Posted by BE on November 19th, 2014
In an ideal world good men and good women would be elected to government; the best would achieve high office and a few the highest office in the land. New Zealand, still one of the least politically corrupt nations in the world, may well have come closer to that ideal in the past than many other developed countries.
In the sixties the arrival of television in New Zealand complicated this simple equation. The largely impersonal relationship between voter and politician, limited mainly to town hall election meetings and radio broadcasts, was gradually displaced by the intimacy of the television close-up and the advent of the increasingly personal and probing political television interview.
In one sense this was for the public good. Television had the potential to reveal the cracks not only in the politicians’ policies and claims but in the facade of personal virtue which they hoped to project. The small screen was and remains a more effective lie-detector than radio or the town-hall meeting. It exemplifies the dictum that a picture is worth a thousand words.
But television in the 21st century is also first and foremost an entertainment medium. Those who appear on it are required to engage their audience, to hold their attention, to perform. As my colleague Ian Fraser once put it, “to act themselves”. If indeed it ever was, being a good person is no longer enough. You have to look good as well.
Whether being good and looking good, whether being yourself and acting yourself are entirely compatible is not something I want to canvass here. But I do know that if you don’t “come across” on television, your chances of political success are greatly and quite possibly fatally reduced. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on September 30th, 2014
When you’ve read this short post have a look at the interview below with David Cunliffe on last night’s Campbell Live . But first, if you haven’t done so already, please read my previous post on the ex Labour leader, titled “Some acting experience an advantage but not required”.
To be absolutely fair to David Cunliffe, I should perhaps add that, like all senior politicians, he has on his team people whose job it is to advise him on media issues, to analyse and comment on his radio and television appearances and to prepare him for upcoming interviews and debates, possibly by workshopping those exchanges. Their job is not to ra-ra their employer’s efforts but to be brutally frank in critically analysing his performance.
The blame for Cunliffe’s misguided and vote-losing approach to his exchanges with the Prime Minister during the last election and particularly his final televised debate with John Key on TV One, must be proportionally shared with those advisers. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on July 31st, 2012
The news that David Shearer is to ‘get media training’ from Ian Fraser in order to make him more visible to the electorate has tended to reinforce the notion that ‘getting media training’ is rather like getting a new suit from Hallenstein’s. All you have to do is put the new suit on and you’ll immediately not merely look better but be a whole new person. Unfortunately media training doesn’t fit this prêt-à-porter model. It’s a bespoke art. Everyone’s needs are different, no two people’s measurements are exactly the same, and there are some people who will never look good in anything.
I’ll abandon this analogy before I invite derision, but it serves to make the point that you can’t just ‘get media training’ in the same way that you might ‘get trained’ to drive a car, a skill in which most people are capable of being competent at least and which even indifferent drivers can teach you. Here, by the way, the Maggie Barry Principle applies – if you’ve never been a professional interviewer and haven’t had wide experience of all branches of the media, you’ve not really qualified to talk about media-training, let alone engage in it.
It’s rare for the diagnosis of what is ailing an interviewee to be obvious. With the exception of ‘umming and erring’, saying ‘you know’, ‘like’ , ‘I guess’, ‘absolutely’, ‘going forward’, ‘OK, so’ at least once in every paragraph, what prevents someone from coming across well on radio or television is often extremely subtle and quite difficult to pin down. Read the rest of this entry »