A he always made sure he expressed his own point of view and did not ask questions from all sides. He relied on a random scattergun approach – maybe to cover for an apparent lack of research. But at least he did not interrupt as early and as often as Wood.

    I have only heard a little bit of Duncan Garner on Radio Live and some of his interviews have been okay and some have been poor in that he did not ask questions from all sides. So as an inconsistent performer I fail to see how he can be rated “terrific”.

    I have not seen Rachel Smalley yet so I will do as you suggest and watch her.

    4. I agree that Robin Day’s fundamental points remain valid today.

    However, like Russell Brown, I was impressed that John Campbell asked some structured questions of Ian Rennie so we as viewers could get a clearer picture of the timeline and the process and then draw our own conclusions. I think Campbell generally asks some good opening questions but does not follow through well enough on some of the answers. However, he seems to be improving and it is good to observe someone working on their interviewing skills.

    5. My overriding feeling is that the standard of political interviewing and political news reporting in New Zealand is substandard. Who is training them, who is analysing their performances and how are they working on improving their skills? Do they study the top interviewers and political reporters? All sports teams have coaches and along with the players they review their performance after each game. They then practise to improve on their areas of weakness and develop their strengths. Is this happening in New Zealand current affairs and political broadcasting?

    6. How do we get Q+A to either replace Wood or demand that she improves dramatically?

  14. When Susan Wood started on Q&A I thought she was very good. Today’s programme was dreadful. It didn’t matter who she interviewed, she interrupted in an obnoxious way. Once again one more programme on TV1 I will not be watching again. Rachel Smalley leaves Susan Wood for dead.
    I thought Davjd Shearer was much improved in the interview.
    Sorry you are giving up your blog Brian..

    JPC

  15. Jeeezzzz Brian – not the last, shurely??? How about a counter-offer; say, one a month?

    Maybe interspliced with another from one of your outstanding counter-bloggers we see so regularly on this site? I know there was some marked reluctance when you left the forum open a few months back, but please – don’t send us back to the bloody Herald!

  16. Look forward to still reading the occasional post as you have provided and excellent forum for opinion here.I always enjoy reading your post and the sometimes entertaining and informative replies.
    I don’t think more Ritalin will help this situation.
    Cheers to you Brian, a great host.

  17. 17

    Sorry you won’t be blogging, but sure we will still hear your views.
    I argue that there is a delicate balance between the onscreen interviewer and the producer/director – we don’t have effective producers these days.

    I can’t believe you will be silenced !
    For myself, I have long advocated a balance of control between on-screen interviewer and their producer/director – Kim Hill and currently Susan Wood reveal the lack of effective producers.

  18. Sad you are closing up shop Brian. Your blog has been the only one I’ve consistently followed for years.

  19. 19

    I’m not sure I should take part in this discussion — I am Brian’s producer on “The Nation” but I will anyway because I feel strongly about this topic. What worries me is that as we all retreat further inside our partisan tents the idea that any TV interview is a contest gets broader and broader currency. Just look at Farrar’s blog on the Wood interview to confirm that. And similarly read the constant attacks on the “Mainstream Media” from the left from Bomber Bradbury or The Standard. There is a place for a tough interview. I’ve even done a few myself. But the most devastating interview I ever did was wtih Muldoon after the 1984 eleciton and which provoked the constitutional crisis in which I simply asked him very basic questions. Huffing and puffing in interviews is like shouting. It is necessary but not every time we open our mouths. What we are missing is the revealing interview. Well researched interviews which challenge a politician or public figure to tell the truth and tell us something we don’t know. Interviews should not be places for the partisan letting off of steam or “my dick is bigger than yours” contests.

    • With all due respect Richard, even the toughest of interviews do not need to be conducted as a constant stream of interjections by the interviewer.

      Surely the mark of a capable interviewer is the ability to ask probing question after probing question, giving the interviewee the thirteen steps to mount the gallows, and just the right amount of rope to hang him/herself with.

      A machine-gun-like barrage of interruptions and interjections by the interviewer adds little to the occasion.

      Lest we forget it is the answer of the interviewee that is ‘on show’, not the ego of the interviewer.

  20. Sorry to see you giving up the posting Brian, always enjoyed your incites as you say from the “old school.”

    • “Sorry to see you giving up the posting Brian, always enjoyed your incites as you say from the “old school.”

      You mean, “incites” as in inflamed rhetoric or ‘insights’ as in acuitive perception? (Don’t think, Brian would be overly flattered if it were the former).

