Guyon Espiner leaving Morning Report

One can always quibble about political interviews, but I think generally Guyon Espiner on RNZ’s Morning Report has been one of the better interviewers – well prepared and as persistent as is possible with politicians trying to avoid giving straight or relevant answers.

This is Espiner’s last day on Morning Report (he is moving to another job in RNZ). Newsroom interviewed him about hos tenure – Guyon Espiner: What I won’t apologise for

… there are two major things people have complained about over the past five years and I am not sorry for either of them. I am not sorry for speaking te reo Māori on the radio and I am not sorry about interrupting politicians.

You might remember the backlash when about two years ago I started to use more te reo Māori on Morning Report. The messages streamed in. Diatribe, gibberish and rubbish were some of the less offensive descriptions. Listeners invited me on a daily basis to leave to a ‘Māori station’ and one texted to ask “when are you going to get a grass skirt and put shoe polish on your face”.

For a Pākehā from a privileged background it was a small insight into racism in New Zealand, a tiny sliver of what some people must put up with every day.

But slowly that receded and now the main complaint I get is that I speak te reo Māori too quickly. Slow down. We want to learn, they say. So thank you for that too.

While I had thousands of complaints from Pākehā, I’m not aware of one complaint from Māori. Not one. So to other Pākehā worried about how they’ll be received for using te reo Māori: from my experience, if you put the work in you will be rewarded and embraced. Karawhiua e hoa mā.

I find the use of te reo on RNZ (by Espiner and others) a bit of a distraction, and I largely ignore it, but I understand the importance of it to others. Our national broadcaster should cater for everyone.

The other thing I am not sorry for is interrupting politicians. I know some of you swear at the radio and have even thrown things. Admit it.

I’ll make a deal with you. The day politicians give straight answers to legitimate questions I’ll hear them out and move on to the next question. Until then, they need to be dragged back on track or they’ll just read out the talking points in a non-answer to a question you never asked. They will run down the clock until they are saved by the pips.

Getting decent answers out of politicians trained and practiced in avoiding answering questions, and diverting to spouting their own parrot points, is a very difficult task, but interviewers should persist, as Espiner has done.

What is he going to do now?

The satisfaction I got from doing The 9th Floor series of interviews with former prime ministers came to mind (yes I was probably the only person in the ward thinking about Mike Moore and Geoffrey Palmer at 2am). I want to get back to long form and investigative journalism.

I’m staying at RNZ so you can judge here on the website and on the radio whether I’ve been successful or not.

I think he has been successful on Morning Report, and I’m sure he will do a good job with whatever he does at RNZ from next week.

Leave a comment

17 Comments

  1. Ray

     /  3rd May 2019

    Like you I found his Māori good in theory, it shows inclusiveness but unlike some he rarely gave an English context or version which could have helped non speakers increase their te Māori vocabulary.
    He was an equal opportunity interviewer and really did bore in on non answers from pollies.

    Reply
    • Ray

       /  3rd May 2019

      As an example I heard Shayne Walker* speak in Oamaru, he has an amazing story but I was impressed with the way he used Māori in a way that helped non speakers improve.
      I am fairly fluent and barely register it but it was in conversation with others that suggested that.
      *Shayne Walker (Ngai Tahu, Kāti Mamoe, Waitaha, Ngāti Kahungunu) has been a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work at the University of Otago since 1996

      Reply
  2. Corky

     /  3rd May 2019

    ”While I had thousands of complaints from Pākehā, I’m not aware of one complaint from Māori.” I wonder why that is? 😂

    Reply
    • Gerrit

       /  3rd May 2019

      Wonder how many complaints (or rather uncomplaining indifference) from non Pakeha Tauiwi?

      A few Pakeha complain (thousands? Yea right!) but most, like the rest of Tauiwi are completely indifferent to Te Reo. It is just not important enough to most, especially new Tauiwi.

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  3rd May 2019

      They appreciated hearing Te Reo phrases being casually used in conversation on National Radio. It showed it’s not so unusual for broadcasters to be billingual, as most if not all Maori are, & may even encourage more Pakeha interest in learning the native language of their own country.

      Karawhiua e hoa mā. “Successful friendships”, Google Translate confidently informs me, is what that means in Maori. But I can copy that into GT & get what I hope is an intelligible & correct English meaning.

      If I heard him say it on the radio I couldn’t break it down mentally into individual words (I would know if it was Kara whiua e hoa ma, for example) & translate it.

