Twelve Questions

Sarah Daniell poses 12 questions to well-known faces

Twelve Questions with Anita McNaught

Anita McNaught finds the Arab Spring far too compelling to consider making a break and returning to a television job in New Zealand. Photo / Supplied
Anita McNaught finds the Arab Spring far too compelling to consider making a break and returning to a television job in New Zealand. Photo / Supplied

The former TVNZ journalist, now working for Al Jazeera, was once whisked away in Rupert Murdoch's private jet after reuniting with her kidnapped ex-husband

What's the inside of Rupert Murdoch's jet like?

Circa 2006, actually very modest. Slimline and functional. It's about getting around easily; it's not about flash. Thank you, Rupe. Shame about the phone tapping.

What have you had to sacrifice, working as a foreign correspondent?

Nothing. It's all I ever wanted to do. I am so blessed.

What stories of the Middle East are we not hearing that we should be? Why should it matter to New Zealanders?

You're asking a "foreign news junkie". You expect a dispassionate answer?

I've watched foreign news coverage shrink year-on-year in the New Zealand media.

I also think it's vital to have New Zealand voices out there in the thick of world events, reporting back. NZ television pays a lot of money to organisations like the BBC and ITN to run and re-edit their material. But at the end of the day it's still the British perspective and the NZ one is different.

Which news organisation has taught you the most and what are those lessons?

The BBC. Its extraordinary archives and libraries and reservoir of extremely talented older journalists fed my curiosity and showed me how you could grow great journalism. Fox News finally eradicated my stuffiness (BBC no help here at all) and taught me to be a better communicator and broadcaster. Al Jazeera. They just say: Go deeper, go further ... go as far as you dare.

Knowing what you know now about the media, would you still want to be a journalist if you were starting out in 2012?

It has changed, but with a few reservations I love the way it has evolved. I value the expansion of input sources, citizen journalism, blogging and Twitter. I am so excited by what technology can offer as tools to tell stories and verify claims - satellites; smaller, simpler cameras; smart phones; Wi-Fi. But journalism is still too much a corporate commodity. And it's hard now for journalists to openly question - let alone oppose - those who ultimately pay their salaries. Climate change is a much bigger story than Al Qaeda. The world economic crisis is the greatest unfolding investigative story ever still to be completely told. People are living in a criminal system masquerading as "free market economics". But is the corporate media equipped to tackle this?

What makes you cringe about the media?

Celebrity journalism masquerading as important news. That being said, when I watched a straight-backed BBC presenter having to announce the Cruise-Holmes split with a lemon-eating face, I did laugh. But the bigger picture is that it's bread and circuses. Fight the distraction.

Tell us something about Anita McNaught that might make us fall off our chairs?

I'm privately preoccupied with birdsong, butterflies, bumblebees and wildflowers. I dream of nude swimming in cold lakes.

Who do you despise?

The mafia working in the finance industry. All the greedy, selfish bastards.

If the call came, would you come back to NZ to anchor TVNZ or TV3's 7pm shows? What job would you come back for?

The siren-call of New Zealand gets very loud at times. But the so-called Arab Spring is utterly compelling. I'm way too deeply engaged now to break away. I've got to see how the story ends.

Who would you most like to interview and what would you ask them?

Jesus, Mohammed and Moses. Respectfully now, I want to know if they are happy with how things turned out. I want those three revolutionary figures in the room together, swapping world views. I suspect they'd be environmental campaigners these days more than anything else. And as for the moneychangers in the temple ... oh boy ... they've got it coming.

What trait do you look for in a woman?

Strength, principles, resolve, intellect, empathy.

And a man?

Absolutely the same.

For what would you like to atone?

For loving too much from a distance, and not always being there when I am needed.

- NZ Herald

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