Twelve Questions

Sarah Daniell poses 12 questions to well-known faces

Twelve Questions with Wallace Chapman

An Aucklander with no background in political journalism, Wallace Chapman copped flak when he became presenter of Back Benches in 2008. Last week, he was criticised for doing an advertorial on The Extra Mile website.

Wallace Chapman has never claimed to be a journalist. Rather he says he's a broadcaster who has worked in advertising. Photo / APN
Wallace Chapman has never claimed to be a journalist. Rather he says he's a broadcaster who has worked in advertising. Photo / APN

1. The Extra Mile - what did you learn from last week's exercise in multi-tasking?

We all get our turn, don't we? ... Even the great Noam Chomsky said, look, in our professional lives we all make compromises. He works for a university that gets funding from a defence agency. It's the nature of living in these times. I had been out of Back Benches for eight months - there's only so much dusting you can do. Where was the conflict? There was a bit of stick about me saying I'm not a journalist. Well, I'm not. I'm a broadcaster who has worked in advertising. There was no conflict of interest. I was offered a lead role in a beer commercial recently and I had to turn that down because that is a direct conflict of interest. We often talk on Back Benches about alcohol and the effect it has on young people and that would've been a direct conflict."

2. Back Benches is pretty chaotic. In your own life, do you create order out of chaos or chaos out of order?

I'm known as Mr Routine. I have a nice quiet life and my set routine. It's really ordered. I think that comes from me being very ill in my 20s [with Gaucher disease, characterised by bruising, fatigue, anaemia and enlarged liver and spleen] and I had to get a routine in order to get through each day.

3.Has Back Benches made you more cynical about politics?

I'm hugely optimistic about the political process. I started out very cynical but what it's shown me is that people - bus drivers, the woman at the Waterview superette and especially young people - care about politics. It bodes well.

4. Do young people get bad PR, do you think?

This younger generation isn't apathetic. I don't share that cynicism about them. At our final show, there were 500 or 600 people there and a lot of young people hung around afterwards, having long extended conversations about politics. And I'm hugely sympathetic with young people having to work in this labour market. It's enormously difficult time and it's a hustle.

5. When do the wheels fall off for you?

It's strange to say this but they really never do. I'm an enormously positive person. Even though I have this rare disease with no cure, I just have this approach. Even with last week, having my name in the paper and being criticised - I think about it for an hour or so but it's no big deal. It just isn't.

6. Do you get sick of people asking about the state of your health?

No it's never defined me. I bring it up because people are interested but everyone has pain. Of some kind.

7. When do you feel liberated?

When I'm with my fiancee Tabitha. We're getting married in five weeks. She's a special girl. I feel liberated when we're going for a walk, holding hands. Or when I'm sitting on my deck in the sun, having a cup of tea. I have a sense of peace then. Professionally? After a good radio or TV show. When it hums. Hell, that's a buzz.

8. When are you adventurous?

I'm not. I can't even drive. I'm the classic armchair traveller. I live through other people's adventures. Professionally I am. I guess I'm a risk taker. That sounds cheesy, doesn't it?

9. Do you recall your first childhood diary instalment?

It was a blue diary and the first instalment says, "It's 1978. My name is Wallace Chapman and I'm 8 years old. Today I woke up and had breakfast ..." I wrote instalments intermittently throughout the years. It's a great glimpse at Auckland in the 70s. There's an entry that talks about a new movie with a character called Darth Vader. It's a treat to pick up and see the little me.

10. If you could subscribe to one publication, online or hard copy, what would it be?

A website - ZNet Communications. It's got a load of material. Great reporting and longer essays. My hero reporter is Amira Hass, who is Israeli but she reports at the source about the minutiae of life in the Middle East. But I love that you can touch newspapers. I have a clippings file, which I've had since 2003. It captures the mood of the nation at the time. It's history right in front of me.

11. What is the most flamboyant item in your wardrobe?

I love fashion but I prefer 'sartorial' to 'flamboyant'. I guess it would be my Louis Vuitton bag, which I had monogrammed with my initials. I saved up for ages. It's a piece of heritage luggage I'll have for 30 or 40 years. I loved it when Vivienne Westwood said in her last show, "Buy quality, buy less. Actually stop buying." I broke into a smile, because here was this fashion icon saying, 'Enough already!' I'm part of the slow fashion movement. I don't like the seasonal churn of fashion.

12. Complete this sentence; "New Zealand men would be fine, if only they were more ..."

Etiquette based. Where's that good old-fashioned etiquette? It does show a lack of confidence in the Kiwi male. It's about being good to each other.

- NZ Herald

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