Sarah Ivey/NZ Herald
I spend a fair amout of time on this site taking the New Zealand television networks to task for their generally abysmal prime-time coverage of public affairs. So it’s appropriate to be equally generous in praise when they get it right.
Following David Tamihere’s release from prison, Monday’s Close Up featured a background report by Hannah Ockelford on the murder of the Swedish tourists, the subsequent arrest, trial and conviction of Tamihere, his unsuccessful appeal to the Privy Council to overturn his conviction and his 20-year imprisonment during which he continued to assert his innocence.
This was not a long item, perhaps five or six minutes, but it was a model of television storytelling. I have long been an admirer or Hannah Ockelford, who is an excellent interviewer, brings a quiet maturity to her reporting and, as a bonus, both looks and sounds good. Her report included archival footage of the police hunt for Tamihere, who was then on the run, a summary of the evidence both for and against him, and interviews with Tamihere’s wife Kristine, his son Jon and journalist Pat Booth. All three impressed.
Pat Booth is without question the most admired investigative journalist in New Zealand. He is a crusader for justice. And, as it happens, he understands the art of persuasive communication, no better illustrated than in his interview with Ockelford. At a technical level, he sits forward, holds intense eye-contact with his interviewer, speaks quietly – this is an intimate format – and listens intently to the questions. I doubt that he thinks about any of this. It’s instinctual. He presents his case entirely without hyperbole or histrionics. He is utterly reasonable. And, most important of all, he willingly concedes any weakness in his argument. When accused by the interviewer of having just as blinkered a view of the case as the police, he simply replies, ‘Oh yes, yes, I agree. We are all victims of our environment and what we know.’ The effect is not to undermine but to enhance his credibility. This is an object lesson in the art of the interview.
At the end of the five or six minutes, I feel that I have been given a clear, concise, low-key and even-handed summary of the issues surrounding the arrest, trial, conviction and imprisonment of David Tamihere. I have been informed. And I have been left to make up my own mind on where the truth actually lies. That is what I mean by ‘getting it right’.
Take another look
And look for the line of the week – Pat Booth talking about hard-line detective John Hughes, who headed the investigation: ‘He was known in the underworld as The Gardener, because he planted so well.’