Brian Edwards Media

Posts Tagged 'The Nation'

When Hekia met Rachel – a sometime interviewer’s perspective.

 

I haven’t been blogging for the past ten days or so because I fractured a bone in my left hand and can’t type. It still hurts like hell but I’ve been drawn out of this enforced temporary retirement by my irritation over the attempts by the Right, led by National Party clown Tau Henare and assorted hangers-on in the blogosphere,  to make political capital out of two questions put to Education Minister Hekia Parata by my colleague on The Nation, Rachel Smalley.

I need to start by making one thing perfectly clear: I have not spoken to Smalley about this, nor have I informed TV3 Head of News and Current Affairs, Mark Jennings,  or The Nation’s producer, Richard Harman, of my intention to blog about the rights and wrongs of this issue.

I watched the Parata interview in the ‘green room’ at TV3 as it was being recorded and was hugely impressed by the Minister’s performance. When she returned to the green room to collect her belongings I said to her, “That was absolutely brilliant”. She smiled, thanked me and showed absolutely no sign of having been upset by Rachel’s question-line.

I had a similar conversation in the green room today with Judith Collins, who’d also faced some tough questioning from Rachel. “You are,” I said, “the consummate performer.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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On Shane Taurima and why we don’t want political eunuchs as interviewers.

Fearless Lantern-jawed TV Interviewer 1969

Fearless Lantern-jawed TV Interviewer 1969

 

In May 1970 I was interviewed by a Truth reporter called Martin Smith. The conversation revolved around my interviewing on the top-rating current affairs programme Gallery.

Smith’s story duly appeared on the front page of Truth and began as follows:

TV personality Brian Edwards admits he has a political bias.

There was ‘no interviewer around’ who did not have a political bias, he told Truth.

‘Like the viewers, we are only human beings,’ he said.

And he has allowed this bias to colour some of his interviews, he told Truth.

Next to the story was a photograph of me with the caption ‘Brian Edwards… political bias’

Rob Muldoon once said to me that he was often misquoted in the media and invariably complained. ‘There are some things I just know I could not possibly have said.’

I knew I could not possibly have said I was politically biased and had allowed this bias to colour my interviews. It was not merely entirely untrue but would have been professionally suicidal. What I had said was that I had political opinions, as every interviewer did.

Within 24 hours I had received a letter from the Deputy Director-General of the NZBC, Lionel Sceats,  making it abundantly clear that, if the story were true, my contract with the Corporation would be terminated. I had no alternative but to sue Truth for defamation.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Of knuckleheads, long-running stories, media beat-ups and Judith Collins parting the waters

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Referring to John Key’s current dissatisfaction with the ‘knuckleheads’ of the Fourth Estate, a prominent journalist, who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty, observed to me recently, ‘No Prime Minister who ever attacked the media got re-elected.’ He was evidently out of the country during both Rob Muldoon’s and Helen Clark’s three terms, but his remark was less than flattering to the members of his own profession. Journalists, it seems, will revenge themselves on politicians who criticise them, in the process abandoning their duty to report objectively and dispassionately.

Key’s response to media attacks on his credibility, and to the Press Gallery’s  dealings with him during ‘stand-ups’ in the corridors of Parliament, has been to suggest that he’ll either abandon the stand-ups altogether or at least greatly reduce the number of questions he will take.

I would suggest the former. It makes absolutely no sense to throw yourself into a pit of hungry bears who have been practising tag-team mauling while they waited for your arrival. It would be hard to think of a more uncontrolled, uncontrollable or  dangerous arena.    Read the rest of this entry »

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The Last Post – on the little known connection between Ritalin and ‘terrific’ TV interviewing

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[Update: Susan Wood was admirably restrained in her interviews on Q & A a week after this post appeared.]

In the check-out line at Victoria Park New World this morning I bumped into my regular co-panellist on the media review segment of TV3’s The Nation, Bill Ralston. After comparing notes about why men enjoy supermarket shopping and women generally don’t, Bill asked me if I’d watched Q & A which follows the Sunday edition of The Nation on TV1 and is, I suppose, our competitor. No, I hadn’t watched it, but I’d be looking at it later on MySky. Bill thought I shouldn’t miss it. Susan Wood was ‘terrific’, she’d demolished David Shearer and given much the same treatment to National’s Nikki Kaye.

