Brian Edwards Media

The day I met Rolf Harris

Rolf Harris

 

If you were to browse through all the posts on this site you’d find a disproportionate number devoted to the author’s intemperate outbursts on the abysmal quality of radio and television interviewing in Godzone today. In particular you’d find him railing against the current fashion for overly aggressive, highly interruptive and plain-bloody-rude cross-examination of public figures by self-important, snotty-nosed journalists whose only regret is that the rack, the bastinado and the iron maiden are no longer considered acceptable methods of getting confessions out of politicians, pilferers of the public purse and other worthless riff-raff. Think Hosking, Espiner, Wilson, Dann, Gower, sadly now joined by the once pleasant and highly professional Lisa Owen. What they all have in common is the belief  that it is unacceptable for an interviewee to carry on talking while they are interrupting.

But hold on a minute, Edwards, isn’t this a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black? There were no aggressive interviews on radio or the telly in this neck of the woods until you came along. You started it before most of us were born.

I admit it. But really my interviews on Gallery were models of polite restraint, rarely interruptive, never rude and, by today’s standards, probably deadly dull. It was only by comparison with what had gone before that they seemed probing or aggressive.

My interview with Rolf Harris in1970 was a curious exception. I have no very clear memory of exactly what I asked him, except for  a question which went  something like this: ‘Mr Harris, on your TV show you tell stories, sing funny and sometimes rather sentimental songs,  play the wobble board and paint lightning sketches and cartoons.  Aren’t you really just a jack of all trades and a master of none?’

Harris’s current troubles brought that interview to mind along with something that at the time I found slightly odd and have never forgotten. I’d popped into the make-up room to have  a word with him before the interview. He was alone and browsing through a magazine or tabloid newspaper which appeared to have ‘pin-up-girl’ photos on several pages. What I found odd was not that Harris was looking at these, by today’s standards, relatively tame photos, but that he continued to look at them throughout our brief conversation, turning and sometimes inverting the page.

Whether this somewhat insulting behaviour affected the tone of my subsequent interview I can’t say. But the public and press were vocal in their disapproval of my rudeness to this highly talented and much-loved television icon and in particular to the suggestion that he was a jack of all trades and a master of none. Their disapproval was deserved. The question was gratuitous and its thesis probably false.

Harris’s failings would turn out to be failings of character rather than of talent. Whether, as we chatted in the make-up room, I was unwittingly privy to one expression of those failings, I have no idea. The much vaunted ‘benefit of hindsight’ can sometimes lead you down the garden path.

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64 Comments:

  1. Rolf Harris’s behaviour is just not cricket is it.

    Ah….let me think on that again!

    • I’m not sure that’s an appropriate comment, Kat. Fraud may be one punishable offence which diddles a few bucks out of the odd gambler, but child molestation wrecks the life of the victim forever, and often takes a dozen of the family with it. If Cairns is guilty of the former fine him a million and ban him for life; if Harris is guilty of the latter, he deserves to get his neck stretched.

      • I’m not in favour of stretching people’s necks. The premeditated, cold-blooded killing of a human being, however evil, by the state can never be justified. It’s barbaric. I remember seeing film of the hanging of Saddam Hussein. His executioners were taunting him before the drop. It was awful. I sometimes think that it’s easier for those with religious beliefs to come to terms with the idea of capital punishment, since they believe in survival after death. Even the execution of an innocent man or woman can be rationalized by the prospect of ultimate justice after death. And do you really want to string up or give an 84-year-old man strapped to a gurney a lethal injection? Fortunately capital punishment is banned in Britain.

        • Hmmm.

          I remember watching that coverage of the Saddam Hussein execution, and whether or not it was sterk terror, but the man in question, for all his appalling crimes actually seemed to act with courage. He was still utterly human in every sense, and was exhibiting some of the good natural qualities we all possess.

