COMMENT

This week Hilary Barry announced her move from Breakfast to Seven Sharp and TVNZ announced her replacement, Hayley Holt.

While the country waits to find out who Hilary's co-host will be, I have other questions.

I know I've said this before but I'll say it again and frankly, I'll keep saying it 'til I don't have to anymore: Where is the diversity?

Advertisement

When Hilary moved to Breakfast it felt like a small win because for the first time in a long time we had a woman at the helm of a major show.

Not only that, she was a woman over 40. At 48, Barry – alarmingly - is the oldest woman on any of our national news programmes.

Now they've brought in Hayley Holt to replace her. Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against Hayley, she's a smart, talented, beautiful woman but if TVNZ has a "type", she's the text book definition.

Admittedly, that's not helped by TVNZ's styling department, who have predictably given her the same hairstyle as every other blonde Breakfast presenter this decade.

And while Breakfast felt like Hilary's show, you can't shake the feeling Hayley has been brought in to play sidekick to Jack Tame. The Pippa to his Paul.

Here are some facts: Since Breakfast launched in 1997, it has always been hosted by a male/female combo. Every one of those hosts has been Pakeha.

Of the 12 female hosts to front Breakfast, all but one have been attractive and blonde. The exception was Nadine Chalmers-Ross, who was attractive and brunette.

Susan Wood, Mike Hosking, Ali Mau and Kate Hawkesby: Do you notice any trends in Breakfast's hosts?
Susan Wood, Mike Hosking, Ali Mau and Kate Hawkesby: Do you notice any trends in Breakfast's hosts?

Seven Sharp

has had a similar - though decidedly shorter - history, with a desk occupied by Pakeha presenters, either with one man and one woman or sometimes two men and one woman. And guess what? All of those women were again, pretty, Pakeha and blonde.

With Hilary's move to Seven Sharp, it remains unclear who will fill the second chair. If history is anything to go by, it's safe to assume it will be a straight, white male.

It's rumoured Hauraki host Jeremy Wells is in the running for the job, while others are speculating John Campbell or Paul Henry could return to prime time.

I'll tell you who I'd love to see behind the desk: Stacey Morrison.

Stacey's actually done the job before, when she was part of the revolving panel brought in to replace Greg Boyed in 2013, after he bailed on the job after just nine months.

She was excellent. Informed, eloquent and likeable. So why shouldn't she get a shot now? Why can't we have two women on the desk?

There used to be this idea that only men could deliver hard news and women were there to a) be eye candy and b) present the lighter, fluffier side of news.

This is such a well-known trope that films from Anchorman to Iron Man to Fifty Shades of Grey have employed it. Female journalists in films are almost always looking to "prove themselves" as "serious journalists" but their emotions get in the way, or they use sex to get stories.

For far too long, female journalists have been over-sexualised and underestimated and the truth remains that many men don't want to get their news from women. They don't trust us.

I recently heard someone close to me remark on Kerre McIvor's impending replacement of Leighton Smith on Newstalk ZB.

He said Kerre wouldn't be able to cut it, she couldn't take a hard stance like Leighton, or keep her emotions separate. She'd ultimately be "too soft" to do the job "right".

I have to assume this isn't the general consensus in our country (in order to maintain my will to live), but it's an opinion that's out there and between that and the overly sexual tropes, which have been fed to us by pop culture for decades, it's no wonder we think we need a man on the desk.

But even if that were - in some crazy, alternate universe - true, why not move Daniel Faitaua from the midday news? Or better yet, why not pluck Scotty Morrison from the Te Karere desk and put him next to Hilary?

Aside from these two and Miriama Kamo over on Sunday and Marae, TVNZ's news and current affairs offerings have a stark absence of brown faces.

Over on Three, Mike McRoberts co-anchors the 6pm news and Kanoa Lloyd and Josh Thomson sit on the panel of The Project at 7pm, yet TVNZ is still playing catch up.

I hope I see a time - and soon - where you don't have to be a pretty, blonde, Pakeha woman to co-host a prime time current affairs show. Or a time in which women can be trusted to do so without a man.

Of course, the new co-host is yet to be announced so TVNZ could still surprise us. But I'm not holding my breath.