There are very few places in the New Zealand media that politicians go to get a grilling. Radio NZ’s Morning Report used to be one of them. Sean Plunket wouldn’t always ask the right questions, but when he did sniff an opening he’d go after it like a dog after a bone—and occasionally that bone would yield up a whole skeleton in a place you didn’t even know there was a closet.
This year, however, Morning Report has failed to come back after the summer—and politicians seem to enjoy showing up to read their latest press releases in front of regular presenter Geoff Robinson and new presenter “seasoned broadcasting journalist” Simon Mercep.
Robinson of course has been there for decades, and it shows. These days being interviewed by Robinson is like being gummed by an old man without his teeth. But it’s with Mercep that the problems really start, since it’s as Plunket’s replacement that this youngster (which is unfortunately how he sounds) has been brought it in.
And frankly, after several weeks of giving him the benefit of the doubt, he’s not up to the job.
Instead of giving politicians a hot seat in which listeners can hear the politicians having their feet held to the fire, Mercep offers them a hot chocolate and a place to toast their own egos. Where Sean Plunket would pounce like a bulldog on any politician whose answers were beginning to err, his “replacement” is more likely to bounce around them like a puppy dog—and rather than showing his teeth he can be heard instead licking their hand.
As radio, it’s bad drama. As current affairs, it’s bad theatre. As interviewing, it’s just pissweak fawning.
Bring back challenging interviewing.
Our body politic needs it.
And so does Fawning Report.