  21. You are one of the very few people who writes as well as they speak.
    And, to mangle a Piggy quote: you have much to impart with you very own accent.

  22. Sir, To have you leave the us with this possible last blog is like watching one of the last bright stars being snuffed out in a very black sky !I,we need you.To quote an Australian politican of the past “To keep the bastards honest”.Do I think your are right and correct in all you state ?lord no, but you are always asking me to think and consider and that today is a rare thing to be found.
    Dont leave me peering into the black obess !

  23. “Dont leave me peering into the black obess !”

    ‘Abyss’

  24. I have been quoting Brian Edwards for years. Read his books. Listened to his interviewing. Read his blog. So who is his equivalent to replace him? Damn. Cannot think of one, especially one with a great speaking and writing voice.
    And now that like me, Brian is getting closer to Middle Age, (I reckon that it is like a mirage a bit further on) and as he is hanging up his pen, he may be making a mistake. Judy. Have a quiet word in his Listening ear.
    Thanks Brian.

  25. Having now watched this episode of Q &A I agree Susan Wood did a very poor job and is now engaging in the “talk over the top” style of John Campbell. Whilst not impressed with David Shearer, I do want the man to be given the opportunity to answer the question without interruption. Same with the panel, let them have their say.

  26. Brian, I’ll miss your blogging as well. Even on the odd occassion that I didn’t agree with you, you always wrote with calm reason as well as passion, and you challenged our thinking. That, to me, is the mark of a good writer.

    As for Ms Woods… Yes, well. I saw that interview.

    Little wonder that Nikki Kaye gave Susan Woods a decidely cool look as she quickly vacated her chair.

    It’s not often that I sympathise with a politician from the National Party side of politics – but on this occassion, I felt that Ms Kaye (and Shearer) were not permitted to reply to the questions put to them. As a consequence I didn’t learn very much from both “interviews”.

    The point of an interview should be to inform the view (or listener) – not to show us that the interviewer has vocal attributes that border on a super power. By all means, ask hard questions, and keep pushing for answers. But at the same time, the interviewer should “shut the hell up” so we can hear an answer.

    Back to your blogging… let’s hope “the itch” prompts you to return after a brief “holiday”.

    • Well Frank, I learnt, from that interview that Shearer regards himself as being very fortunate, and not at all a ‘prick’. Thats somewhat comforting given he is most likely the next PM.

    • When Susan Woods was talking with and over the panel later she was quite the show off, as to how clever she had been in showing up David shearer.
      He was far too polite for her and should have told her to do all the talking as she seemed to have the answers anyway.

  27. Tēnā koe Brian.
    I have followed your posts and I have read many of the comments of your followers.
    Perhaps it is not appropriate that I post this comment, given my position as General Manager of News and Current Affairs of Māori Television. However, due to the fact that this appears to be your ‘last post’ I have decided to contribute for the first – and it would appear – probrably the last time.
    As a former interviewer on News and Current Affairs, I believe that there must always be a place for rigorous interviews. However, I believe that this need not come at the expense of allowing the ‘talent’ the opportunity to state their view. At the end of it all, one must allow the audience to make up their own mind.
    Brian, you once described our ‘style’ as being akin to the whaikōrero procedure on the Marae – all ‘guests’ being given a right to have their say. However, challenges are made, arguements put and issues debated. In my view, it is more to do with ‘mana’. The mana of the individual, the mana of the group they represent and the mana of the interviewer to allow a counter arguement to be made. No matter what ones personal view of the ‘talent’ may be, or their particular line of argument, it is pointless to invite someone on to a programme for the mere sake of petty point scoring or badgering for badgerings sake. I think this allows for greater discourse and dissemination of information.
    This is not referring to Susan Wood’s interview on Q & A specifically – rather it is associated to a number of posts you have made Brian regarding good quality interviewing on New Zealand Television.
    This could be seen as a ‘traditional’, ‘public broadcasting’ approach to interviewing. Whilst I am loathe to say that it is a ‘Māori’ approach, it is one that is underpinned by what I consider to be ‘Kaupapa Māori’ concepts in practice.
    Koira tāku wāhi whakapuakitanga – that’s my 5 cents worth.
    All the best to you and Judy for the future.
    Ngā mihi.

