CAPTION. Mary Wilson would have conducted a more rigorous interview with Renae Maihi.
The Checkpoint interview: https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2018633295/we-ve-had-enough-of-racism-in-nz
RNZ star presenter John Campbell has worked hard to diminish the worst excesses of celebrity journalism from his days at Campbell Live on TV3. The editorialising. The personal takes.
This week he interviewed a Rotorua filmmaker and writer Renae Maihi who is organising a petition to remove Sir Bob Jones knighthood because of his comments in a scrapped NBR column, deemed racist by some. In my opinion the interview was deficient. It was more about identifying the branding of Campbell and Checkpoint than it was about debating an issue. Maihi was articulate – a media person – and capable of dealing with challenges to her position. It was a debate on free speech not feelings and Campbell should have challenged her assumptions. That is what Checkpoint would have done before Campbell when “Scary Mary” Wilson was in charge.
Checkpoint has some serious wins under Campbell, but Campbell reverts to chat when he agrees with protagonists. I understand a change in approach to the show had been recognised when senior executive Gael Woods was at RNZ. Woods was made redundant last year and has lodged personal grievance case was due to be heard by the Employment Relations Authority in Wellington in April. A different approach seems to have won approval from senior management at RNZ.
Two weeks after the brouhaha over Bob Jones’ offending column in NBR. Checkpoint revisited the issue with a Skype article on Maihi who had organised the petition with 58,000 signatures. Jones has a reputation as a stirrer and publicity seeker.
His column that included a small segment suggesting Maori should use Waitangi Day to show their gratitude to their colonisers. Jones’ insists it was satire. It was only online for a day before the NBR responded to criricism and took it down. Jones resigned his commission with NBR.
Jacinda Ardern has said the government was not going to remove Jones’s knighthood. In that context, the ongoing story is a debate on freedom of speech . The main problem with the column was that I was not very good. Screen grabs of the offending article were on the internet. But it’s still not clear how many people actually read it in full; Maihi is entitled to her view. But for seven minutes on Checkpoint we had the state broadcaster examining the hurt she felt – that people were saying such things 250 years after colonisation that hurt Maori people’s mana. She felt media should not publish material that was disparaging toward Maori. She did not buy the satire argument.
“We have to be very responsible what we are putting out in the media, We want people feeling good about it. To which some would say. that’s the price of freedom of speech.
“You just get to a point where we are still having to defend out mana, and we need to sort this out because it has to stop. Messaging is very important,” Maihi said.
So this will no doubt add to the campaign for those who believe some things cannot be said.
Campbell related to Maihi’s angst, and that seemed to colour his interview. We were treated to an insight into the morals of Campbell household which he said had a policy to “not be a dick”. But it was a soft interview on an important topic. Freedom-of-speech versus the right to not be offended. There was no debate on the premise of the campaign: That the state should punish people who say things that cause offense to others. Checkpoint did not question whether opinion should be regulated.
In my opinion, this interview was more about branding for RNZ. Signalling its priorities. It’s what you would expect from The Project. The Wireless, and The Spinoff, not Checkpoint.