By coincidence, Bill and I had earlier been talking on The Nation to freelance journalist Karl Du Fresne who’d penned an article entitled ‘RNZ must right its lean to the left.’ Karl’s position was that there was strong evidence of endemic left wing bias by Radio New Zealand interviewers and he cited Kim Hill, Kathryn Ryan and Mary Wilson as examples.

I don’t agree with Karl’s thesis any more than I agreed with those who claimed right-wing bias on the part of the media when Helen Clark was running the country. Journalists have, in my view, an obligation to call to account whichever political party or coalition holds the reins of power, to be, if you like, an informal opposition.

Anyway, when I got home, I watched Susan Wood interviewing David Shearer and Nikki Kaye.

So did I think Susan Wood was ‘terrific’?     Read the rest of this entry »

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David Garrett writes to me and I respond.

 

This morning I received the following email from David Garrett:

Dear Dr. Edwards,

I watched your interview with Cam Slater on Sunday. During it, you could not resist denigrating me, and dredging up the “dead baby” issue yet again. The rest of the MSM have pretty well shaken all they could out of  the issue, but you attempted to breathe fresh life into it.

I wonder how long you think I should be punished for something I did 28 years ago – obtaining a false passport which was never used for any purpose? Something for which I apologised in writing to the family when the sorry business was unearthed in 2005, and for which I apologised publicly again at the time I left parliament.

Should I hide in shame for the rest of my life? Should I cease to voice an opinion publicly, even if asked to?  Should I perhaps do away with myself? Do tell.

Sincerely,

David Garrett SC

Read the rest of this entry »

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I meet Cameron Slater and get to thinking about boring politicians.

 

On Sunday on The Nation Bill Ralston, Rachel Smalley and I had the pleasure of interviewing Cameron Slater of ‘Whale Oil’ fame. I hadn’t expected it to be a pleasure. Slater’s politics are at the opposite end of the spectrum from my own and his and his Whale Oil followers’ perpetual use of gratuitously offensive language had merely served to persuade me of their intellectual poverty.

Meeting Slater did not change my view of the morons who have made his blog the most widely read in the country.  (Nothing attracts a following like intemperance of thought and expression.) But it did change my view of him.

Cameron is highly intelligent, has a great sense of humour and is… well, I’m reluctant to use the word ‘charming’ so I’ll tone it down a bit and say ‘extremely engaging’.

And I didn’t get where I am today by not being able to penetrate all that ‘don’t give a fuck’ bluster to recognise a capacity for being wounded that, needless to say, will never be confessed.

But what I really wanted to say is that I found Slater hugely interesting and entertaining. He is a character and we are woefully short of characters in New Zealand politics at the moment. In fact, in terms of personality,  politics in this country has never been duller.    Read the rest of this entry »

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When Hone met Rachel – Now that was a surprise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was watching Rachel Smalley talk to Hone Harawira on The Nation this morning. This was a quite extraordinary interview for two reasons:

First,  Smalley is now without peer in New Zealand as a current-affairs and political interviewer, an accolade I would previously have given to the hugely talented Duncan Garner. I would go further. Smalley is up there with some of the finest television interrogators in Australia (not difficult), the United States (quite difficult) and the UK (very difficult). She is enormously well-informed; her questioning is challenging without being interruptive, aggressive or rude; her delivery is impeccable; her interviews are models of intelligent debate.

Because New Zealanders have grown used to noise and impertinence as hallmarks of the effective interviewer, when in fact these are indicators of lack of real talent, Smalley’s brilliance has perhaps not yet been fully recognised. But I have absolutely no doubt that, with a little more experience, she will rank alongside interviewers of the quality of HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur.

Second, Hone Harawira is in my view the most effective political communicator in New Zealand. His reputation among Pakeha and some Maori  is probably that of a loud-mouthed Maori shit-stirrer, a reputation he has from time to time deserved. And the name Harawira has not helped. His mother Titewhai, while liking to be seen arm in arm with white-skinned Prime Ministers at Waitangi, is to me the embodiment of anti-Pakeha sentiment in this country. And Titewhai is often in her son’s ear. This is how I expressed it in a previous post:  Read the rest of this entry »

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Sometime interviewer opines on Duncan Garner and other TV interrogators

Duncan Garner and I haven’t always been on the best of terms. We had a very public spat a couple of years ago about whether or not Garner was running a personal campaign to discredit Chris Carter. It included my asking whether TV3 ‘should be considering whether their Political Editor is fit to hold the job’ and stating unequivocally elsewhere that, ‘Duncan Garner can’t interview.’

