Brian Edwards Media

Jiminy Cricket! Now Rachel is really, really huge as well!

Rachel Smalley

Jiminy Cricket! Now Rachel is really, really huge as well! Yes, Rachel Smalley now commands a full-page Newstalk ZB ad in today’s Herald. It will no doubt be followed by a half-page ad, and the campaign will perhaps roll on until every NewstalkZB talk-back host has been made really, really huge.

Rachel is already really, really tall. She is also the best radio/television interviewer in New Zealand by a country mile. No exceptions.

So I’m hoping that Rachel didn’t write the trite, overblown copy for this ad, which has all the purple prose hallmarks of an advertising copywriter. Have a taste:

A JOURNALIST’S NUMBER ONE OBLIGATION IS TO GET TO THE TRUTH AND EVERY TIME I ASK A QUESTION, EVERY TIME I BEGIN AN INTERVIEW, THAT’S MY MOTIVATION. GET TO THE TRUTH, GET OUT THE INFORMATION, CUT THROUGH THE SPIN, AND GET TO THE FACTS.

JOURNALISM IS A TRANSACTION. IT’S ABOUT GETTING INFORMATION FROM ONE SOURCE AND PASSING IT ON TO ANOTHER. IT’S ABOUT KNOWLEDGE. IT’S ABOUT BEING A WATCHDOG. FOR A COMMUNITY. FOR A COUNTRY. FOR THE WORLD. AND IT GIVES A VOICE TO THE VOICELESS.   

Well yes, it is a journalist’s job to get information, the facts, the truth, but does that thought go through an interviewer’s mind “every time” they begin an interview, “every time” they ask a question? I very much doubt it. The vast majority of news interviewers’ questions are fact-based: Who? What? When? Where? How? How many?…

Current-affairs interviewers ask those questions too but are more sceptical of the truthfulness of the answers they receive and more interested in motivation, in the “why?” That’s what Rachel is referring to when she talks about cutting through “the spin”. The “spin” is the journalist’s equivalent of what, in terms of natural justice, you might call “the presumption of guilt”: You’re a real estate agent so you must be lying; You’re a used car dealer so you must be lying; You’re a politician so you must be lying.

Another word for this is “prejudice”.

Then, “Rachel” tells us, journalism is about “BEING A WATCHDOG. FOR A COMMUNITY. FOR A COUNTRY. FOR THE WORLD. “Watchdog for the world” – that really is a serious obligation. And difficult, I would have thought, to fit in within the commercial saturation that is characteristic of the ZB network.

So I’m hoping that Rachel didn’t write the copy for this piece of advertising agency pulp. Pulp fiction!

And, for the record, in more than 40 years of encouraging political clients to “be straightforward, tell the truth, admit your mistakes”, I can think of only a handful of occasions where that advice wasn’t accepted and acted upon. And in each of those cases it was about “admitting your mistakes”. The trouble with that is: your opponents make such a meal of it.

And finally this: I’m in favour of no-holds-barred interviewing of the power-brokers in this country. I started the bloody thing myself almost half a century ago. So here’s a piece of advice I should have been given all those years ago, but wasn’t: Do your job, enjoy the fame and prestige that it brings, but keep your own counsel on your role as a journalist.

, ,

21 Comments:

  1. I liked Paul Holmes’ comment that you can’t be a good interviewer until you have lived. As well as intelligence that enables you to exercise judgement, not always merely believe the subject is lying and must confess to your point of view and angle of attack.

    Strangely enough that judgement and subtlety often led to discovering answers to questions you would never have thought to ask when scripting the interview questions.

    However since it departed from the Left’s demand that nothing their opponents did be treated as anything less than evil and vile they simply turned their bile onto Holmes.

    • Going well until the final para, Alan. Many of us on the Left were Paul’s fans. And I never thought of him particularly as being on the Right. If memory serves, somewhere on this website you’ll find a brief tribute to him.

      • 1.1.1

        I know you supported him, Brian. But he copped a lot of vitriol from the Left. Obviously not all left-wingers are so nasty but very many of those who comment publicly or are activists exhibit the behavior I described.

        • If my memory serves me correctly, Brian “copped a lot of vitriol from the Right” back in the day, so it seems you have descended into ‘Left Bashing’ mode again Alan.

          Winnie seems to be doing alright up your way, ten new bridges so far and he isn’t even elected.