          Reminded me of that Eric Blair/George Orwell short story of how he was part of a military detail that had to lead a condemned prisoner to the gallows during his time of service in Burma. The troubling and otherwise trivial incident that stuck in Orwell’s mind was the decision of the soon-to-be-dead man’s decisions to walk around a puddle.

          • Mind you, as inhumane as the Hussein execution was, he was still afforded the opportunity to die with more dignity than thousands he murdered with chemical weapons, or were tortured to death in prison cells.

            Pays to remember the victims when lamenting those who are executed. Doesn’t make the latter necessarily right – but gives perspective nonetheless.

            Sorry – probably way off topic. But no, whatever happens, it isn’t justice to execute Harris.

          • Agreed.

          • 1.1.1.1.3

            Thanks Kimbo, for your George Orwell recollection. It sent me to track down his story “A Hanging”. Not only did I find it bur others – http://www.online-literature.com/orwell/888/

            Google may have its faults, but it also leads us to treasures.

        • “And do you really want to string up or give an 84-year-old man strapped to a gurney a lethal injection?”

          Ideally no, I guess. But the stalking and grooming of a young person for one’s perverted gratification is the most disgusting of crimes. So if Harris is guilty, he should be terminated: anything less simply leaves your grandkids and mine as life’s moving targets. Yes, it’s barbaric – but can we truly lay claim to a civilised society if we leave such people to walk amongst us?

    • 1.2

      And, to further my comment above…

      Child Porn? Then WHY did the CPS *not* prosecute? Since WHEN have they condoned Child Porn??? Since WHEN have they decided to betray little children caught up in this vile industry?? They did not prosecute because they could NOT prosecute! They couldn’t even ENTER this in the trial, because the judge ruled they were ADULT sites he visited…BUT, they left the British public, nay, the WORLD with ‘child porn’ as the final chapter in the ‘Evil Rolf’ story they wanted everyone to believe.

      Again, to refer back to Michelangelo, do you think, were he alive today that he would be visiting porn sites? I’d say he be RIVETTED to them! Michelangelo was obsessed by the human body, as was Leonardo, as is Rolf Harris, because they are ALL wonderful artists who have painted NUDES in their lives!

      Once, they had to rely on naked models. Now, they can just zoom over to a porn site and VOILA!!

      Their works are regarded as Masterpieces and yet, STUPID idiots are burning Rolf’s art because they’ve been whipped up into a Baying Lynch Mob by a media that is OUT OF CONTROL. Did you READ the terrible things they said about Rolf, using ‘evil, pervert, dark, sinister, etc.’ in front of his name EVERY single time they wrote about him?

      They said he abused 7 year olds (note the PLURAL!), when it is ONE woman who was 7 at the time, who has alleged he abused her in a place where he NEVER was, and this SAME witness STOPPED giving her evidence to inform the court that one of the jury had fallen asleep…?????

      Do you know anything about NARCISSISTS? They NEED an audience, they NEED Pity and they can LIE with Absolute Ease! She’d spent her whole life telling folks this extraordinary story. I once was with a narcissist, he hooked me in too, I was bereft for him, his terrible life, his terrible childhood, everything bad that could happen to him, HAD happened to him!

      When I hugged him from my soul, I did it in absolute love, oblivious to everything else around me. HE though was aware of EVERYONE who was watching, taking it all in, because it reflected back to him that everyone could see he was lovable…He had NO interest in me at all. My second husband was another (yes, I seem to attract them, but NEVER again). I was told recently that he ‘got through women like shit through a goose’ Oh, JOY!

      Rolf however, had TWO mistresses. One very young (my Mum was 17 when she met my Darlin’ Dad who was 34 at the time and they married when she was 19 and he, 36)…and one a lot older. Rolf NURSED the older lassie until her death, the hospice staff saying how kind and concerned he was towards her on his visits.

      He could have ANY woman he so chose. Even today he is a very handsome looking man.

