Twelve Questions: Geoff Robinson

Broadcaster Geoff Robinson has presented Morning Report on National Radio for much of the past 35 years. The English-born avid golfer has announced he will retire.

Broadcaster Geoff Robinson. Photo / NZPA
Broadcaster Geoff Robinson. Photo / NZPA

1. Have the hours in the job made it difficult to be a family man?

It has because it always puts a hell of a strain on your partner and kids. I was never home when the children were getting up in the morning. There are advantages to that, of course, and I was always there when they came home from school. But I remember one occasion when my wife was in hospital for a few days and I took time off to look after the kids. I didn't know what time school started. It totally buggers up your social life too. Do I like parties? No. I struggle at parties. I don't know why, I just do. They're not my thing. People are constantly asking me about getting up early and it's boring.

2. Were you ever a night owl?

I used to think I was, but then the TV programmes got so bad that I wasn't bothered. Now we watch movies. Listen to the radio - music, my choice. Concert FM in the car. No, I don't listen to Kim Hill on Saturdays. I don't have the radio on. I switch off. Isn't that what people do at the weekend?

3. How has journalism changed through your career?

I suppose it's got a bit more superficial. The funny stories have always been there to be played around with but people aren't sitting down to read stuff in the way they used to. It doesn't bother me unduly - life is full of change. I can be a grumpy old bugger about it if you want but no. That's what people want, that's what people get. You can't make people serious. I think a lot of them don't want to think about things. It's a circular argument - what you feed people on is what you get back.

4. Has the level of PR spin grown in recent years?

It's perhaps better organised now than it once was. It's different interviewing politicians now - but perhaps not more difficult. They have changed but we've changed with them too. I think perhaps I have changed (interviewing style) a bit. Am I more strategic about the questions I ask? I'm not sure. I think I might be but I'm not that reflective about it. When I play golf I just hit the ball, I don't wiggle around setting up the shot.

5. Who is the most difficult person to interview?

Anyone whose point of view I agree with. I've got to make sure the listeners don't recognise that. Don Brash was a challenge to the media at first, because he's a polite man and unlike other politicians would actually answer the question that had been asked! Eventually the spin doctors got to him, but they must have had a struggle.

6. Have you been too soft on interviewees at times, do you think?

About as many times as I've been too hard. You know when you've done a bad interview. You chastise yourself and say I mustn't make that mistake again. I sometimes listen back - probably more to the bad ones, because you know you've cocked up so you work out where you cocked up and how you are going to do better.

7. Which broadcaster did you grow up listening to?

Jack de Manio - the BBC guy who fronted the Today programme, the equivalent of Morning Report in England. I would listen to him before I caught the train to school. I couldn't tell you about his style - I'm surprised I remember his name. I was interested in broadcasting as a boy and did look briefly at the BBC but in those days you had to have a university degree before they would even give you an interview. I didn't go to university. I came to New Zealand instead.

8. Everyone seems to have degrees these days - do you think they're necessary?

I'm an autodidact. I remember sitting in the studio with (former co-host) Sean (Plunket) one day and he said "it's funny. Neither of us have been to university and all those other buggers out there with three degrees would love to have our jobs".

9. Did you have a happy childhood?

Yes. I was the second of four boys. My father worked for Booths gin and my mother looked after us. I've never missed living in England for more than about half a minute. After school, one friend went to Canada, one to Australia, another to Rhodesia and I came here. We were going to go for two years and then all meet up again but I got here and thought, I can't. I don't want to go back now.

10. Why did you never leave Morning Report?

Lack of imagination. Probably no one offered me something better. I seem to have found a niche that I enjoy and people seem to like me. If I analysed anything, which I don't, part of my success has been in not seeing myself as a public person but just as someone doing a job.

11. Has it been more difficult as you've got older?

Well, my hearing's going so I have to wear hearing aids. I've been fortunate in that the range of ages in people I work with is really quite huge. When there's been something relating to Twitter or whatever - I don't twit or tweet or whatever the word is - there's someone who can explain to me what's involved. Time will tell if I'll miss it. You know when it's time to stop and I'm ready to stop now.

12. You're known as the nice guy of current affairs: what does make you angry?

Being told I'm the nice guy of current affairs. Don't people recognise good manners when they hear them?

- NZ Herald

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