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Pākehā media playing ‘Gotcha’. By Claudette Hauiti
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Pākehā media playing ‘Gotcha’. By Claudette Hauiti

In the past couple of weeks Aotearoa was witness to one of the worst forms of journalism. A form and method used by Pākehā media agencies primarily but seldom if ever used by Māori. It is a practise as old as the industry.

It’s ‘Gotcha’ journalism.

This is where an interviewer or reporter tries to entrap their talent – the person they are interviewing. I use the word entrap because the reporter uses devious means to lure a predetermined answer from the talent. I use the word devious because interviewers could be telling the talent they are there to talk about topic A but, when the interview commences the reporter talks about topic B.

‘Gotcha’ is about getting the talent to contradict what they had done or said on earlier occasions. It became popular in the 80’s,90’s thanks in part to Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid style of sensationalist reporting – remember how the Sun newspaper hounded Princess Diana and even went so far as tapping her phone? This is the extreme end of ‘Gotcha’.

Last week, two examples of ‘Gotcha’ on our screens. Jack Tame on Q&A TVNZ interviewing Winston Peters. It started off with Tame asking about policy and campaigning, but quickly veered straight into the path of a runaway train. Without warning Tame swerved onto the pending fraud charges against the New Zealand First Foundation. Winston insisted this was not part of the briefing sent to his team further reiterating, he should have been forewarned. But Tame persisted beyond what was a reasonable timeframe, he should have given up, because it was clear to all, there would be no ‘Gotcha’ moment. Some would say that Winston should have expected any type of questioning given his experience and timing leading to the elections. However, no one watching became any the wiser about NZF’s campaign, policies or even the fraud charges.

The second attempted ‘Gotcha’ interview was on TV3’s The Nation. Simon Sheppard interviewing Māori Party Co-Leader John Tamihere. Sheppard was challenging Tamihere’s complaints of Oranga Tāmariki when current data shows them to be improving on its processes. It appeared Sheppard was attempting to get Tamihere to concede that his accusations are now unfounded. There was no ‘Gotcha’ moment in this interview for Sheppard.

The Tame-Sheppard interviews are also examples of adversarial styles of reporting. The interviewer plays the ‘devil’s advocate’ and the tone of the exchange is combative. Politicians are used to adversarial interviews and expect to be challenged on policies, decisions, and the like. They expect to be held to account.

It is fair to say that Māori media has its share of combative interviewers and yes, I include myself in this group, we are not ‘Gotcha’ reporters. ‘Gotcha’ is not part of Māori media. It goes against our collective understanding and belief in mana. Mana enhancing means all those in the interview including the audience brings their own mana – that needs to be recognised and respected.

Radio Waatea Breakfast Host Dale Husband interviews both Winston Peters and John Tamihere weekly. Infact, Peters has been a regular on the station for almost 20 years. While Tamihere is a member of the wider UMA Whānau. Husband manages to garner from both these people information and insights that Pākehā media only dream of eliciting. From Peters, issues including the NZ First Foundation, Ihumatao and Immigration. Their relationship enviable mutually respectful. Tamihere on the other hand is whānau to Husband in an urban Māori sense. Both West Auckland raised and with lifelong interests in common there is not much they don’t know about one another. Husband is able to cross into territory Pākehā journalists can not and to be honest probably do not want to.

Derek Fox, during his time as News Editor Te Karere, Mana News, Mana Magazine never shied from asking the hard questions of people in power and he never chased the ‘gotcha’. Maramena Roderick former Europe Correspondent TVNZ, always on the hustle for a scoop, never chased the ‘gotcha’. Jodi Ihaka investigates and probes but does not do the ‘gotcha’. Mihinaranga Forbes of the Hui simply professional.

Māori media are after information, access, clarity. Māori media interviewers put themselves in the place of the wider community. That means they are responsible for upholding the integrity of their whānau hapū, iwi.

It serves them no purpose to disrespect their talent. Maintaining and enhancing mana is worth more to them than the ‘gotcha’. Pākehā media would be wise to reflect on this next time they want to play ‘gotcha’ with Māori leaders.


Copyright © 2020, UMA Broadcasting Ltd:

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