Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Wintec Press Club: John Campbell edition

The Wintec Press Club meets for lunch three times a year in Hamilton: guests are the students of the Wintec journalism course, important media types from the Waikato and Auckland, Metro operatives, politicians, famous sporty types, and me. The speaker this time was John Campbell of Campbell Live.

The photo above is the cover of the book they produced this year, Lunch and Journalism: The Wintec Press Club, which has interviews with all the speakers and some of the more celebrated attendees over the last few years. From left to right, top to bottom: David Bennett (local MP), Michael Laws, David Farrier, John Campbell, Greg King, Te Radar, Colin Craig, Roger Laybourn (local lawyer), Michelle A’Court, me, Robyn Malcolm, Margaret Wilson, Jon Stephenson, Paul Holmes, Jesse Mulligan, Winston Peters, Carly Flynn, Colin Meads, Jacinda Ardern and Patrick Gower. 

I got there for lunch on Friday early, i.e. on time, entered the room and my heart sank. So it’s come to this, I thought – the only person I know to talk to is Winston Peters. I said, “The last time I saw you was lunch at Mike’s in Rarotonga in August.” He grinned, held up the book and said, “I was looking at this and thought, I recognise this fellow.” Pretty good, considering how long the Raro lunch was.   

There was mingling. There was Guy Williams who, I can reveal exclusively, is tall. There was Donna Chisholm of Metro and North & South, who kissed me and I liked it. There was Toby Manhire, David Fisher, Don Brash, Matthew Hooton and Russell Brown, who didn’t kiss me. I liked that too.

Then came an unapologetically anti-semitic lunch – ham wrapped in bacon, with a bit of asparagus on the side. Fantastic, obv, but not from an Ottolenghi cookbook. At my table were Hamilton East MP David Bennett, rowers Margaret Webster and Emma Twigg and some very pleasant others and lashings of pinot noir. 

To business. The hotly contested Wintec Press Club awards went to:
Writer of the year: Josh Drummond.
Friend of the year: Annette Taylor.
Sentence of the year: Jade Laan for (according to my notes): “Listening to Te Radar talk it is easy to imagine a dog snacking on a bull’s testicles.”
That’s $500 for 17 words. Possibly the highest word rate in New Zealand journalism ever.

Steve Braunias, our host, explained that the first speaker this year was Jesse Mulligan of Seven Sharp, a “lovely boy” but “his show is vile and revolting”. Even though, or perhaps because, Seven Sharp outrates Campbell Live. My report of that event is here.

Second speaker this year was Patrick Gower. I missed this one, because I was in Rarotonga having that long lunch with Winston, but apparently Gower rated. Steve: “He told a story that made grown men cry. I cried too.”

Then, introducing Campbell, Steve made the baffling claim that the reason Len Brown went on Campbell Live to explain his sub-optimal mayoral behaviour with Bevan Chuang was that “it’s the best programme”. Not because it was the softest option, oh no. I would have heckled but Steve – who is no fool – had seated me at the front table, hi-viz. If I’d been at the back…

Campbell was brilliant, I have to say.  He spoke for 20 minutes unscripted. He was very generous to the students and what they could expect from the industry, how he got to where he is, and stuff like that. Very impressive to give up so much of his time. He had to get back to the studio by car, not helicopter, and he hid it well but – it takes one to know one – was clearly very stressed. I can’t really quote him – Chatham House rules – but can say that he has very highly polished shoes. Unusual for a hetero guy to notice another guy’s shoes, but there it is.

He swore a bit. No, he swore a lot. More than Steve , which is saying something. He called Steve a “total f—ing arsehole” and later, on the same subject, “f—k that c—t”.

I was more shocked by his saying “congradulate” twice. And by this selfie: he described himself as “profoundly compassionate”.

On the other hand, he said, “There are brilliant bloggers in this room.” Bless.

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