          • 1.1.1.1.1

            You’ve got to admire Alan’s skill (obsession?) at turning every comment, no matter what the subject, into “Left Bashing”.

            • 1.1.1.1.1.1

              A bit rich from someone who posted on the last thread

              John Northcott
              March 9th, 2015 at 18:59
              I read the Herald (online, I’m blowed if I’ll pay) so I can poke the borax at Hosking in the “Comments” section.
              I must admit, though, that it’s getting boring: rather like shooting fish in a barrel because most of his opinion pieces are so facile.

              • 1.1.1.1.1.1.1

                “Poke the Borax” means “make fun of” according to “The Godzone Dictionary: Of Favourite New Zealand Words and Phrases”
                Alan is deadly serious.
                Not quite a pinfall for the Wilkinson Kimbo Tag-team.

                • 1.1.1.1.1.1.1.1

                  Oh, I don’t know, John.

                  But then again, you may have a point. If the butt of the joke is unable to laugh at themselves and their foibles then it does rather fall flat.

                  Brought to you by the “Whos on first, Watts on second” comedy duo of Alan and Kimbo…

            • 1.1.1.1.1.2

              Thanks John. It’s nice to be appreciated.

              • 1.1.1.1.1.2.1

                If you mean “appreciate” in its meaning of “fully understand”, I’m not sure I want to.

          • 1.1.1.1.2

            I don’t recall Brian copping vitriol from the right other than from the likes of Muldoon who was really a Lefty control freak in disguise. However the internet did not exist then to provide a platform for the platoons of political orcs.

            Yes, Winnie is a major worry, let alone the proportion of gullibles who are taken in by his posturing nonsense. At least this pork-barrelling will build some useful infrastructure rather than just paying off the Left’s supporters which is what we are accustomed to seeing.

            • 1.1.1.1.2.1

              No true Scotsman…

            • 1.1.1.1.2.2

              From memory Muldoon only said BE was “over-rated” and his high profile was not due to any special qualities, but rather the novelty value of his accent.

              I’ll update later if that does not capture the essence of “The Rise and Fall of a Young Turk”.

              But while that is certainly damning with faint praise, I wouldn’t call that vitriol. However, I’ve always thought your assessments of Muldoon are unbalanced. Mind you, so are most people’s on both the right and left of the political spectrum each for their own reasons, IMHO (even if that makes me in a minority).

              • 1.1.1.1.2.2.1

                You are right this time, Kimbo. Vitriol wasn’t Muldoon’s style. It was the slow Godfather-like menacing delivery that made you think he was about to take a contract out on your life.

                • 1.1.1.1.2.2.1.1

                  Translation: The man had a scary stare.

                  Was everyone in 1970s and early 1980s New Zealand such a milquetoast that a 5 foot dwarf supposedly ruled like Pinochet on the basis of his scowl and measured diction?

            • BE copped flak because he was an ‘aggressive interviewer’ and the ‘right’ did not appreciate this ‘import’ from Ireland. I know what I saw, heard and connected with in the 1970’s, so does Sam Hunt.

              Hope Winnie wins so the roads can be totally fixed eh!

              Here comes ‘irony’ again……

    • Fair enough.

  2. One of the things which annoys me (yes, I know, it’s a long list) is the way our commercialised and commodified media advertises itself. A couple of years ago one of the major outlets plastered the slogan ‘It’s all about the story’ all over the sides of buses. This entirely begs the question: what is the ‘it’ that it’s all about? If it’s fluffy pieces about celebrity weddings and fashion then you’re reading the Women’s Weekly but if it’s about international political, economic and cultural affairs then you’re reading the Guardian Weekly or The Economist. The difference is crucial I would have thought.

  3. A little bird has told me that these ads are in fact written not by an agency but by the radio and TV personalities themselves. That’s both reassuring and rather concerning. “Reassuring” because it’s good to know that the views expressed in the ads are first-hand and “kosher”and because they roughly confirm my impression of (prejudices about) the people involved. This is nowhere more true than the most recently published ad in this campaign which features the unaffected, unspoilt, call-a-spade-a-spade Kerre Woodham, just telling it like it is. It won’t make an iota of difference to my opinion of “talk-radio”, but then I confess to being a broadcasting snob whose favourite TV programme is The Graham Norton Show. Go figure!

  4. At least she did not have the gall to tell us that it was her job to tell people how to think, although thought and ZB hardly go together.

    As for being the best interviewers; not difficult given the lack of competition.