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Recap: Campbell Live – Why We’re Not Strangers Anymore

After today’s news that John Campbell is leaving TV3, Alex Casey recaps the perfectly apt episode of Campbell Live that followed.

It happened today. Just as I was lazily photoshopping John Key’s hand to stroke Toni Street’s hair (for another comparably inane story sure to see the light of day soon). “Holy shit,” asked Duncan, “has John Campbell been fired?”. I opened Twitter. I had been off Twitter for half an hour. Here’s a tip: never, ever go off Twitter.

The news was rolling in thick and fast that John Campbell had quit TV3 after MediaWorks shortened his show to four nights a week. They would be replacing him with two hosts for a similar current affairs show within a 6-8 week period. It’s happened, it’s finally happened.

Tuning into Campbell Live tonight, I was more emotional than usual. And I’ll be honest, I’m usually pretty emotional even during a regular bulletin. But this time was different. Hilary Barry had just cracked and cried live on the news. Even our resilient news mother couldn’t put on a brave face for the kids, so I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in the freshest of hells.

The Campbell Live intro video tells us what we’re in store for: Ika in Otara working 19 hour days to support her family, a break down of the budget, a grocery shop comparison across the ditch, a new pop up exhibition in Auckland, the orphaned children of Syria. John Campbell looks down the barrel of the camera, “we do hope you all know how welcome you are.” We feel it, we know it. People of all kinds are welcome. Struggling mothers, Ponsonby pop artists. It’s a communal place for everyone. But just like that, he’s into the story – business as usual.

John Campbell leads the story of Ika, who we last saw in 2012 on the last budget day. We meet all of her children around the dining table, “they are beautiful, as children are” John essentially whispers. I gently dabbed my eyes with a Mexicali fresh napkin. The residual jalapeno was not to help teary matters.

Ika is working 19 hour days, returning home every night at midnight to wake up for 5am. My boyfriend and I calculate how many hours a week that is out loud. It’s a lot. I shrink back into the couch, the jalapenos have really got me now. The weight and timing of the story is immense, the respect and integrity it is told with is unlike anything else you see regularly on New Zealand television.

I open Twitter. Mike Hosking just won a broadcasting award.

After the Ika story, John thanks the production crew individually, as always. “The reason we mention them is because they are wonderful,” he beams, eyes in a perpetual glisten. You really get the sense that no one person is less important than another, all accounted for, celebrated and most of all – helped. We go to Ali Ikram next to the POP percussion art piece in Ponsonby. It’s light-hearted and jovial. Kids are bloody loving it, passers-by are getting involved. There’s only one Ponsonby shop owner nearby who complains about the racket, claiming she can’t hear her customers.

I scoffed haughtily at her trivial Ponsonby matter in relation to what we’ve just seen from Ika. After the story John Campbell urges local Ponsonby people to support the shop owner despite the loud noise as to not reduce her business for the week. Oh, that’s right – I’m a horrible person and John Campbell is a goddamn saint who cares for all people and wouldn’t scoff at anyone, even with a knife to his throat. I sink lower into the couch, worrying for a moment about who idiots like me will use for a moral compass once he leaves our screens.

I open Twitter. Mike Hosking just won another broadcasting award.

Back with Ali Ikram, he’s exploring more of the POP art exhibition around Auckland. This time at the top of Western Park, he’s talking to the public about the pop up plinths. One requires a high five from a stranger. Ali high fives a stranger Roy, who chuckles and says “We’re not strangers anymore!”. It’s a cute, throwaway comment that leads my eyes to weep with the ferocity of a million jalapenos.

There was some other amazing coverage in the episode, from South Auckland to Syria. Hungry kids to orphaned children under constant threat of ISIS. Not to belittle those matters at all, but weirdly enough it was Roy in Western Park that perfectly articulated everything that Campbell Live stands for. We’re not strangers anymore. We are active members of a society who have the ability to be informed and the responsibility to help each other, whether it be through our Ponsonby patronage, a high five or feeding the kids. Campbell Live reminds us of that, every weekday at 7pm.

To respond to his opening statement: we as an audience know how welcome we are. I just hope John Campbell knows, whatever happens next, just how welcome he is in the lives of New Zealanders. We’re not strangers anymore.

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