The invitation was headed “Bringing you the proud media tradition of the free lunch” and promised:
TV3’s John Campbell is one of New Zealand’s best known TV journalists. From Corn Gate to moon men, John Campbell has led current affairs in NZ for over a decade. He will be the first speaker in the Wintec School of Journalism’s ‘Media Bites’ lunch to be held this year on campus, midday Tuesday 10 May 2011. John will be discussing the topic, ‘From moon men to deputy leaders’ homes at 2am – is NZ TV journalism creating heat or light?’ One of the most articulate voices within NZ journalism will passionately defend his craft against multiple criticisms of trials by lazy media. There will be a question and answer session after his speech for students and media groupies alike to bathe in John’s radiant media glow followed by a sumptuous two course lunch.“Radiant media glow”. I had to see this.
When I arrived Cameron Slater was madly texting while talking to Martyn Bradbury. Phoebe Fletcher was madly texting too. The guy from Radio Samoa who was between them leaned over and said, “I bet they’re texting each other.”
But no, Phoebe was dealing with her students and Cameron was busy pulling the wings off Trevor Mallard, or so it seemed. Even Martyn , who dresses very much to the left, whereas Cameron dresses very much to the right, was aghast at what new folly Mallard had committed. Then Cameron announced he was going duck shooting at the weekend. I made the obvious joke. And hoped that Cameron too was joking.
And so to lunch. John Campbell spoke for an hour to the glory of John Campbell but that’s all right – by the standards of New Zealand television in 2011 his programme is very good and he is a proper journalist, unlike Paul Holmes and Michael Laws whom we endured last year. And John was rightly enthusiastic about what good journalism is and how much fun it is when you’re doing it well. Hard, yes, but fun. He did a fluent hour without notes which was amazing. I did like him talking about how good Carol Hirschfeld was as – not sure whether producer or editor, I don’t know this side of TV – but let’s say a shaper of stories and he said he thought it was because she had been a sub-editor at the Auckland Star and subs learn how to shape stories. I agree. The subs at the Star were brilliant. (At least two of us were. I used to sit opposite Carol. I have had worse jobs.) I have never, ever before heard a high-profile journalist praise the sub-editing function. It was a very generous thing to do.
On a personal note: after lunch, a totally New Zealandy moment. Wouldn’t happen anywhere else, I reckon. A Wintec journalism tutor came up to me, peered at my name-tag and said “Do you remember much of your childhood?” I peered at her name-tag and OMG she was the older sister of my best friend at Greerton Primary, which then was on the rural edge of Tauranga. I spent most afternoons at their house. This is nearly 50 years ago. No, it is 50 years ago. He and I played in the bulrushes in the gully below. I had seen Anne Beston’s byline in the Herald for maybe 20 years and never connected her with Tauranga and my childhood. I think that in New Zealand we should assume that if the name registers, it is the person you think it might be.