Mary Wilson has been the host of National Radio's Checkpoint since 1997. Known for her combative style, she says she loves the anonymity of radio and not being recognised at parties.
1. I FEEL LIKE THIS INTERVIEW SHOULD ALL BE IN CAPS - MARY WILSON STYLE. Or are people wrong about your style of interviewing?
WRONG. Wrong. They confuse persistence or short questions with something that might be aggressive. We haven't got a lot of time to muck around so long-winded questions are not the best way to cut through, especially if talking to people who are long winded or obfuscatory.
2. You've been described as "Kim Hill on P", "strident, rude and aggressive" and "New Zealand's most consistently good current affairs interviewer". What does your mother say?
"I was listening to the Concert programme." (Kim Hill on P!!? C'mon you just made that up).
3. You grew up in Matamata: is that one of New Zealand's dullest towns?
You think the rich smell of cow dung and the bellowing of bulls is not exciting? Something did happen back in 1981. Rugby fans chased Springbok tour protesters down the main street to the town hall where the protesters had to lock themselves inside. Not too dull by all accounts, but I missed it, having already fled; I mean left town. Now it's called Hobbiton, which is another way of spelling "even duller".
4. Were you an argumentative child?
5. Which recent interview has exasperated you most?
[Earthquake Commission chief] Ian Simpson would be the most exasperating recently. Last Monday, we got some good answers from him about releasing 80,000 customer files and when I asked him if there were others he said, "No, no". On Friday when they discovered they'd done it again he wouldn't come back on the show. That's exasperating.
6. You must get that a lot?
We get people asking who is doing the interview ...
7. Do you get recognised at parties?
Not a lot unless I'm introduced. I'm never recognised in Wellington which is lovely. I like TV as a medium but I wouldn't do it. I like anonymity.
8. Are those great eyebrows for radio?
I could get carbon credits for my eyebrows. Perhaps I should look into it.
9. Are you a terrifying mother?
I've got two teenagers (16 and 19) but they are very used to my job. I don't think they really notice it. Do they do what I tell them to do? Not all the time. I do get told, "You're not at work now."
10. You've been with Checkpoint since 1994 - what other job in media would you like to do?
Dunno. Although they are looking for a new chief executive for Radio NZ.
11. With the same budget, how would you change National Radio?
Take the Al Morrison MO and "remove a layer of management". The money saved would be used for wage rises and a punishment room for highly paid bureaucrats who won't answer questions. Offenders would be subjected to hours of brutal a-tonal music (the people at Concert would be most helpful), perhaps 5 year olds "playing" the recorder.
12. What's your best advice to those who want to avoid a question?
Go on for a long time and be very long winded. That's when you have to point out they haven't answered the question. These people are on mega bucks and media trained to the nth degree. Our job is not to be put off by that.