Brian Edwards on ‘media training’ and why Russell Brown is wrong

There are two top teams when it comes to media training. Both teams are brilliant at what they do. One is Bill Ralston his missus Janet Wilson, the other team is Brian Edwards and his missus Judy Callingham. I rate both teams as equals, both are are very successful. The reason for their success is the ability to remove the politics from a situation or issue and to look at the issue or challenge dispassionately and almost mathematically or scientifically.

It is why I respect both Brian and Billy.

So when Brian Edwards says that John Campbell got schooled by John Key it pays to listen. Only a silly person would scoff and laugh it all off as a lucky break and a result of media training. I mean think about that for a moment…Russell Brown, amongst others has suggested that a quick once over lightly media training session allowed John Key to destroy someone who has had constant media training day in day out on his own show…that that same media training allowed John Key to foot it with John campbell on and equal footing and then miraculously land a couple of killer punches against the general thrust of the fight?

It’s bullshit.  A crude term I know, and certainly my good friend Brian Edwards wouldn’t be pleased with such coarse language, but bullshit is what that excuse is and bullshit is what it must be called. Brian Edwards agrees…except he uses much finer words to explain.

But first an explanation as to what a TV interview can deliver in the hands of skilled operator.

In the political arena, television provides incontrovertible evidence of the truth of the old saw that a picture is worth a thousand words. Its ultimate power lies in the close-up. In this respect I like to quote the doyen of British television interviewers, the late-lamented Sir Robin Day:

“When a TV interviewer questions a politician, this is one of the rare occasions, perhaps the only occasion outside Parliament, when a politician’s performance cannot be completely manipulated or packaged or artificially hyped.

“The image-maker can advise on how to sit, or what hairstyle to have, or on voice quality. But once the interview has started, the politician is on his or her own….

“Unlike a politician’s platform speech, or a politician’s article, or a politician’s TV address, an interview on television is one public act which is not in the hands of the advertising men, the pollsters and propagandists, the image-makers, the public relations experts or the marketing men….

“In a TV interview, provided there is time for probing cross-examination, the politician cannot be wholly shielded against the unexpected. The politician’s own brain is seen to operate. His or her real personality tends to burst out. Truth is liable to raise its lovely head.” 

And this is why Brian Edwards is displeased with off the cuff and illogical claims by Russell Brown.

This is why Russell Brown’s comment that the Key/Campbell debate was ‘a study in media training’ annoyed me so much – because it displayed such abysmal ignorance of the media trainer’s inability to instruct his client in the art of deceiving the viewing public. There is no such art. Why not?  Precisely because, as Day observes, in a television interview, ‘The politician’s own brain is seen to operate. His or her real personality tends to burst out. Truth is liable to raise its lovely head.’

That is nowhere more true than in New Zealand. We’re a media-savvy lot in Godzone, not easily fooled.

So at the end of the Campbell/Key debate we probably thought that Key won but was a bit too silver-tongued to be entirely credible, and Campbell lost because it meant too much to him.

The problem many commentators and political tragics have is they are too close to the battle, they are ‘inside the beltway’. I am thankful everyday that I don;t live in Wellington, in that incredibly small and incestuous cauldron of mediocrity masquerading as brilliance.

It isn’t without chance that the two teams of premier media trainers are both domiciled in Auckland, far from the political sewers of Wellington. Russell Brown too lives in Auckland, perhaps he should trot along to see Brian or Bill to grab some quality media training…instead of mouthing off about that which he knows nothing.


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  • Very well put.

    I think that poor old Russell was flailing around looking for an excuse as to why JC got handed his arse, he just cannot cope with the thought that JK won.

  • BobaJob

    After reading BE’s article I feel my IQ has been increased. Russell Brown is trying to down play JK’s stunner of a victory over JC. The biggest brain won on the day, as BE says JK was out their on his own, it was him, and we loved him.

