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A few beers with … Morning Report’s Susie Ferguson

Just over three years ago, Susie Ferguson began as co-host of NZ’s most important news programme, Morning Report. She joins Toby Manhire to discuss the show, her rapport with Guyon Espiner, sexist abuse from listeners, how she ended up in NZ, and a dramatic head knock at the hands of her toddler

Even before an eight-year budget freeze thawed last week, RNZ was enjoying a very satisfactory May. Ratings published earlier in the month were good across the board, but the standout was Morning Report, that venerable old workhorse of New Zealand current affairs broadcasting, which saw an audience lift of 50,000, up to 430,300 listeners.

Co-anchoring for three hours every morning with Guyon Espiner is Susie Ferguson – a native of Scotland for whom moving to New Zealand was nevertheless a kind of homecoming. Over a can or two of Garage Project we asked her about that move, her early days in the theatre, whether war reporting was easier than working with Espiner, and the rest.


This is the first in our new interview series, A Few Beers With … sponsored by Garage Project.


The Spinoff: You’ve just had these ratings out, which show a chunky audience growth for Morning Report. Did you pop any champagne corks?

Susie Ferguson: We did. Not company funded champagne yet, but I understand that is on the way. We had a few wee drinks. Because the results were good. They were very good.

Do you feel as though the Morning Report teams has hit its stride – is it vindication for that?

I suppose so. It’s a funny thing to work out from the inside, if you know what I mean. We just go in and do it every day, and don’t listen to the programme the way that people who aren’t getting up at Stupid O’clock in the morning do. I guess, like with anything, it gets easier the more you do it, and it’s all the different bits of the machine working together. We’ve not had much change in the team, in the production team, which probably helps a lot, too – you know where people’s strengths lie and you can play to that a bit more.

How Stupid is Stupid O’Clock? What time do you head in?

I’m usually in about quarter to five.

And when you go in for quarter to five, how much do you know what is on the programme and how much will just be laid down in front of you?

I don’t know exactly what’s on the programme. You can look the night before at where things are heading, or you can have a conversation with the team.

Susie Ferguson talks to Toby Manhire at The Spinoff’s offices. Photo: Rebecca Zephyr Thomas

So that you can go to sleep thinking about interviews.

Every second night you’re on standby to do anything that comes in for pre-record, so anything out of Australia, or Asia, primarily. So you sometimes have a bit of a chat every second night with whoever’s doing set-up.

I typically read news, on my phone, when I’m having breakfast, so I see, not so much what’s happening here, but stuff like the Guardian and the Telegraph in the UK.

You have breakfast before you go in?

Yeah. Well, I have my first breakfast before I go in.

OK.

Then my second breakfast at some point.

During the show?

Yeah. Usually around eight or eight-thirty.

This is an important question: what are the breakfasts composed of?

It kind of depends. My constant is, during or after the show, a combination of yoghurt and fruit and oats and cinnamon, and ground flax seed – but that makes me sound really middle-class.

I don’t want to be racist, but that does sound like posh porridge.

It kind of is, I suppose. It’s not cooked, though. Porridge is cooked.

I’m awestruck by the sheer number of interviews people like you have to do. Do you ever find yourself doing an interview where you know almost nothing about the subject as you launch in to interrogate?

Yes.

Do you have secret techniques to get through those, or is there someone in your ear guiding you?

It depends on the interview, I suppose. You probably couldn’t haul someone across the coals if you knew nothing about it. Sometimes, if there’s a technical stuff-up, you suddenly have to do an interview. It happened last week – the mic failed in Auckland, but it wasn’t momentous, it was relatively straightforward, talking to a correspondent. You just have to make sure you’ve read all the stuff for the things coming up, otherwise you’re going to end up in that position.

You’re in Wellington, usually, and Guyon Espiner is in Auckland. That must have taken some getting used to.

