In October 2012, Media3 featured an interview with John Campbell, about making Campbell Live. The programme was made in a highly visible period: Natasha Utting's reporting had demonstrated that the government's proposed school closures in Christchurch were based on hopelessly flawed data, and the public response to a series of stories on hunger in schools had forced the government to move.
Campbell Live was, it was widely said, making advocacy journalism. And not everyone approved. In an extraordinary New Zealand Herald column, John Roughan slated Campbell Live as “this country’s little Fox [News],” – but from the left – a programme whose creators “made it their mission to side with people against power and express the pain and frustrations of those on one side of a problem.”
Most episodes of Media3 are long-gone from the TV3 website, but for some reason the 22-minute extended cut of the interview that we made for the web has survived. It is, if anything, more interesting now, in light of events. John explores the idea of advocacy journalism, answers his critics and says the big change in the show is that "we're sticking with stories much longer", revisiting them time after time, not forgetting.
I need hardly add that John greeted me and Sarah Daniell warmly and was gracious and generous with his time that morning. It was also a bit of a thrill to meet Toby Longbottom, the editor who had been made famous by frequently being credited by the host. John Campbell's willingness to remind his audience that current affairs TV is a collaborative form, that a group of people made his stories, is one key to the extraordinary loyalty he has been shown in recent weeks.
I wrote about the interview here at the time, in a post titled 'The Advocate'.