Both the major 6 o’clock news bulletins got time with Jacinda Ardern tonight – but which interview made for better television? Alex Casey and Tara Ward assess.
The night before she delivers her valedictory speech and leaves Parliament behind, former prime minister Jacinda Ardern gave her only two New Zealand exit interviews – one with 1News’ John Campbell, the other with Newshub’s Samantha Hayes. Although most people have two eyes, The Spinoff understands that most people cannot watch two channels at once, and therefore cannot easily compare and contrast the interviews without exerting a small yet precious amount of energy and time.
So, in a public service akin to actually being the prime minister, we watched both interviews and tried to answer the most pressing and important question about Jacinda Ardern’s legacy: which exit interview was the better piece of television? Using a rigorous set of scientific metrics borrowed from Nasa and previous pieces we nicked this format from, let us crown the winner.
Length of interview
1News: All over by 6.05pm. “You can catch more of John Campbell’s one on one interview with Jacinda Ardern on our website,” Simon Dallow told us from the 1News studio, but who visits websites in this day and age? It was back to business as usual on TVNZ1, and Dallow may as well have muttered “let’s do this” as he kicked into gear for the rest of the day’s news.
Newshub: Finished at 6.08pm with Sam Hayes doing a live cross from outside Parliament. She gave some extra details that didn’t make the interview, including the fact that Ardern was delighted to recently attend a five-year-old’s birthday party without having to worry about where to be next. No mention of the cake flavour or the goody bags.
1News: Sombre tones for a sombre interview. Behind Ardern was a variety of dark wooden furniture: a desk, a chair, perhaps even a credenza. The green curtains were pulled and to Ardern’s left was a large vase – red, of course, just as Michael Joseph Savage would have wanted – but no flowers inside. Ardern can buy herself flowers, write her own name in the sand now. Later, Ardern and Campbell took a stroll down a long corridor filled with the portraits of former New Zealand prime ministers in wooden frames. All in all, big wood vibes from 1News.
Newshub: Much lighter and more optimistic palette, complete with some beautiful wall art behind both of our subjects. Hayes positioned herself in front of what looks to be a giant lily pad printed on the wall, whereas Ardern’s backdrop was a light peachy wall with grey accents, adorned with a colourful painting depicting what this scientist can only describe as figures.
When they weren’t sitting down, cameras captured Hayes and Ardern fossicking about in her office, which made for dynamic and captivating scenes. Also appreciated this classic “behind the curtain” moment towards the end. Thoughts and prayers to this man:
1News: A serious, dark blazer, because Ardern knows the winds of change are chilly. John Campbell also wore a lovely dark blazer, because he knows that fresh southerly coming off Wellington harbour can cut you right through the middle.
Newshub: What was perhaps slightly more thrilling than Ardern’s high neck, button up white blouse and delicate dangly gold earrings was the quick tour through the items of clothing she is donating to Te Papa. These included the jumper she wore after giving birth to Neve (“just a jumper”, she shrugged), the red jacket she wore when she was elected prime minister and the Kate Sylvester dress she wore when she was sworn in. Could quite easily have watched half an hour of just this. Sam Hayes wore a blue suit and red lipstick, assumedly for balance.
TVNZ: Zero. Not even a knock-knock joke.
Newshub: No jokes or crack-up banter per se, but what is this small non-swaying kiwifruit if not a sumptuous joke for the eyes?
1News: None, not even from John Campbell. But there were moments when Ardern seemed understandably emotional, like when she reflected on hearing about the 2019 terror attacks and when she read John some letters she’d received from children. Those letters made her feel hopeful, Ardern said. “How did you make yourself feel?” Campbell asked her. “Tired,” Ardern whispered, giving a sad smile as tears welled in her eyes (or it may just have been the reflection off all that varnished wood).
Newshub: So so so so close. When Hayes asked Ardern what her parting words would be to the country tomorrow, our former leader’s bottom lip started to wobble and I was sure that Team Newshub would bring it home. “Thank you” she said, tears welling up in the corner of her eyes. “It’s emotional isn’t it?” whispered Hayes, coming off the top ropes. “Fifteen years of being here is just a privilege” said Ardern, still welling. Seconds later: composure. God she’s good.
1News: A couple of deep questions from JC. As he and Ardern stared at a portrait on her that had been left on the floor in some corridor inside parliament, Campbell asked Ardern what advice she would give the 2017 version of herself. “You can carry more than you think,” Ardern replied, although she may have been referring to the person who simply left her portrait there, evidently unable to carry it any further.
“Did you deliver on those aspirations, on those hopes, on those promises, in the areas where it was toughest?” Campbell asked later. “I believe I did,” Ardern said. “But I won’t miss the weight. Because it is heavy.” Don’t think she was talking about the portrait any more.
Newshub: “Some may say you quit before you were voted out” was about as tough as it got, and it wasn’t even technically a question. Quite hard-hitting hand stance if you were watching without the sound on, mind you.
1News: Very little nostalgia, other than the walk down prime minister memory lane. “She becomes history,” John Campbell said of Ardern, but this was also an interview about looking forward, particularly to Ardern’s next role with Prince William’s climate charity Earthshot. Ardern likes their focus on urgent optimism. I am urgently optimistic that someone will get Ardern’s portrait off the floor, ASAP.
Newshub: Ardern cleaned out her office while the Newshub cameras were there, dazzling with her cabinet of curiosities that included various speeches and notes jotted down at pivotal moments during her career. Also included Neve’s UN lanyard, the first ever made for a baby. She appears to have major hoarding tendencies, but in this instance I think we can forgive.
Thanks to the wardrobe tour, a hidden kiwifruit and a lengthier and more dynamic viewing experience, Newshub wins the battle of the Jacinda Ardern exit interviews. Congratulations to all involved.