In some ways it was easy coming in to do that because I didn’t know Guyon beforehand. We didn’t know each other, we lived in different cities, there was kind of no crossover.

Have you met him yet, or is he just a disembodied voice to you?

No. I have met him now. But at first it was a bit weird. It was like, right, now you’re going to present with this person, who you need to have great rapport with, who you know nothing about. But that was three years ago. I think it’s fewer than 15 shows we’ve done where we’ve been in the same room.

A Morning Report online promotional banner from 2014

And is it now weird then when you are in the same room, distracting each other?

It is a bit weird. But you’re used to this other person being there – there’s a button we can press to talk to each other.

Like a bat phone?

Exactly. In fact it’s got a bat on it.

Does it?

No, it doesn’t have a bat on it. We should put a bat on it. So we can talk to each other, but it doesn’t go out on air obviously. So we talk to each other all the time, and sometimes that’s serious and can be useful in discussing an issue or an interview or that kind of thing, and it means you can talk to each other during interviews if need be, which is good. But the majority of the time we’re being silly or being rude to each other.

Which is the cornerstone of –

Of any good working relationship, yes.

Does it feel like an amazing time, not just to be alive, but to be doing daily current affairs? Does it feel, with Simon Marks’ daily dispatches about Donald Trump, crazy to you, or do you just take it in your stride?

At first it was – I guess this is dangerous territory to some extent, about how I talk about a political figure –

Why? Because you don’t want to say Trump is a lunatic? Is that what you mean?

Ah, so, I didn’t think he was going to win. Then he won. And I wondered actually at first whether people would find it off-putting, how much news there was about Trump on the radio every morning. Whether people actually wanted to hear it or not. And we did get some feedback to that effect. We get less of that now, actually. And I guess the figures would bear out that people aren’t put off by it. But to some extent it’s just that you wake up every morning and, you know, you look at various news websites and you check Twitter to see what he’s done overnight, because, especially at the moment, that’s totally the situation you’re in, that you’ll have gone to bed with a story looking like one thing and you’ll wake up and almost certainly the thing’s been turned on its head. And a whole new vortex has been created. So from that point of view it’s kind of astonishing.

You mentioned feedback. You sometimes read out feedback on-air, and you sometimes tweet it – some of the more outrageous stuff. Some of it is pretty vile and sexist. Is there a noticeable difference between what you get and what Guyon gets?

I’m more likely to get a text that would tell me I was a stupid bitch. The language is often more gendered towards me, or more patronising, like “go back to school”, that kind of stuff. It’s kind of dropped off recently in the last few weeks. But we did get one, just after the Hit and Run book came out, which was something like, My god, two women talking about war. If you haven’t the stomach for it go back to the kitchen where you belong.

The two women being you and –

I was talking to Jane Patterson [RNZ political editor] about it.

I just found that extraordinary, because I know Jane has been to various places in her work, and so have I, and to some extent it made us the more qualified people to be talking about it. But there it was, because it was two women, if we didn’t have the stomach for it we were to go back to the kitchen. And it just completely missed the point of what we were talking about. But also I just find that kind of attitude extraordinary. Criticism is fine, but I don’t see why you have to bring in to the criticism the fact that I have a uterus.

You alluded to your war experience. I want to ask you about that but rewinding even further, you started out, when you became a grown-up human, with visions of working in the theatre?

Yes. I went to drama school. I think it’s called the Royal School of Speech and Drama now. It didn’t have the Royal in the title then, but I think that’s what it’s called now. In London. I actually wanted to be a theatre director, initially, that was the plan. I didn’t at any point consider that I would be living on two-minute noodles for the rest of my life – pretty much the whole way through drama school. And then I stage managed a show for a friend.

