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. Read the rest of this entry »