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MediaSlapper: Journalists Interviewing Each Other…in 1973

A second new feature here at TheNewTasman.com is MediaSlapper, a corner of the site dedicated to discussing issues concerning new and old media, its history, future and the tiny sliver in between.

Because I am not required to raise or supervise children, care for elderly or infirm family members, procure my household’s water supply from increasingly fragile sources, hunt or grow my own food, or engage in any form of armed conflict to protect my village’s way of life, I have spent a pleasant couple of hours this afternoon at NZ Onscreen. If you are similarly unperturbed by famine, drought, disease, ethnic strife, war and the obligations of child-rearing, I sugest you take a look, especially for the K-One-W-One’s amongst you. This is an extraordinary archive of New Zealand film and television footage, and quite a jaunt down Memory Lane, not to mention Nostalgia Street and Well-Before-My-Time Crescent. (You can find Billy T, Gilding On and music video of Moana and the Moahunters, among much, much else).

I watched a 1973 interview with Labour PM Norman Kirk on a current affairs show called Gallery. Given that I was only 3 years-old at the time — and didn’t start following politics closely until just after my fourth birthday — I missed the show at the time. I have edited one chunk and will upload it here and it actually doesn’t feature Kirk at all; if that interests you, you can find the whole interview here. (What a gently-spoken, intelligent man!).

What I have included here is a minute or so from the lead-in piece to the Kirk interview that focuses on the then-new PM’s stellar diplomatic performance at the 1973 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) meeting held in Ottawa. What is intriguing (to me, at least) is how they feature door-stop interviews with two journalists (one of whom, Peter Costigan, happened to serve as Melbourne’s Lord Mayor between 1999 and 2001).

This technique of holding press conferences to allow a gaggle of reporters to interview other reporters (presumably chosen because of their seniority and/or proximity to the story that is making the news) struck me as odd, but it plays out here as if it is standard procedure. (As I write this, I asked my Dad on the phone whether this approach was common, and he doesn’t think so). Does anyone who reads TheNewTasman (which, in case you’re wondering, is what you’re reading now) remember whether this was indeed a normal practice and, if so, when and why it died out. If so, please let me know.

The criticism that journalism boils down to “reporters interviewing reporters” is commonly applied to our current media culture. Take this fairly typical piece of finger-wagging from an extremely stern blogger at Hightalk.net:

Journalists interviewing each other as part of news coverage and analysis has become an epidemic. It is particularly egregious on TV and on the radio, but print and online publications share the blame as well*.

Good to see there’s plenty of blame to go around — but this clip demonstrates that, at least for some of the time, news reporters doubling as newsmakers is not really news at all.

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