It was a one-woman show, and the director, so it was just the two of them, doing a show in a pub theatre in Kentish Town in London. And the theatre director was 10 years older than me, and she was brilliant – watching her work with my friend who was the actor-comedian in the show, she was phenomenal. And at some point down the line we got talking, and she was doing quite a lot of work, a lot of shows, all quite small scale. She was still doing jobs for expenses. She wasn’t being paid. And she was 32 at this point, and I suppose at that moment I thought: I don’t think I can do that. I don’t think I want to do that. I don’t think I want to be waiting tables all day and rehearsing in the evening, for expenses. I don’t think I’m in for that.

Photos: Rebecca Zephyr Thomas

And then – it’s funny how things come together – I ended up doing a bit of work for a friend, promoting a drama course, at one of these career fairs you can go to. I sat next to a careers advisor at lunch, and got chatting, and she said what was I wanting to do, and I said, I kind of don’t know, I did know and now I don’t know what to do with this information. We talked about what I liked doing, what skills I had, what I was interested in. So I was talking about storytelling and using elements of performance, all this kind of stuff. And she suggested: what about some sort of journalism, TV or radio journalism. I hadn’t really considered that.

You look back, in retrospect, and think, oh, but I used to write for the school newspaper and various kind of small-scale things when I was growing up, and my dad’s obsessed with news – news was always a thing that was on in our house. I remember watching pictures from the Falklands War when I was probably about four. And I remember The World at One, when I was at my grandparents’ place – you know, the pips and the kind of, “This is BBC Radio 4” coming on, and suddenly a lot of things started coming together, and I thought, that’s in some ways quite similar.

You’re just working with facts rather than fiction. But you still have to produce it in an interesting way. You still need elements of suspense, you’re still building a story up or getting it to a certain point and then you have a moment of drama or whatever it might be, or using silence – there’s actually quite a lot of crossover.

So if that careers advisor had suggested you go into an actually lucrative industry, like become a lawyer, things could have been very different today.

My school tried very hard to persuade me to be a lawyer. I didn’t really want to be a lawyer, though. And now I kind of think I’d be quite interested to do that, I’m interested in law, but at the time I was more interested in theatre, and I think I’m pretty happy that I did that.

How then did you end up becoming a war reporter?

That was just total chance, basically. I was working freelance in London. I’d been about two or three years out of college. I think it was 2002. I was working in London and I was reading news on places like Classic FM and Virgin Radio – big nationwide stations, Classic FM at the time had a listenership of 6.7 million people, which I kind of find amazing when I live in a country with less than that – and because of that I got some work at this offshoot of the BBC, which was for the British military. I was doing some newsreading for them, and bits of news presenting, that kind of stuff, producing.

At around Christmas 2002, a reporter job came up there. At this point the buildup to war was under way, in Iraq – well, in Kuwait, but heading for Iraq. And dossiers about weapons of mass destruction, all that kind of stuff, were beginning to be flung around the place. And I thought: that looks like quite an interesting opportunity, that’s quite an interesting bit of timing. I applied and I got the job.

I think I got the job in the beginning of February, that’s when I officially started, and the Ministry of Defence in the UK was doing, I think for the first time ever, a kind of coordinated placing of reporters with the army or the navy or whoever. People were being put with the Parachute Regiment or the Marines, in anticipation of this assault on Iraq. So I went with my colleague to this meeting at the Ministry of Defence, and the plan had been that he was going to go as what was being called an embedded correspondent, and I was probably going to do stuff in, I think, probably Qatar, the central hub.

The idea was he was going to go to the frontline and I was going to be at this hub, and that was all fine, and we went in to this meeting and literally this guy from the military said: “Oh, you only put in for one ticket for radio” – that’s what they were being called at the time – “do you want two?” And my colleague Rory and I had this moment where we kind of looked at each other, and went, “Yeah, yeah we’ll have two. If you’re offering.”

And we came out of that meeting and had that kind of: Did what I think just happened in there happen? And he said, “I think so!”

My mum rang me that night, and she said, “how’s the new job going?”

I said, “I think I’m going to be a war reporter.”