I’m somewhat embarrassed today by those earlier comments. My embarrassment has in part been occasioned by getting to know Garner better over the last year or so, when we have both been appearing on TV3’s The Nation. Not only did he seem to hold no malice against me for my earlier disparaging comments, he was positively welcoming of his new colleague.

More importantly, I was drawn to the conclusion that, far from being unable to interview, Garner had become the best political interviewer in New Zealand by a country mile. I’ve found no reason to change that view.     Read the rest of this entry »

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On David Cunliffe, the political divide and why I’m still wondering.

Waitakere News

If you got out of bed early enough on Saturday or Sunday to watch TV3’s The Nation or its counterpart on TV1 Q & A, you might have noticed something interesting: No Labour Party spokesperson appeared on either of television’s principal forums for political analysis and debate. The Nation had SOE Minister Tony Ryall being cross-examined on asset sales by Duncan Garner; Q & A’s Paul Holmes looked at where the economy is or should be heading  with the Greens’ Russel Norman and  New Zealand First’s Winston Peters. The two  are increasingly filling the media space left by Labour as the official Opposition.

The absence of anyone from Labour on The Nation was explained by Garner at the very start of the show. The programme had invited Labour’s Spokesperson for Economic Development and Associate Finance Spokesperson, David Cunliffe, to discuss more or less the same things that Norman and Peters were discussing on Q & A – the future direction of the economy. Cunliffe was happy to appear but, conscious of the current sensitivities in the parliamentary party over Labour’s leadership, sought an assurance that that topic would not be canvassed in the interview. He received that assurance in writing from Executive Producer Richard Harman and Garner himself.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Bored with your Monaco millions? Why not buy an election?

 

On The Nation this weekend, ex-pat Owen G. Glenn magnanimously offered to pour over $100 million into youth initiatives after the election. Here are a couple of extracts from the interview:

Q: Are you giving any money this election to any political party, or just advice?

A: Well, I’m giving everybody advice, aren’t I? I’m coming back in October and I’m going to hold a press conference. And I’m going to announce some pretty major initiatives.

Q: Is that money going to be spent here?

A: In New Zealand.

Q: For?

A: Mainly for New Zealand youth. I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. Then I’ll be happy to answer any questions you want to ask me. [laughs]

Q: Well, let’s explore it. And I’m not going to ask you to shoot your bolt right here and now…

A: It’s  not ready…

Q: So we’re talking about hundreds of millions invested in New Zealand youth?

A: Let’s say at least a hundred.  …..

Q: Does it matter who wins the election as to whether or not you proceed with the plan?

A: I think very much so.

Q: So you would think about not doing this initiative…

A: Well look, let’s put it in perspective. I think National has a better shot at it, particularly if ACT is part of it. Because, if I say ACT goes a little bit hard on the Right, if there is temper [?] there, they’re not bad people, actually very good people.

Q: OK. Can I ask you then: you’re prepared to invest hundreds of millions in New Zealand education, for young people…

A: I said at least a hundred million…

Q: … if National and ACT win the next election?

A: That’s correct.

When we’re strapped for cash, performing dentistry on a gift horse could be regarded as bad form. Never mind that  $100 million is a drop in the bucket compared with Government’s spending – it’s a very large drop in a very small bucket.

The problem is that the generous Mr Glenn has probably committed an offence under the Electoral Act 1993 by tagging on the proviso that he will give the money only if National/ACT win the election in November: Read the rest of this entry »

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How political polls in prime-time + no serious political debate in prime-time = catwalk values and dumbed-down voters

 

Is John Key such an inspirational leader that he deserves to enjoy the support of 57% of New Zealand voters? Is Phil Goff such a hopeless leader that he deserves the support of only 8% of New Zealand voters? Has the National Party’s record in office been so impressive that it deserves to enjoy the support of 56% of New Zealand voters, including one might surmise, a significant number of Labour defectors? And has the Labour opposition been so feeble that it deserves the support of only 30% of New Zealand voters?

Well, if the polls are right – and there is no great difference between one and another – then the answer to all of these questions would seem to be Yes. But are they right? The extremity of their findings – the adulation of John Key and the seeming invisibility of Phil Goff; National having twice as much support as Labour  – seems curious, given the parlous state of the economy, the high level of unemployment and the near-Third-World conditions in which so many of our citizens, both adults and children, are currently living.