  28. Its not coincidental that Woods wore blue for her interview with Shearer. What viewers witnessed was not an interview by a professional journalist of long standing, but an interogation by someone with biased views and supported by a biased production team. David Shearer has not improved in his delivery of the message, but Susan Woods ‘interview” with him was a hatchet job for the new right to discredit him as a leader.

  29. Susan Wood- what a shrewish performance – simply awful interviewer – clearly with a chip on her shoulder. TVNZ should be tiold that lack of manners does not an interview

    And so Dr Edwards – to wish you well.
    One assumes it is OOS rather than ennui that has brought about your decision to ebb the persiflage -
    Such a pity as you convey consumately whatever stirs you.

    Bonne chance

  30. I don’t believe you. You have far too long a record of intelligent comment on current affairs matters to ever leave off commenting and your blog has been one of your most effective ways of doing so. You won’t be able to resist the temptation and I’m predicting that you will return to it within the year. If you don’t I will be astonished and I will give a hundred dollars to a bona fide charity of your choice if you can resist the temptation

  31. Problem with Susan Wood is that she adopts a style of interviewing where she sees herself as the protagonist-omniscient; out to corner and devour. She is all-knowing and extremely confident, with an unwavering pre-planned linear style of questioning. Which really isn’t all that conducive to eliciting responses from her subjects, allowing them to enlighten the viewers. Kinda hard for any dialogue to be conversational when her interviews assume the format of ‘predator and prey’.

    Susan is quite adversarial, seemingly, angling for multiple “Gotcha!” moments — placing her subjects in a defensive position — and she has so much belief in her ability to chart the course as to where she wants the direction of the “interview” to head, it enables her to set the tenor by sheer force of her will. Hence, Ralston’s crowing observation: “Susan Wood was ‘terrific’, she’d demolished David Shearer and given much the same treatment to National’s Nikki Kaye”.

    Mind you, when it comes to the pollies, it’s not too difficult for them to feel smothered by Susan’s intellect. I mean, your average pollie isn’t exactly the sharpest knife on the Christmas tree :)

  32. Well, Brian, I agree with your more “old fashioned” views on how interviews should be conducted.

    Sadly the old school has no following anymore. I have noticed this over the years, especially on Radio Live, some other private radio, certain TV3 shows and also on TVNZ with various moderators and journalists being pushy, aggressive, close to rude, imposing, trying to trick, trap and challenge incessantly, even bringing in own, biased, pre-judged views and comments.

    A real turn off were some election debates, and also on Close UP and Campbell Live. Also did Paul Holmes fail the professional interviewer standards a fair few times.

    Duncan Garner brings in his views all the times on his Drive Show on Radio Live. Sometimes it is appalling.

    Susan Wood was pushy and had no respect for Shearer. It was as if she was just out to show he was not up to media interviews. She was a bit kinder with Nikki Kaye.

    It has not led to me having more sympathy for Shearer though, as he should by now also have learned what journalists are like these days. He could have prepared better. He is not a suitably skilled and qualified leader for Labour, lacking the ability to front media, for sure.

    It is regrettably sad to hear you are opting out of blogging, Brian, as I have always cherished your high standards and expertise in media matters, particularly on day to day politics.

    You will be missed. Reconsider perhaps, or make sure the exceptional times will not be too rare.

    Best wishes HC

  33. Say it ain’t so Brian, or at the very least drag it out a bit..
    Having been a long time lurker on here I’ve enjoyed you putting your position forward, it’s also given me something to arm myself with on my infrequent NZ trips these days..when confronted with a BBQ or worse, my in-laws!
    Thanks for your efforts, and I’ll leave you with this…for a walking talking example of the left leaning media, one needs to go no further than the editorial staff of the BBC.

  34. I am saddened that I can no longer keep some gauge on what is happening back in NZ from you blog. It has been very enlightening along with those that comment on you. Unfortunately I cannot see the interviews you mentioned here in China. But a little of my history. I was educated in Dunedin and on moving to Wellington my rather shy demeanor was shaken while I was directing the Walker/Muldoon interview over nuclear subs in NZ waters. I remember thinking at the time, ‘Simon you can’t talk to the PM like that’. But Simon was right, Muldoon refused to answer questions he submitted had not been previously agreed to. That interview has stayed with me as a turning point as did yours regarding the Post Office strike.
    I wish you well and hope you do reconsider.

  35. Brian, your retirement is a tragedy. My god, one day you’re abdicating, then the very next morning your beloved mentor, Margaret Thatcher, falls off the perch.