And she virtually dropped the phone. She said, “Are you sure?”

I said, “I think so.” And three weeks later I was living out the back of a tank with three blokes in the Kuwaiti desert. So it was literally one of those chance things that happen. I didn’t really seek it. I suppose I sought it in the sense that I was working with a bunch of people who were going to be closely reporting on the war, but I had no anticipation of being at the frontline.

At that point there were a lot of embedded journalists on all sides, but were you reporting independently? I mean, you must’ve been constrained because not only were you embedded but you were under the direct pay of the Ministry of Defence.

Yes and no. The company I worked for was a charity that essentially contracted to the Ministry of Defence but they did have an editorial independence clause which, I have to say, was very robustly enforced by my boss, who was the head of news. Her theory was her news operation had to be credible with the listeners and therefore it couldn’t just essentially spin some kind of party line or be some kind of propaganda mouthpiece because the people you were directly speaking to were people who knew an awful lot about the subject. So you had to be careful. And when I say careful I mean you had to make sure you got stuff right. But she was very keen on pushing the editorial independence because she felt it was the only way we had credibility.

The difficulty was there were constraints about what you could broadcast. We were given no warning that the war was going to start, essentially the invasion was going to happen and everyone was going to go over the border. One day the guy acting as media relations took your cellphone off you and that was it, there was no warning. And you knew at that point you were going at some point.

I think I was there for six days before the operation actually started. At first they were very keen to read over your copy and all that kind of stuff before you did anything. Then inevitably it became busier and harder to keep track of people and different bits of the battalion or whatever were in different places. If you were in a different place to the guy who was meant to read over your media copy, you just sent it. Or if you were doing full crosses or whatever, you didn’t have someone standing over your shoulder waiting for you to say something or not. There were things I knew I wouldn’t get away with while I was out there so I did interviews and took them back.

What sort of things were those?

I don’t know if you remember this but there was a lot of stuff about shortages that the British Army was facing, and there were stories in The Sun and stuff about the boots melting and people not having toilet paper and stuff like that. I have to say, I never saw any of that stuff. Partly because you get ration packs and in the ration packs, there’s toilet paper. But what there were shortages of were actually much more significant things. An example that I had that someone spoke to me about was there was this nerve agent detector that they had – I think it was called a NAIAD – and basically it was a box that you had to have certain batteries and certain filter papers to put in this thing.

If there was intelligence that there was going to be a chemical attack, you’d switch this thing on because it gave you a little bit of warning if there was anything coming at you, at which point everyone could put their gas masks and whatever else on. The small problem was that they only had enough batteries and filter papers to last for 24 hours. So if you turned your machine on, you had a day and then you were out. You didn’t have any more and there were no more coming.

There was one point that the major who was in charge of the bunch of guys I was with, he had intelligence that we were in an area that was being targeted for a chemical strike. That turned out to be false intelligence but at the time it’s the best you’ve got. He had the instruction “you have to turn on your detector” and he said to the person who gave him the order over the radio comms system, “you do know if I turn it on I’ve only got 24 hours”, at which point the order was “don’t turn it on then.” So if that intelligence had been right, we were sitting ducks for a chemical weapons strike. Because the British Army didn’t have enough, what they called, “consumables” for these machines to work.

So you kind of stashed that information away and took it –

Took it back to the UK and then put together a documentary. There were various bits and pieces. There was a guy who operated the communications system. The radio systems were very old. They were being replaced or were replaced a couple years after the Iraq war, but they were working on these radios that looked like they were from the 1960s. I don’t know when they were actually from but they were really old and they were running out of parts for them. They were cannibalising old radios to keep some of them going. For example, one of the battalions – Black Watch – went into battle on 55% comms. So to some extent they were essentially fighting blind in terms of where their other guys were.

