Twelve Questions with Raewyn Rasch

Raewyn Rasch is executive producer of TVNZ's new prime-time current affairs show, Seven Sharp. A longtime TV and radio journalist, who has produced Fair Go and Marae Investigates, she talks about journalism, tall poppies - and John Campbell.

Raewyn Rasch is shrugging off criticism ahead of Seven Sharp's launch. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Raewyn Rasch is shrugging off criticism ahead of Seven Sharp's launch. Photo / Brett Phibbs

1. So, how are the nerves?

Nerves - what nerves? I do get nervous but I have been in this kind of business for such a long time, it's all about controlling nerves, really. And so I breathe. Seriously. I trained as a singer in the National Youth Choir and I know it's about controlling your breath. I was training manager for TVNZ news and current affairs and that was about helping people overcome nerves.

2. Why do so many commentators expect the show to fail, do you think?

It's remarkable given that we're not on air yet. I'm really happy that people are talking about Seven Sharp and mostly we laugh it off. But there's a mean streak in this country and I think it's really unfortunate. That said, New Zealanders do have a sense of ownership of their TV that I don't think you find in many places. But we are in a no-win situation because those very same people (media commentators) have been calling for change and now that we are changing it's not what they want. They have a vested interest in making their columns snarky and, to be honest, I don't expect them to ever say nice things.

3. Do you take it personally?

I feel for our presenters when it's personal. It's really unfair - they've done nothing to hurt or harm anyone, simply fronted a TV show and for that seem to be fair game.

4. Is Campbell Live your main competition - do you like John Campbell?

Well, it is on at that same time but I think our shows are going to be so different. Still current affairs but we are taking a different approach. [Seven Sharp] is a programme that's going to keep the audience first and foremost. While it would be lovely to have people saying nice things about us all the time, it's really only the audience that counts. I have the utmost respect for Campbell Live.

5. Your journalism class of 1982 featured quite a list of media stars - Kerre Woodham, Ian Wishart, Simon Kilroy. Who did you all think was most likely to succeed?

That was a very long time ago ... but I think Ian Wishart was considered the most driven and so it came to pass.

6. You're a former Radio New Zealand journalist. What do you think about the state of state radio at present?

Waking up to Morning Report is a habit of a lifetime for me. It may be leaner than in my day but I think New Zealand's well served by the RNZ team.

7. What's your cultural heritage?

I'm German Samoan, Maori, Irish - that makes me a New Zealander. I've always attributed various traits of my personality to my different ethnicities and I have been happy to be the mongrel that I am.

8. And you're a West Coaster (Ngati Makaawhio). Does that make you tough?

I am tough. I'm from Greymouth but spent a lot of my time with my family in South Westland. I have the rare experience of having been at the rebirth of my runanga as a teenager when people like Keri Hulme helped us reconnect with our history. Ngati Makaawhio has gone on to establish a thriving organisation, building a beautiful marae in Bruce Bay. I was hoping to help organise a family reunion back there this year but it looks like I might be a bit busy. So, cuzzies, if you're reading this you'll have to take up my slack!

9. Describe your childhood.

My childhood was happily split between my extended Samoan family in Auckland and my even larger extended family on the West Coast. The best of all worlds. People travel from all over the globe to visit South Westland and I was lucky enough to spend most of my holidays there hanging out with my cousins in places so beautiful the memory of it still stirs my soul.

10. You seem to have been a working mum for most of your career. What's the most difficult part of the juggle?

I've only been a working Mum for 15 years so about half my career. The most difficult part of the struggle is the constant feeling that you're letting someone down because you can't be in two places at once. Which is why I stepped away from TV producing for about six years.

11. If you could change one thing about New Zealand today, what would it be?

I would like to make New Zealand a more positive place. We've taken tall poppy syndrome to new levels. You don't even need to be a poppy. A lawn daisy with aspirations is likely to be mowed down if it lifts its head too high! Come on, people, lighten up on each other and we might all stand a little taller.

12. What will the audience be most surprised about when Seven Sharp screens on February 4?

I hope they'll be surprised by current affairs that doesn't take itself so seriously but can still expose the stories we all need to talk about.

- NZ Herald

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