    While Thatcher’s return is unlikely, in your case an imminent reprise is a certainty, once of course, you have finished mourning.

    You are suffering from a condition with no known cure, admit it.

  36. National Radio have just proved Du Fresne’s point this morning by having Bryan Gould do an appraisal of Dame Margaret Thatcher’s career.How anyone could think that an opponent from the other end of the political spectrum could give a balanced opinion is beyond me.And Bryan Gould just wasn’t a British Labour Party politician ,he was from the far left of the Labour Party and too leftist for John Smith,Tony Blair and Gordon Brown[succesive leaders of the British Labour Party].He of course fulfilled all his potential by becoming Chancellor of Waikato University.
    Surely National Radio could find somebody not from the right or left of politics who could provide a balanced obituary and not one full of catch phrases such as “Thatcher rode shotgun to Reagan’s military adventures”

    • @A.G. Hudson

      Your post reinforces a point made by Brian on The Nation last Sunday. Balance of opinion is not necessarily achieved in a single interview but across the full coverage of an issue or story. In fact Morning Report used several commentators in yesterday’s coverage. Just prior to the interview you mention with Bryan Gould, Morning Report carried comments from the former Conservative Chief of Staff, Lord Bell,and later in the programme former Foreign Minister in the Thatcher Government, Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Among others commenting on the Thatcher legacy were the current British High Commissioner and British Prime Minister, David Cameron.

      John Barr
      Communications Manager
      Radio New Zealand

      • 36.1.1

        Your answer merely emphasises my point.Surely the opinion on Thatcher that most New Zealanders would be interested in is from a New Zealander.
        However the only New Zealander Morning Report used was a virulent oppoment of Thatchers.[and also I might add of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown]
        I despair of any so called current affairs programme that couldn’t find someone better qualified and with less obvious political bias to give a balanced view of Thatcher and what effect her term of office had on NZ.
        All your other viewpoints were from foreigners.
        One could not imagine Radio NZ getting Don Brash to give an obituary of Helen Clark.

        • 36.1.1.1

          @A.G. Hudson

          The first New Zealander to pay tribute to Baroness Thatcher that morning on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report programme was Prime Minister John Key at 6.35 am

          John Barr
          Communications Manager
          Radio New Zealand

          • 36.1.1.1.1

            Poor Mr Barr.Are you required to make these weak excuses as part of your job or do you believe personally what you are writing.
            You obviously don’t appreciate the difference between a tribute and an appraisal or obituary.It is hard to imagine any NZ Prime Mimister of any political party not making a generous tribute when somone like Thatcher dies.
            As a current member of the Green Party and a previous member of the NZ Labour Party if I was called upon to pay tribute to Thatcher it would be generous.
            However if I was asked to make an appraisal of her career it would be very different.
            Mr Barr’s weak responses just further emphasise my point that in choosing Bryan Gould [a virulent opponent of Thatchers] Radio NZ once again showed its political bias.
            Mr Barr is probably unaware that when Gould stood for the leadership of the British Labour Party on the reirement of Neil Kinnock he got less than 3% of the vote.He was far too left wing for the great majority of the British Labour Party.
            How Radio NZ [and Mr Barr] could think that anyone with those political beliefs could give a balanced appraisal of Thatcher’s life is beyond me and I would suspect the great majority of New Zealanders.
            Surely what is required for an appraisal of this nature is a qualified person who obstensibly has relatively neutral views who could provide the listeners with a balanced obituary.And for Mr Barr to continue to argue against this unfortunately says a great deal about him and Radio NZ.

  37. All the best, Brian.

    Hopefully (and for the sake of your followers), you will get rarked-up over some issue, causing you to re-enter the blogosphere.

  38. 38

    Oh dear, this is terrible news! I hope your reasons for retiring from the blog are sound, Brian. I don’t always agree with you, but I love your posts and the lively, colourful and intelligent discussions that follow. Here is found a rare refuge from the clamour of Alan Wilkinson’s beloved “chattering classes”. You have singlehandedly reignited my interest in the media and coverage of current affairs.

    Is there some means by which the faithful we can keep the momentum going? Guest blogs perhaps?

    In the meantime I hope the occasional exceptions come thick and fast.

  39. Brian.
    A month is a long time between Panels. Damn. This will be my last comment, unless you change your mind!

  40. 40

    Robin Day’s points are excellent as are yours in this post, Brian. As others I am sceptical your passions will allow silence for long but anyway thanks for your contributions even when we have disagreed.