Inevitably, there are sandstorms, it’s hot, these things break down anyway, they were breaking down more. It got to the point where we ended up in some hotel outside of Basra, and this guy who was in charge of the radios was actually stripping out things like electrical wires from the hotel to keep the British Army radios going in the middle of a war. It was that kind of stuff. I would never have gotten away with reporting it at the time. I would’ve been put on the first flight they could get me on, out of there. So it’s the quid pro quo, isn’t it? You still get the story, you report it later, it ends up in the Chilcot Report.

Photo: Rebecca Zephyr Thomas

So how did you go from doing all these incredible things to ending up in the not so war zone of New Zealand?

In 2006 – I’d been doing this war reporting lark for three years at this point – my grandfather died. My grandfather came over to New Zealand first in 1930 when he couldn’t get a job in the UK after the Great Depression, or at least that’s what the family myth is. It was the time when people could be sent to the colonies. He was offered a job in India and he was offered a job in Dunedin. And he chose Dunedin and stayed for the best end of 20 years, met my granny and had two boys and all that.

Then the family ended up going back to the UK, or going to the UK, as it was for some of them. So he died and left me a small amount of money and I thought what would be a good thing to do with that would be to go to the place that he’d spent this chunk of his life. So I came to New Zealand on holiday in 2006 and my then boyfriend, now husband, and I were on that point of thinking “what are we going to do? We’re late twenties, we’ve both been doing these pretty adventurous jobs.”

You met him here in New Zealand?

No, he’s from the UK. But we’d both been doing these kind of full-on jobs. Life was busy and exciting and we were doing lots of travel and all that kind of stuff. But we were getting to that point of “are we going to settle down and have kids? What are we going to do?” We’d kind of made the decision to leave London and we were going to move to Bristol. We came here and suddenly I had this – I mean, yes, a beautiful country which you anticipate. But what I didn’t anticipate was getting here and realising that a whole bunch of the things that I’d loved about the New Zealand bit of my family – because I was very close to my New Zealand granny – lots of the stuff about her that was very familiar and that I loved very much, I actually saw in the country she was from.

For example, we were in Auckland for a couple of days and wandering around, and went into a cafe and I said: “that’s adorable! Look, there are Melting Moments in a jar on the counter.” Lee, my then boyfriend, was a bit like “what are they?” and so I explained to him what they were because my granny made them all the time. I was like oh that’s cute or weird or whatever. And then the next cafe we went into, they had a jar of Melting Moments on the counter. I thought it was quite odd because I hadn’t anticipated that the food she made and the way she sounded was just how my granny spoke, I didn’t really think about it being the New Zealand accent because I’d just grown up with her speaking like that.

An example of the reason Susie Ferguson moved to New Zealand. Photo: Sarah-Rose/Flickr.com/photos/oh_darling/

So you moved to New Zealand because of Melting Moments.

Yes, that’s exactly right. There was kind of a familiarity that you don’t usually get when you go to a foreign country. We had a great time, we met some great people, I’ve got family over here anyway, and we just thought well we were going to move anyway, why don’t we have a bit of an adventure and do something different? We’ll give it a go and see what happens.

And did you immediately land at RNZ?

Yes. It tooks us a while to get here, for various complicated reasons mainly to do with Lee. Lee got a job with the public service over here and then I think they forgot about it and they forgot to process his security clearance.

Are you going to get deported for telling me this?

No, because they did finally do it. It took them a long time. I think it took them about 18 months. I think they sort of forgot about him and then when they remembered about him, I was pregnant and I didn’t really want to move to a country where I didn’t really have a massive support network with three weeks to go until I had a baby. So that put it off and put it off.

Anyway, we finally got here in 2009 and I officially started at RNZ in about June or July of 2010. I got here and started listening to the radio and tried to figure out what I liked and what I didn’t like. The thing that actually made me like RNZ is I listened to Kim Hill one morning and she was interviewing Jarvis Cocker from Pulp. And I kinda thought, “huh, that’s kind of interesting.” A long-form interview. He’s kind of an interesting guy and I just thought that seems like an interesting station if they do stuff like that. Maybe I’ll try to work for them. A bit part of their operation is in Wellington so that’s helpful, seeing as I was in Wellington. It kind of went from there. I did some freelance, casual reporting and producing and ended up on Checkpoint doing producing, and it sort of grew from there, really.

