NZ On Screen‘s Zara Potts looks back at moments when the News made the news.
It‘s hard to believe that back when television began it would take more than a week for international news to reach our shores. Nowadays, news and its evil twin, fake news, spreads in an instant.
But times change and so does content. In the early days, newsreaders were formally attired and spoke with an accent that few of us would find recognisable today. The news items were “serious” and entertainment stories were frowned upon.
The news business took its mandate of “inform and educate” verrrry seriously for many decades, until the news itself realised it too, could find itself in the news.
But those first days of television, were quite different to what we see now. In this 1974 episode of the nightly NZBC broadcast, newsreader Bill Toft explains the new concept of daylight saving which was reintroduced in New Zealand on a trial basis, for the first time since 1941. No fancy graphics or fancy sets here.
Watch Bill Toft introduce daylight saving here:
Newsreaders have been an integral part of the whole news package since the beginning of television. They‘re a bit like James Bond – ask anyone and you‘ll find that everyone has a favourite. Older people still long for the clear enunciation of Dougal Stevenson or Philip Sherry, while many people still have great affection for Judy Bailey and Richard Long. In this clip, you can see some of the old faces that Kiwis have watched over the years.
Watch Reading the News here:
The late Angela D‘Audney was not just famous for her beautiful pronunciation (Sundy, Mundy, Holidy), she also managed to make the news herself when she scandalously appeared in the television show, The Venus Touch. It wasn‘t just that she would appear as a dissatisfied wife in a sex farce, but that the respectable newsreader went topless and showed off her bosom. It‘s hard to imagine any of our current day newsreaders being quite so bold.
Watch The Venus Touch here:
Angela D‘Audney no doubt lost a number of viewers when she appeared topless, but it‘s a tough business being on screen and many women newsreaders have had to put up with criticism from viewers and critics alike. Everything‘s fair game – from how you look, to how you speak, to what earrings you wear. One woman who polarised the audience was Belinda Todd. The outrageous host of TV3‘s Nightline was – depending on who you talked to – either a ‘breath of fresh air‘ or a ‘national disgrace‘. Whatever the case, she was living proof that you can‘t please all the people all the time.
Watch excerpts from the 20th Anniversary of Nightline here:
Public criticism wasn‘t limited to the fairer sex however. Ex-All Black turned sports reader Grahame Thorne was the target of outrage after he dared to appear on our television screens … with a perm. This outrageous act of hairstyling caused campaigns to be launched and hundreds of protest letters to be sent to the national broadcaster. Unfortunately, no footage exists of the actual perm, except for this clip where the curls have grown out into a much more acceptable wave.
See the remnants of the notorious perm here:
Perhaps TVNZ should have counted itself lucky that there weren‘t any in-house protests, like the one in 1995 where newsreaders Tom Bradley and April Ieremia were surprised by an unexpected protest group that stormed the One Network News set and delayed the news by 10 minutes. In this clip Tom Bradley explains that a small group of Māori protesters had occupied the Auckland studio – angered by a decision to suspend Māori language news show Te Karere during the summer holiday period. Police were eventually called and escorted the protesters from the set.
See the excerpt here:
Being a reporter can sometimes be a dangerous job. But Rod Vaughan probably wasn‘t expecting to confront violence when he chartered a helicopter to track down New Zealand Party leader Bob Jones. He managed to find Jones fishing near Turangi, but the future Sir Bob was not impressed and punched the reporter on the nose, breaking it. In a ‘man bites dog‘ moment, Jones filed a court writ claiming $250,000 in damages. Later, after being fined $1000, he asked the judge if doubling the fine would allow him to do it again.
Watch Rod Vaughan on Eyewitness News here:
There might not have been any actual violence, but if looks could kill, then John Campbell would have been seriously maimed during this interview with then-Prime Minister Helen Clark. In 2002 the ruling Labour Party was under pressure on the Genetic Engineering (GE) issue, when John Campbell confronted the PM about an alleged cover up. Accusing him of ambushing her, Helen Clark later labelled Campbell as “sanctimonious little creep”. The incident has come to be known as Corngate. Ah, for the old days of polarising politics.
Watch the uncomfortable 3 News interview here:
But one of the most notorious instances of news becoming news was when Rob Muldoon called an unexpected snap election. It was widely suggested that Muldoon was drunk (and reporter Rob Neale can‘t resist a “high spirits” jibe) — or perhaps it was just that he believed his own invincibility — but whatever the case, it was the beginning of the end for an era he had dominated.
Watch Eyewitness News here: