Friday, May 26, 2017

Wintec Press Club: Jacinda Ardern edition

The Wintec Press Club lunch is staged by the Wintec School of Media Arts three times a year for the benefit of the journalism students. The guest list features big names in politics, media, entertainment, sport, business, law and the arts. And me. The MC is Steve Braunias.

Most tables have one or two students who get to meet industry veterans. It’s a brilliant idea and I have always enjoyed talking with the students. I try to discourage them from entering the profession, suggesting they instead do something useful or lucrative. The speakers are usually eminent media types – last year’s speakers included musician Dave Dobbyn (whose band Th’Dudes controversially won the 1976 Battle of the Bands, ahead of me and Jenny Morris); controversial poet Hera Lindsay Bird; and controversial Herald columnist and professional angry person Rachel Stewart.

This luncheon’s speaker, Labour’s deputy leader Jacinda Ardern, was wilfully not controversial.

Media star guests this time included the Herald’s Matt Nippert; TV One’s Te Radar; former Metro columnist Charlotte Grimshaw; current Waikato Times columnist Peter Dornauf (as featured in Waikato Times letters of the week #76 and Waikato Times letter of the week #77) introduced by Braunias as “the cat in the hat”;  Louise Wallace from “reality” TV show The Real Housewives of Auckland; and Herald columnist Lizzy Marvelly, her eyes shining with the light of certainty. Thrillingly, there was also Lawrence Arabia, whose music I like very much. If I had known he would be there I would have brought a CD and asked him to autograph it: one is never too old to be a gushing fan.

Political star guests included James Shaw, Julie Anne Genter and Chloe Swarbrick of the Greens; Willie Jackson formerly of Mana Motuhake, the Alliance, the Maori Party and currently of Labour; Don Brash, formerly of National and Act (he introduced himself; I bonded instantly with his partner who is from Te Puna, near my turangawaewae of Pukehinahina); and various people world-famous in Hamilton local politics. 

Charles Riddell of the Wintec media course told me that this is the only press club in the country left standing. Can this be true? It would explain why so many journalists from around the country attend. It was a bit like the Canon Media Awards, only a lot less drunk.

Lunch was chicken roulade with sesame and hazelnut spiced dukkah, served on sweet carrot puree with a potato and herb rosti with seasonal green vegetables. Dessert was dark chocolate torte with Black Doris plum puree and an almond praline crisp meringue. It was quite nice. Also, wine.

Our host Steve Braunias, a journalism student in 1980, began proceedings with a very long introduction. It was about three times as long as usual. Yes, that long. Sample quotes: “this is the first day of regime change”, “election year”, “the fucking National government”, “Queenstown, Hamilton of the South”.

I was told when I entered the venue that I was not to report what the speaker said. No reason given. On the other hand, I am a Life Member of the Wintec Press Club and have the certificate to prove it. So here goes.

Actually, there wasn’t much to report. Jacinda read her speech from notes: there was nothing about party politics, for which one was grateful; she talked mostly about social media and clickbait on news websites. Which was relevant for the audience, but was a bit dull and unquotable. However, she came alive at question time.

Annemarie Quill (reliably hilarious) from the Bay of Plenty Times – that Tauranga connection again – asked, “Does Andrew Little dull your shine? Do you ever want to push him off a cliff?”
Tony Wall of the Sunday Star-Times asked, “Do you sometimes feel like a winner in a loser party?”

It was all a bit like that. The room liked Jacinda – well, everyone does. (I do – when we met at the May 2012 lunch, she said she was reading my latest book. And she was.) She handled all these friendly but often awkward questions with grace and good humour.

Tim Murphy of Newsroom was live tweeting. Some samples:

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