      I am SO angry about what has happened to him..and I feel heartsorry and deeply distressed for Rolf, for his family…..And finally, my own mother had an affair with my brother’s best friend when I was 14. I’m 59 now. Mum and Dad remained together, the man became almost part of the family and my dear, gentle father NEVER stopped loving my mother to his dying day.

      Shit happens in families, you live through it, learn from it and move on, trying to become wiser and tolerant of everyone.

      Tom Jones, by the way, has openly admitted to having MANY affairs and he and his wife of over 50 years are still together to this day….

    • 1.3

      My name is Lizzie, by the way, apologies for spelling it wrong, above.

  2. The interviewer who particularly infuriates me is Mary Wilson. I am certain that she often can’t have listened to the reply she has been given, as the follow up question assumes what she wanted to hear not what was said. I am actually surprised that more people don’t hang up on her like Andy Haden did.

    • Hear, hear! As soon as Wilson starts attempting to grill the last vestige of non-information out of someone I turn the radio off!

      • Could nae disagree more, fellas.

        Wilson is absolutely brilliant at thinking on her feet, always manages to remain sharply focussed, thus ensuring her media-trained interviewees stick rigorously to the point, answer the questions and don’t deploy the usual derailing tactics.

        In general, she keeps the buggers honest.

        She continues to impress me and I have to say It’d be a sad day for Radio New Zealand current affairs when she leaves.

  3. I agree with your take on all the journalists you referred to above and would like to add that I fear Susie Ferguson is going down that path too. I am so sad that morning report is no longer my morning programme of choice. Espiner sounds very robotic and plays the devil’s advocate so often it’s impossible to remain interested in his questions, which are aggressive and unenlightened; he gives little opportunity for each(usually)opposition politician he is pursuing to actually get to the point. Not going to be much fun leading up to the election me thinks. *Sigh
    With regards to Rolf Harris – He’s a gonner. Shame he wasn’t sprung earlier. Mind you many show biz men got away with that sort of behaviour back then because people turned a blind eye.

    • I’m waiting for the first complain against one of the older ‘rockers’ to surface. Then the floodgates of litigation will surely burst!

    • I heard Ferguson ‘interviewing’ Lianne Dalziel re the Council’s response to the plight of victims of the Christchurch floods. This was a phone interview in which it is almost impossible for the interviewee to override the interviewer. On several occasions Ferguson talked over Dalziel’s answers for what seemed like 30 seconds to a minute or more, both women talking at once. On several occasions Dalziel had to ask to be allowed to finish what she was saying. This was a disgraceful performance by an ego-driven interviewer who, in my view, should have been cautioned by National Radio management that, if ever she treated an interviewee like this again, she would be sacked. I hope the Mayor has complained to the BSA. A finding could only be in her favour. At least Ferguson has a pleasing voice which is preferable to Espiner’s reedy tone and stilted delivery. Bring back – well, almost anybody.

      I want to add something about Lisa Owen who is now working on The Nation. I got to know Lisa pretty well when I was hosting Top of the Morning and she was with RNZ News. Her work there was widely respected and admired. Yet she made an absolute dog’s breakfast of chairing The Nation’s minor parties debate a couple of weeks ago. She not only rudely cut off everybody on the programme, but cut them off in the middle of a sentence. There was also a complete imbalance in the time given to the politicians. In the latter part of the programme, John Minto was virtually ignored.

      Bill English was subjected to the mid-sentence interruption technique when Lisa interviewed him on the Nation last week. English was in another centre – what we call a ‘down the line’ interview where it can be difficult for the interviewee to control the flow of the interview.

      I’m not entirely sure that Owen is entirely to blame in all of this. It’s possible that her director was in her ear urging her to move on in the minor parties debate. (And, by the way, why on earth were the Greens there?)

      Or Lisa May not have learnt the skill of looking for a pause in the interviewee’s flow that allows for a polite interruption. Training doesn’t feature prominently in any of the Networks’ priorities.

      • Am I right in saying it is curent practice for an interviewee to just carry on talking if they are interrupted?