How long have you been doing Morning Report now?

Three years.

At one point you had – I don’t know how to describe it – you had a knock on the head. It’s like a rugby player having a head knock but it wasn’t a rugby injury, it wasn’t a radio injury –

My two-year-old daughter, as she was at the time, knocked me out and concussed me. It was a Saturday morning, we had friends coming round in about an hour, we were trying to wrestle kids into their clothes. Lee jumped in the shower, and I leant forward to pick up Iris and put her on the bed because she was wriggly and liable to run away. She was a pain to try and dress but it was easier if I wasn’t wrestling on the floor with her. It was easier if she was at my height. So I bent down to pick her up, to put her on the bed to dress her, and as I leant forward – she had just mastered jumping – and she jumped with her full force and hit me on the temple.

So it was a head clash?

Yes. She hit me with the top of her head on my temple and we don’t know how long I was out for but I came around and Lee had a towel round him and was trying to rouse me. I remember the kids screaming, or I remember noise. Lee says that they weren’t screaming so I don’t understand how that works but anyway. I got this instant horrendous headache and said to Lee, “I think I need to go for a lie down.” Which is like the worst thing you can do.

Is it?

Apparently so. Helpfully I’m the first aider. And he was like, “oh OK,” and let me go and have a sleep. I slept for about two and a half hours, totally missed the visit of our friends and their new baby, and got up at about half past eleven, still felt quite strange and I thought maybe I need to have something to eat. Maybe that’ll help.

And we had a conversation about the light. We were sitting in the kitchen and I said to Lee, “can you turn the light off in here? It’s too bright.” And he was like, “The light’s not on.” And I was like, “OK, are you sure?”

There were all sort of things happening with vision and perception and stuff. We had that “I think I need to go to ED” conversation, so I went to the ED and they said, “yes, you have a concussion.” They didn’t think I had any bleeding in my brain or anything which was good, and then I went home, which is all you can do, really. Just wait for it to go away.

Does it have any ongoing impact?

Yes. This happened in September 2015. I had about three or four days off and then I thought oh I’m sure I’m all right. And I went back to work and I had a terrible day at work, just because I couldn’t make my brain do the stuff that I needed to do.

It must’ve been terrifying.

Yeah, it was a stupid thing to do. I’m not a very good patient in that I get bored. And I wasn’t allowed to watch TV or anything the first few days. I wasn’t allowed to read very much either. So you just kind of have to sit there and do nothing. So I was just bored and thought I’d just go back to work and it’d be fine. It wasn’t fine. Then I had two weeks off booked on leave anyway so I just went on my two weeks leave.

But then last year – I didn’t really realise it at the time but people talked about how 2016 was a terrible year, starting with David Bowie dying and ending with Carrie Fisher. But I found last year very hard and I think one of the things I found very hard about last year was that actually I was recovering from having concussion. It’s only looking back on it I kind of think: hm, I don’t think I was very well some of that year. I was quite miserable some of the time and I think that was probably connected to the concussion. And there were times I was quite angry and I think that was probably connected as well. In retrospect, if you look it up, you go “yes, ongoing symptoms of depression and anxiety and this and that” and you go, “oh that probably wasn’t very clever.” But life goes on, doesn’t it?

I was just sort of thinking that there’s nowhere really to hide when you’re doing three hours of live radio every morning.