      So, as for no doubt many other Pakeha, as he doesn’t tell me immediately what it translates to in English, it’s just meaningless sounds & I ignore it & just wait to hear what he has to say in my language.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  3rd May 2019

        *wouldn’t know

        Reply
      • Duker

         /  3rd May 2019

        “ot so unusual for broadcasters to be billingual, as most if not all Maori are”
        Thats definitely not the case that most maori are. I know a maori who is bilingual and hes always saying in his whanau hes left up to him to say even short phrases |( which could easily be learnt). The new generation of immersion/ mixed language schools are only limited success after they leave school as it seems a lot ‘forget’ what they have learnt and arent interested in Maori television. Mai FM is hardly any more Maori i that originally iwi station than RNZ.
        I myself dont know any Maori, but I do find it pleasing to hear it spoken, maybe the issue was Espiner wasnt maori or even fluent and his pronunciation wasnt of the pleasing kind.
        Its ironic, from stories passed down the family , my grandfather was able to hold conversations in maori as he worked amoung Maori who didnt really speak much english

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  3rd May 2019

          Yes, you’re right, I should have said “as most if not all Maori speakers are”. A few of them are probably multi-lingual too.

          My paternal grandfather was a young armed constable, among a party sent to arrest the prophet Rua & thereafter served as the sole village cop – a sergeant – in a rural Taranaki town.

          He’d retired to New Plymouth by the time we kids were all born. He often used Maori greetings when we visited him.

          Reply
  3. Duker

     /  3rd May 2019

    “I want to get back to long form and investigative journalism.”

    Thats what Campbell said too …nek minite.. that was just more spin. Like most of Espiners other stuff about leaving …he has type 1 diabetes is the main reason, so please spare the trite ” Im leaving because I love the program’…yeah yeah leaving to follow my passions etc and other bullshit bingo phrases

    The so called ‘longer form’ is where they can squeeze money out of NZ on Air for a radior or TV series. They can see Nigel Latta making a killing doing this .

    Reply
    • sorethumb

       /  3rd May 2019

      he has type 1 diabetes is the main reason – is speculation. My guess is the thousands of complaints to his in your face arrogance (rudeness) interrupting the flow of dialogue with te reo?

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  3rd May 2019

        Espiner says he has Type 1 ( recently diagnosed) and he looks sick.- hes almost 50. Must be a substantial pay cut that you dont do unless completly necessary in the prime earning years

        Reply
  4. sorethumb

     /  3rd May 2019

    The great liberal Isaiah Berlin makes an extremely important distinction between negative and positive liberty. Negative liberalism says we should allow people to pursue their goals as long as they don’t infringe the rights of others [to listen to the news in English] . Positive liberalism consists of promoting particular goals, such as autonomy or diversity, [normalising te reo] as the proper aim of human individuals and societies.” Tolerating difference is critical for negative liberalism. Celebrating it is not. If someone doesn’t have a taste for Marmite, asking them to celebrate it is a coercive form of positive liberalism with no roots in the Western legal tradition. This is why the attempt by the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2017 to force its members to promote diversity is being challenged in the courts.34

    Eric Kaufmann

    Reply
  5. sorethumb

     /  3rd May 2019

    The complaints about Te Reo being used in mainstream media give me great heart looking to the future. This positive response might surprise some, but I believe we can view these people (and they’re always the same people) as the rearguard of progress. As society shifts, they will continue to yap at our heels and protest, but the trend for Aotearoa is against bland mono-culturalism and fearful mono-lingualism. A decade ago it was Māori Television. Today, it’s using Te Reo on Morning Report and Breakfast TV and putting macrons in newspapers. In ten years time these things will be completely normal and there will be another battle, which the rearguard will again resist and lose.

    Emma Espiner
    Except that language runs deep. These progressives believe they can change society without a backlash but there are limits.

    Reply
  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  3rd May 2019

    A non-event for me. Never listened to him. Have trouble recalling any revelation he reported other than an ability to speak Maori on radio.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  3rd May 2019

      I like his name.

      I am not a fan of people using a little Maori (like saying mahi instead of task) as this sounds as if they know a few words and want to show them off. It aso sounds odd, as I imagine it would if someone was speaking Maori or any other language and kept using English words for no obvious reason.

      J’ai vu mon friend Pierre; que c’etait nice apres dix years.

      Reply
  7. Blazer

     /  3rd May 2019

    Fan of Espiner myself.

    Reply
  8. She'llBeRight!

     /  3rd May 2019

    Folk forget that news and current affairs are all about informing the listener. Seems pretty silly in that context to use a language unknown to most listeners. Often, a listener needs to concentrate on the subject content and multi-task other breakfast or travel activity. An unknown language is no help and becomes a frustration.
    On the other hand, recreational channels and programmes are more suitable vehicles and listeners would find the “language medicine” less objectionable.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s