As a nation we seem to have closed our eyes to these realities, so dazzled are we by the luminance of the Prime Minister. The mirror image of ourselves as a people which the polls present seems to me less than flattering. Are we really a nation more impressed by style than substance? Are we really that shallow?  Read the rest of this entry »

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“one of the finest pieces of television current affairs I have seen in this country” – Brian Edwards

Now here’s a novel idea. Let’s have a television current affairs programme on which people of diametrically opposed viewpoints can debate the issues that divide them, forcefully but without undue rancour. Such a programme would require a chairperson who could control the debate, ensuring that each side  was given a fair opportunity to state their case and that the principal areas of disagreement were afforded an airing. This would of course not be possible with a programme duration of less than 30 commercial-free minutes.  

You won’t find a programme like that on TV1 or TV3.  If you feel like watching political chat on Saturday or Sunday morning, there are Q & A and The Nation, but these are essentially interview programmes, and the interviews rarely run to more than 10 or 12 minutes. With the possible exception of Paul Holmes, the interviewers also seem to prefer the sound of their own voices to the sound of their subjects’ replies.  And anyway, it’s the weekend and you’d rather be lying in bed reading the paper or heading out for brunch with the family.

TVNZ7 has Media7, but its focus is by definition restricted to media matters and it rarely, if ever, devotes an entire programme to the sort of debate I’ve described above.

And, as far as I know, there’s nothing like that on Prime either.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Of Politicians and Porkies – Are our elected representatives by nature incorrigible liars?

Tony Blair giving evidence at the Iraq War Inquiry

Made an appearance on Russell Brown’s Media 7 programme last night with fellow commentators David Slack and Sean Plunket. We were there to discuss whether politicians are by nature incorrigible liars.

The public seem to think so. Polls asking people which occupations they trust, and which they don’t,  have our elected representatives languishing near the bottom of the rankings with those other devious and dissembling rogues – journalists and used-car dealers.  

But the media consultant, the speech writer and the interviewer last night tended to the view that, in New Zealand at least, Members of Parliament were not generally given to telling porkies.

That is certainly my experience. In almost half a century of living in this country I can count on two hands (and with a finger or two to spare) the number of MPs found guilty of lying to Parliament. And if we’re talking about  premeditated, shamefaced lying to us, the voters, the number probably isn’t  much higher.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Who won? A question by question, answer by answer, analysis of Sean Plunket’s ‘The Nation’ interview with Phil Goff. [Spoiler Alert: Definitely not the viewers!]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sean Plunket is an intelligent and informed interviewer but seems more preoccupied with confirming his reputation as a tough  interrogator than with asking questions  that are relevant to voters six months before a general election. It would be hard to imagine a week in which the political pendulum has moved so quickly or so far, yet in his interview with Phil Goff on Sunday’s The Nation, Plunket spent almost 90 percent of the time nitpicking his way through the Labour Leader’s past history.

Like all interviewers of this stripe – and we have more than our fair share of them in New Zealand – what Plunket was looking for was ‘the king hit’, the knockout question that leaves the interviewee floundering and defeated. As I indicated in a previous post, Goff is no great television performer, but his stubborn refusal to yield to any of Plunket’s propositions, combined with Plunket’s seeming inability to provide supporting evidence for those propositions, left the interviewer with only one avenue of attack – to keep repeating the  question in the hope, one presumes,  that Goff would eventually tire of denial and give way. He didn’t.

What follows is a transcript of the interview with my comments. I identify seven basic propositions which Plunket puts to Goff:  Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Time Wrestling with Duncan and Gerry

 

WWE WrestleMania

WWE WrestleMania

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watched the second episode of The Nation. Two fairly simple conclusions: Stephen Parker can’t  chair; Duncan Garner can’t interview.

Parker was completely unable to rein in Radio Live’s  Mitch Harris, who seemed to think that the best form of interview is where the interviewee  is not allowed  to answer the question.

Garner’s interview with Gerry Brownlee exemplified the scattergun approach to cross-examination where you fire at random in the hope that one of your projectiles will hit the mark.

Duncan’s interview philosophy appears to have three  aims: to demonstrate that he is a fearsome interrogator; to show that he is a mate and the equal of the person he is interviewing;  and to score a few headlines in tomorrow’s papers. Read the rest of this entry »

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