        Seems legitimate, and something Helen Clark used effectively.

        But then how does an interviewer ensure the space isn’t hijacked with spin?

        • Well, we need to give credit to the Kiwi viewer who is particularly media savvy and pretty good at spin detection.

          • Thanks, yes.

            I would have thought the best policy for an interviewer was “give ‘em enough rope to hang themselves” (apologies for the metaphor given what we discussed earlier in the thread!).

            I remember in 1981 Ian Fraser eliciting from the then-Minister of Police Ben Couch (who was a former Maori All Black and had been denied the chance to tour South Africa in 1949 because of his ethnicity) that he “supported apartheid in South Africa”.

            I must confess that my then (very youthful rugby-obsessed) opinion was that I wanted the Springboks to tour sooo badly. So I rationalised away his answer. Which was a reflection on me.

            Couch subsequently said that it was reflective of the official view of his Mormon faith (if a state doesn’t prohibit proselytising by the LDS, its form of Government is acceptable). Which I think a discerning viewer would conclude gave them valuable two-for-the-price-of-one information that would otherwise not be readily apparent if and when two nice clean-cut gentlemen with bicycles ever knocked on their door.

    • 3.3

      Hang on! We haven’t even heard the case for Rolf Harris’s defence yet. Just because an old man who was in show business has been accused of kiddie fiddling doesn’t make him automatically guilty. Let’s wait and see. Justice should not be driven by hysteria and stereotyping.
      Just to make myself clear: I don’t know whether he is guilty or not but I do know he should be given a fair go.

      • Fully agree, looks as if some people are eager to look for monetary gain. Reminds me of the story about a NY bus which is involved in a bad accident, and one notices people climbing onto the bus, to perhaps gain from a pending lawsuit.

  4. I understand your question – what does Rolf Harris really do, or should that read what did he really do? Bit of mild comedy, sketching, sang a few songs (turns out Two Little Boys was not even written by RH).

    History is full of contradictions thrown up by artistic genius that put Harris in a very long shadow. Tchaikowsky took a 15yo male piano pupil on a several month European tour. Tchaikowsky 6th Symphony speaks to your soul – Jake the Peg is just a bit funny.

    • Jake the Peg was funny until your comic gets charged with kiddie-fiddling. Then Jake the Peg makes me want to chuck. Same with Gary Glitter. Tchaik was a different case in a different time and space and to my learning I’m not sure there was any complaint made, nor action suggested. Back then you could call a spade a spade and everyone understood.

  5. Brian, your list of offending interviewers strangely lacks the name “John Campbell”.

    • I see many sides to John Campbell whereas the others on the list all seem to just want to be a rottweiler all of the time – well, most of the time, anyway.

    • That’s because I don’t believe he belongs on the list.

  6. You had a couple of precursors pathfinding for you also, Brian, most notably the redoubtable Austin Mitchell. No doubt their interviewing was completely anodyne by today’s standards but Mitchell in particular provoked significant outrage at the time for daring to do things like quiz the then PM Keith Holyoake and other politicians about their policies (shock, horror, how disrespectful!). As you may recall I was working for radio at the time (1969-72). I would have been sacked immediately if I had taken the sorts of open editorial stances that are now commonplace, especially on the part of those you have instanced. Guyon Espiner in particular might as well preface his interviews with a notification that we are about to hear a party political broadcast on behalf of the National Party. One of the problems is that there used to be a clearly defined Chinese wall between journalism and working as a press secretary for a politician and any journalist who moved to the Dark Side was finished professionally. Alas this is not the case any more and people cross the line seemingly at will with no ill effects

  7. Some years ago Rolf Harris visited New Zealand and was the “keynote” speaker at a series of meetings in Hamilton. He did many media interviews about the subject he was here to speak about: Sexual abuse. He even wrote a song – it was years ago but I remember the first line: “My body’s nobody’s body but mine” – such irony.