    As for Russell Brown’s enthusiasm for Campbell’s interview with Rennie I would make two rejoinders. First, Campbell’s obvious target in that interview was Key, not Rennie. Second, Campbell continually ignored Rennie’s statement that unlike most public service appointments the head of GCSB is appointed by the Minister in charge, namely Key, not by the SSC. Campbell’s mission to vilify Key required him to portray Key as violating SSC protocols whereas in fact it was up to Key to manage the process as he wished and appoint whoever he could trust to do the job properly. That outcome is the basis on which the appointment should be and will be judged. Campbell totally ignored this.

  41. Yo Brian ! I long for those good old days when it was ‘fashionable’ (is that all it was?) to exercise a conscience towards our fellow citizen, and you so often courageously stalked the leading edge of that war that was an ethical social debate.

    Now is an era of the narcissist, in a seemingly eternal pissing contest, the wholesale plunder of other species and resources, the seductive pretence that extravagant personal wealth has enduring value and merit, truly ignorant of reality.
    The current government is loaded with such parasites, just waiting to award themselves knighthoods and honours with which to launch further careers… “mum and dad investors” my ass.
    These days I garden, and when the rage gets too huge to manage, I medicate and sleep. Filling in time.

    I am sad to see you pull back old timer, you always led a highly spirited debate, always poking a well sharpened stick at corruption, greed and petty authority. Thank you for that, sincerely.

  42. Last blog eh? Yeah right! Have another Tui. I have good faith in your better half, who will know you better than any of us. If I were to believe you, it would be as sad a day as when you banned old Merv, who could write better than any contributer, despite not always being agreeable.

  43. I have so much enjoyed your writing Brian and really wish you’d reconsider retirement from blogging. When reading your comments I can hear you speaking….precise, colorful and entertaining!

  44. 44

    Jennifer Tooseman

    Oh NO!! First Robert Winter from “Idle thoughts of an Idle Fellow” ceases his blog and now you too, Brian!! NOT GOOD!! I want to see you both back. I always looked forward to your blog! Please reconsider!!

  45. To be honest, I think you deserved a knighthood more than that other bloke with the glasses and the curly hair.

    But that’s just me. Hopefully after 2014 maybe. Or maybe not.

    Some of your posts I didnt agree with (I think you and I know what ones they are), but I read the bloody lot of them.

    • Rubbish! No good journalist would even be considered for a Knighthood. Pity that the not so good a journalist with the glasses and curly hair didn’t have his mum present for what must have been the biggest moment at the end of his life. Knighthoods mean nothing, considering they hand them out to serial paedophiles and white collar crims.

  46. Best wishes, Brian. No ill-will.
    BTW, I thought that ‘millsy’ had been Siberia-ised along with me.

    • Don’t worry Merv, Brian is as likely to totally give up his blog as he is to never again mention his atheism.

  47. After all this time, I’ve finally discovered that you had a blog, and now you’re leaving? Nooooooooooooooooooooo, please change your mind Brian, you are a breath of fresh air in a putrefying political atmosphere.
    The last time I saw you on the television, you had Cameron Slater(who has well and truly grown into his surname)and some other right winger, you held your own, as usual.

    Please don’t go, I need the voice of sanity in a nation that is becoming the true repesentation of a mentally ill institition. You only have to notice that dementia is spreading so quickly, John Banks, John Key and Peter Dunne all seem to be suffering from the same delusions.

    Don’t go……….I’m holding my little plump hands and appealing to you here Brian. Don’t go!!!!!!!!!

  48. I’ll add another to my last post, I have often contemplated beginning a virtual round table, Brian you would definitely be one of the knights here, another would be John Campbell, as well as Mike Coleman from Canterbury who struggles for the rights of the financially challenged in our sad city.
    Hmmmm, let’s see, you would be Sir Lancelot( he had a brain, and he wasn’t scared of anyone,) John would be Sir Galahad, (can’t you picture him on a white charger?) Mike would be the wise King Arthur. Please don’t go, there just aren’t enough real people left out there to represent the under-represented, you have done a stirling job, don’t abandon your orphans!!!!!!

  49. My fave blog was about Brian’s gripe about the libraries and how the authors get gypped by them. Man, it was a goodie. Some heavy-hitters in the brains trust made some neat posts, giving him a right shellacking. Sadly, it was taken down, as the kitchen got too hot.

  50. Two National MPs – Tim Macindoe and John Hayes – spoke in Parliament against the bill.