    Russell Brown you are a sad little individual. Small brain display as we don’t even have to read between your lines!

  • Whafe

    Cam, fantastic sentence and context, and oh so true = in that incredibly small and incestuous cauldron of mediocrity masquerading as brilliance

    • IWantToBeLikeMallardOneDay

      I’m from the bloody place. He hit the nail on the head there!

  • Whafe

    The credibility of the left leaning MSM, would be lifted half a point if in fact they had the courage to fully accept a spanking when they see one.. And we sure did see one…..

  • kevin

    I read on some blog opinion that Key has been studying high profile political interviews in order to do well with campbell and other up-coming TV interview/debate opportunities. More bullshit, Key was just playing himself and simply did it very well. However, I can’t wait for shearer to line up for a TV debate with Key.

    • Sir Cullen’s Sidekick

      Key will be shredded to pieces by Sheep.

      • IWantToBeLikeMallardOneDay

        Haha. You are so good some days!

  • Doug

    Russell seems to have problems with John Key, they were at school at the same time but Russell claims he does not remember JK
    Was Russell was Mr Cool at the time (don’t well all remember those kids at school) or maybe drug taking really does mess with your memory cells but look where JK is now compared with poor old Russell (push bike rider, popular music expert. can’t work a razor left wing media hack)

    • Finder of weird cooking utensils in his cupboards, blogger of lamb chop recipes

  • Mediaan

    I can’t see what the fuss is about with that interview. Yes, John Key is natural and quick-minded and pleasant, and it reaches through to viewers well. But radio is much better than television at pushing out facts and op-ed in New Zealand. Our political and economic radio comment has been improving lately, too, with those clever little Scottish girls popping up on Radio New Zealand National. How we needed them.

    The new winger replacing Plunket isn’t as bad as I feared on Morning Report from 6am to 9am. The duo have settled down nicely in their presentation.

    The worst of National Radio present is (a) Catriona somebody on News (who, true, is better than she used to be but she’s still not good enough) and (b) the slightly mechanical, low-comprehension business comment section, who seem to think a share price shift of only 3 cents on some stock today is worth reporting to the country. (No, that’s what shares do, go up and down. Would somebody please tell them?)

    Mary Wilson on Radio’s 5pm-7pm Checkpoint is an oasis of intelligence and skill otherwise; she is the highlight of the day’s listening. That girl can interview. If you want to hear a politician’s skin being abraded, tune in to her.

    Elsewhere we have droney Eva Radich flapping her jaw and and destroying Classical Radio for us as fast as she can can go, while the programme makers use it to push “South Pacific” and such lowbrow nonsense to us.

    TV-1 has a lot of improving to do in current affairs.

    Seven Sharp is horrifically bad. The scripted repartee is awful. Greg whatever and Alison Mau are good, but the other one needs to go. He acts as though he thinks he is popular and entertaining, but he is neither of those. Get rid of him please TV-1. I simply haven’t been able to watch it, whereas I used to be there at least half that time time slot if I was on it. His self-conscious work detracts from the professional work of the other two.

    Campbell has his annoying bits, but he is is much better than Seven Sharp. What are the advertising figures doing, beside that dross?

    The worst thing TV-3 does to us is put on The Nation too early. Dragged myself up to watch it today and it was nearly over. Saturday’s play of it is also too early, and who want to contemplate politics on a Saturday morning anyway? Even 9am, with Q+A, is too early for weekend.

    TV political comment does have have a unique function, and that is pulling politicians on air and probing them for us. Irreplaceable, if carried out well. Newspapers can’t show them talking and fidgeting and smiling and breathing as telly can, and we need that.

  • Shoreboy57

    Are MSM not reporting JC’s spanking because Helen passed a law against it?

  • JeffDaRef

    “But once the interview has started, the politician is on his or her own….”
    “The politician’s own brain is seen to operate.”
    Clearly Gareth Hughes isn’t a big follower of Sir Robin Day….