    My recollection of your interviews Brian is that they were always incisive but nevertheless polite. You didn’t interrupt but would press guests to answer the question asked. Back then that might well have been seen as “rude” by a public that didn’t like to see the boat rocked – ever!

    I don’t know what you’d call today’s interviewing styles (other than intolerable garbage).

    The appalling diction, obvious lack of general knowledge and misuse of the language doesn’t help either.

  8. Of course the trained politician is now more than ever, able to derail the interview. Mr Key is a master of deflection.
    “Lets take a step back….”
    “I know a number of people who would not agree…”
    “That’s a good question but what I will say (instead) is that…”
    “I will answer your question but it might take the rest of the time to mumble mumble mumble….”
    Politicians have been doing these things for years but now the interviewer is left out of the loop.
    Unless they interrupt at the first sign of deflection. Rude buggers! How dare they interrupt the PM!
    It might help the interviewer if the topic was focussed rather than broad ranging.
    To deal with the very full range of questions raised on Monday’s Campbell Live program needs focussed interviews. Thus the specific questions asked by Grant Robertson in Question Time are good examples of this focus which interviewers might emulate. Oddly Paul Henry has been doing some good late night interviews eg Nick Smith on Housing. Maybe the interviews by Paul could be aired separately from his other “stuff”?

    • I think you have to distinguish between long-form interviews on current affairs programmes such as Q & A and The Nation, and ‘stand-up’ interviews with politicians in Parliament. There’s little room for follow-up by journos in the stand-ups. The politician can give a very short or flippant answer and walk away. Key, as I said in an earlier post, tends to be flippant or dismissive in these situations. On the other hand, he handled his GCSB interview with Campbell with considerable aplomb.

  9. This is radio New Zealand – National.

    Funny that.

    My observation from listening to Morning Report is that the format appears similar to commercial radio, sound bites punctuated with advertisements. This is not acceptable from a state funded program. The interviewers appear to be setting the interviewees up to fall into a gotcha scenario.

    Susi Ferguson has a pleasant listening voice and I believe her performance is most likely governed by her bosses. I have heard her give good interviews. Guyon Espiner is a blatant right wing hack. His voice is worse than reedy, it has a smug holier than thou tone.

    Bring back Kim Hill, she is not just an ‘anybody’. Her interruptions at least are entertaining and usually solicit a positive response from the interviewee.

    • Kat – for the most part we speak in the voice we were given. We choose the words we speak.

      • 9.1.1

        Actually Adrian that isn’t quite so. When I went to work for radio in 1969 anyone and everyone who had to speak on mike was put through an extensive training course to teach them to enunciate clearly and coherently. It’s a habit that has been with me ever since. In fact you didn’t get employed at all unless you had an “an acceptable radio voice”. That had its drawbacks. It meant for instance that if you spoke with a Pacifica intonation you couldn’t be employed. In one classic case as late as the mid eighties they tried to remove a New Zealand Samoan interviewer/announcer from a National Radio (called YA in those days) program because of complaints about his ‘accent’. This caused a serious uproar I’m pleased to report and the attempt was withdrawn. The training centre also issued pronunciation guides and lists of unacceptably colloquial expressions although that too could get a little precious sometimes e.g. drawing a distinction between how you said Falcon (the car) and falcon (the bird). We were all also trained to write scripts in active voice.

        • Fascinating insight, thanks Tony. I was thinking more about vocal timbre which has much to do with the anatomy of the voicebox and mouth, which might lead to someone’s voice being “reedy” as Kat put it.

          I suppose TV has no problem selecting presenters on the basis of conventional looks, so one could hardly blame radio for selecting theirs on the grounds of having a voice that is pleasing to the ear.

          • Adrian, I was adding to BE’s comment earlier: “Espiner’s reedy tone and stilted delivery…” and that Espiner sounds not only, but also, smug and holier than thou.

            RNZ could do a whole lot better than Espiner and his blatantly obvious political bias on Morning Report.