You have to show up, really. It’s no reflection on RNZ, I don’t want to give the impression that they’ve failed any duty of care or anything like that. I think it’s just after the fact, sometimes things become clearer. There wasn’t a specific thing that was happening every day that was the problem. But the cumulative effect, I think, was quite tricky. And I get a particular kind of horrible headache now that I never used to get. Which is probably some sort of thing to do with it. But I’ve had a scan and there doesn’t seem to be anything that shouldn’t be there. So the neurologist just kind of shrugs his shoulders and says, “You just need to make sure you avoid stress and get enough sleep.” And I tell him what I do and that I have two kids, and he rolls his eyes. That’s pretty much it.

Photo: Rebecca Zephyr Thomas

How stressful is it, doing such a high-octane job five mornings a week?

It is stressful, but it can be great fun as well, actually. Because yes it’s kind of stressful and you have moments where you wonder how long you’ll let the silence go, or exactly what you’ll do next, but it’s great fun.

I talked to Guyon Espiner ahead of the 9th Floor thing and asked him about the length of the interviews. He said his bosses wouldn’t thank him for it but he agreed that yes, it would be good to do some longer interviews. Given it’s my ambition to get both of you fired –

Oh thanks.

Do you agree that Morning Report should have some longer interviews?

Why do you want to get us fired?

I don’t really want to get you fired.

I think we probably do, sometimes. It’s an evolving thing.

You think you do have longer interviews or you think you should?

We do have some longer interviews. It’s hard because there are some interviews we should do that are 90 seconds long. And we should do other interviews that are ten minutes. This morning, that guy from The Washington Post, that must’ve been eight minutes.

That was the guy who wrote the story about –

The Russians.

Which one? There are so many stories.

Even this morning I was like: What. Is. Our. Top. Line. On. This. Today? Because there are 15 top lines. It was the guy who broke the story about Trump giving the classified, probably Israeli, information to the Russians in that Oval Office meeting. It was that guy. That was probably about eight minutes. Then I think we did the thick end of ten minutes with the former FBI guy after eight. So there are some. They’re creeping in here and there when it warrants it. And the other side of that coin is let’s have interviews that are worth 90 seconds or two minutes as that, and not ask them another two questions and drag something more out of them and keep it going when we don’t need to. It’s about variety, really.

It’s an election year, with four months to go. Are you amped for that?

Ha! Oh, god. I’m just thinking about the last election and Dirty Politics. I think it’ll be a really interesting election this year, actually. I suspect it’s going to be quite tight. Mind you, we all said that last time, didn’t we? I don’t know, something will happen from left-field. Last time it was Dirty Politics and Kim Dotcom. Hopefully it’ll be something different this time.

Do you have a strategy for Report going into it? As in this is how we want to do the election?

They’re still putting that together, to be honest. I had a short conversation with Carol [Hirschfeld, RNZ head of content] about it this morning. There are bits and pieces that have been talked about but I’m not sure exactly what the plan is yet so that would be unfair to talk about at this point.

Do you fight with Guyon very often about who gets an interview?

No, we’re quite equitable. Is that the right word? Equitable. We have a system and basically on alternate days you get your pick of an interview. Some days you do an “exercise your right”, if you like, and other days you jump in and go “yeah I really do want to talk to Anne Tolley” or I want to talk to whoever it is. And then you just go down the running order and flip-flop it from there.

I don’t think we fight. Sorry.

Susie Ferguson interviewing prime minister Bill English. Photo: RNZ

Not even a bit of a niggle? It would be helpful for this interview if you could at least just contrive something.

We kind of don’t.

Oh god.

Sorry.

So it’s completely latent. It’s yet to explode.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s building up some massive – I mean, we’ve had disagreements but we don’t fight about interviews.

Does it help if I say we help each other? We talk about things so then you’re getting more than one brain across the story.

Ugh.

It’s revolting, isn’t it?

It sounds like you’re hiding something. Some profound antagonism.

Um, we take the piss out of each other but we don’t really fight.

You’re both too decent and agreeable.

You’ve got to save it for on-air. I can’t fight with him or there’d be nothing left.


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