  10. 10

    When I was in the UK, I always enjoyed Jeremy Paxman on the BBC.

    In an interview, he would ask questions in a forthright manner. If the questions weren’t answered to his satisfaction, he would ask them again (in some cases again and again).

    The difficulty in NZ is that most ‘journalists’ don’t have an academic background. You can get a certificate at a Polytech or ‘learn on the job’ and that seems good enough.

    I was once told by a NZ newspaper editor that a degree in English from Otago University is an ‘over-qualification’ for journalism.

    Also, the commercial environment of the media in NZ tends to lean to shouting matches to gain the attention of the viewer or listener hoping that faux outrage or the beat up will keep people watching or listening.

    Personality or celebrity driven media is nonsense. Opinions establish nothing.

    • I would agree with you on the standard of journalism generally in NZ at the moment. There isn’t any. It has been replaced largely by infotainment. Gone are the days when an interviewer would say “is it not a fact…..”(and actually has some facts to back that up). Facts don’t seem to come into it anymore its all about opinions.

  11. Have you considered this interview technique has adapted – and become more aggressive – as interviewees become more media savvy and employ professional training services? They’ve been taught how to avoid answering questions and dominate the agenda. They know not to pause and allow pesky questions. Thus the only option is to stop them mid-diatribe.

  12. The interview with John Banks over using dogs to test legal highs was illumination. The interviewer was so poorly prepared she didn’t know what an LD50 test was, and when Banks tried to enlighten her, she cut him off. Surely that was the point of the interview.

  13. I have largely given up listening to today’s crop of interviewers. The opportunity to gain the best information from their subjects is lost in obnoxious confrontation. The other party then gets their back up, at best goes into polite defense mode, or fights fire with fire. At the end we know more about the views of the interviewer than we ever cared to know.

    Its a team game. The backroom boys have much to blame for bringing out the inner oaf of the frontsperson, but I doubt that takes much work.

    Its not all one way. Kim Hill took months to get her feathers straight after boxing out of her weight with Jeffrey Archer — To my mind a case of ‘Greek meets Greek’.

  14. 14

    Remember when Kim Hill was savaged on TV by John Pilger. She was shown to be woefully out of her depth.

    It seems to be the case with ‘journalists’ in NZ: plenty of ambition but not the talent to match.

    • 14.1

      Not my memory of that interview at all, Hill never really cut the mustard on television but that interview was the most egregious example I can remember of Pilger’s quite appalling sneering condescension to anyone (and particularly a woman) who doesn’t defer to him. She plainly designed a probing series of questions (as opposed to patsy ones) and Pilger, who regards worship as the only appropriate response (having interviewed him I know this first hand) took exception to being questioned at all. His kiss-off line “Just read, Kim; read” was laughable considering she is probably the best-read person in NZ. I wrote in very polite terms to him in her defence. I was unsurprised to receive no acknowledgement.

      • I think your memory is playing tricks on you, Peter. Memory can be like that. We are certain we can recollect things clearly but alas that isn’t always the case. There are witnesses at Rolf Harris’s trial who claim he was in specific places at specific times, but there is absolutely no evidence to back up their claims. After so many years, it is not unusual to be wrong, even about things we are sure of…

        Kim Hill, in that interview, was aggressive from the get go. Maybe she’d had a bad day, or maybe she had it in for Pilger. (Do you have it in for him too? It seems so.) Whatever, she was most unprofessional. I suggest you look at that interview again. It’s available here:

        http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/face-to-face-with-kim-hill-john-pilger-2003

        • Ross – I watched that interview and I think Peter’s summation is bang on. In particular the “just read, Kim” made Pilger come across as a prig. I have been a fan of his writing but his attitude on that occasion lowered my opinion of him. In what way do you believe KH was unprofessional?

          • Adrian,

            She sneered, argued, interrupted, was sarcastic, all of which took place after she had arrogantly picked up his book and thrown it away! Apart from that it was a great interview…

            You must have seen a different interview.

            • 14.1.1.1.1.1

              Um, isn’t that Kim Hill’s usual interviewing style?

              As per our politically subjective but highly illustrative weather vane, Kat, politically aligned audiences react to interviewers in accordance with those alignments.

              For example, I seem to recall Hill’s style also applied, IMHO, to her interview of John Howard. But then unlike the great over-blown bore that is Pilger, Howard kept his cool. Probably comes with actually being in a position of responsibility and accountability, and having to actually make policy work.

              Contrast Pilger “I would disarm Israel…”

              Yeah, that’d work and it’s really gonna happen. Might gain kudos among the chattering classes, but that is about it.

              • 14.1.1.1.1.1.1

                Um, isn’t that Kim Hill’s usual interviewing style?

                Well it might be but she’s on radio so I haven’t noticed. :) But seriously, no, she tends to be far more restrained on radio than she was during the Pilger interview.

      • I saw that interview, and have heard a replay on radio. I was disappointed that Pilger spent the whole time sneering at Hill, who did at first come across as something of a fan-girl. I thought his attitude was rude, and he seemed to have no interest in anything except scoring points off Hill. He saw the opportunity to sneer and condescend and made the most of it. I wanted to hear more about his work, and had no real interest his opinions on Hill’s interviewing techniques. I have never taken any of his writings seriously since that interview.

    • Oh,come on now, that is just silly. Kim Hill is a phenomenally good interviewer. She is internationally recognised, with enough awards (UK and New York) to allay anyone’s cultural cringe.
      Re Pilger and Archer, they came across as insufferable plonkers. Not unexpected in Archer’s case, but Pilger was a rude disappointment.

      • I heard the Archer interview, He pounced when Hill asked a perfectly reasonable question, about whether he gave his characters traits of people he knew. Archer seemed to think the question was outrageous. I think he was waiting for an opportunity to show how macho he was.

  15. Lets agree to differ then. Kim Hill could be referred to as a radio personality and has won a few international awards in recognition of her skills. I prefer to celebrate her achievements over thirty years than just focus on the few Pilger, Archer, Peters “egomaniac” bumps in the road.

    • I agree that Kim Hill can be a good interviewer, but the Pilger interview was a shocker.

    • Kim at her best was absolutely brilliant. And I don’t remember her interrupting much – at least nowhere like as much as modern interviewers do. She also didn’t continually challenge obvious incorrect comments after first giving the interviewee a chance to correct themselves.
      I remember when she was on 9 to noon talking to Ken Mair. This was when he worked for NZEI. Ken claimed to have research that showed pakeha children associate green with traffic lights while maori kids associated it with bush. Her long, drawn out “Oh, Really” response was the absolute killer to Ken’s credibility. I think he left his job very soon after that.

  16. Harris’s failings would turn out to be failings of character rather than of talent.

    What failings are you talking about, Brian?

    • The “failings” to keep his hands to himself when around kids?
      Or: “What we have here, is a failure to communicate”?

      • The “failings” to keep his hands to himself when around kids?

        How do you know he didn’t keep his hands to himself? Why do we have trials when we have people who know what happened!

        • I don’t, hence, the question-mark. But I’m pretty sure if there were kids around him, his hands weren’t in his pockets. And if I am partially right, and one of his hands was free to roam, the other was probably playing pocket billiards.

  17. None of the rude interviewers has the capacity to cut the mustard as a cross-examiner. That art (and an art it is) requires the skill to take the witness/ interviewee along with you and, as is the object, until you reach a point where you have the compass, not them. Cross-examination should never be CROSS examination – riling people offers no road to the truth, it merely provokes anger, scorn or sheer non-responsiveness.

  18. 18

    Oddly, I don’t recall any NZ journalist interviewing (now the Late) Christopher Hitchens?

    I’m happy to stand corrected.

  19. Hitchens wasn’t worth listening to for the last few of years of his life and i doubt he would have bothered stopping in for a cup of tea while he was at his best.

  20. 20

    I can’t agree more with your comments about interviewers, Brian! You have, however, omitted Sean Plunket from your list. I will never forget an interview he conducted with Phil Goff when leader of Labour: arguably the nadir for Morning Report. An interview with Phil Twyford by Espiner last week came a close second.

    These upstarts need to realise that it’s not about them and their cleverness: their role is to enable the public to hear answers to questions they would like to have asked for themselves. The interviewer is meant to be the conduit, not the star!

    Such a pity that these egotists could not have taken notes from Geoff Robinson. After all, they had opportunity enough! I, for one, would welcome Espiner’s departure from his current role – it couldn’t come soon enough!

  21. YES He is guilty. I am another one. I cannot come forward after many years of HIM doing it.It really messed up my life. I told my husband in 1970 he was a filthy bastard.May he rot in hell

  22. I cannot understand why the charges relating to two of the four women were even brought (the Leigh Park Community Centre and the Cambridge ones). That he was found guilty of them beggars belief. These, in particular, had more holes in them than a string vest. The remaining charges were highly questionable as well and certainly could not be proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

    Regarding the alleged Leigh Park Community Centre incident, the charge related to indecent assault ‘between the 1st day of January 1968 and the 1st day of January 1970′. The complainant alleged that she remembered Rolf Harris singing ‘Two Little Boys’ ‘to the children’ around the time of her eighth birthday, which one report gives as October 1969. ‘Two Little Boys’ was not released until November 1969 (which narrows the time frame quite a bit), and while he might have sung it (assuming that he was there at all), he would undoubtedly have been singing other songs as well. This one would not have been remembered from this event because she would not have heard it before.

    Despite SEVEN YEARS’ WORTH of newspapers being searched by the Prosecution, NO advertisements for, or reports of, the show came to light. NO advertising flyers or souvenir programmes surfaced. The police searched the community centre’s records and the local council’s records and found NOTHING. Why? BECAUSE ROLF HARRIS NEVER APPEARED AT THE LEIGH PARK COMMUNITY CENTRE.

    Why would a singer and artist at the peak of his career, in the run-up to Christmas (when bookings would have been solid) perform at a 150-seat community centre on a council estate in an unremarkable town? His booking fee would have been very high in terms of what such a modest outlet would have been able to afford. The ticket prices (and the tickets would have been limited to 150, remember) would have had to reflect this. Most of the locals would have been priced out, and surely there would have been complaints to the local newspaper.

    Rolf Harris allegedly groped the complainant in front of a queue of people waiting for autographs. He was the focus of attention. He crouched down and faced her, according to various press reports. Then according to the complainant’s evidence, he put his hand forcefully ‘down the back and up’ – using his LEFT hand, note, as he would have been holding the autographing pen in his right (he is right-handed), and leaning over her so that his groping hand was in full view of those in the queue – and all from a crouching position. THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE. Try it on a large doll or whatever.

    No-one dared question a ‘victim of sexual abuse’ too closely on all of this, even in a court of law. Even if this woman did suffer sexual abuse at some stage, it seems to me that she has projected it on to Rolf Harris either deliberately or because she genuinely believes (wrongly) that he did it. This supposedly happened FORTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, remember.

    If she was abused, maybe ‘Two Little Boys’ was playing on the record player at the time? Maybe the man had a beard? Maybe she visited the Leigh Park Community Centre to attend a birthday party around the time that it happened? There are so many ‘maybes’, but one thing is certain. ROLF HARRIS COULD NOT POSSIBLY HAVE INDECENTLY ASSAULTED HER BECAUSE HE WAS NEVER AT THE LEIGH PARK COMMUNITY CENTRE.

    Mainly on the basis of this non-event, for which Rolf Harris was inexplicably found guilty, he has been labelled a paedophile in the press and has potentially had his life put at risk.

    I hope the appeal judges are listening.