Seven years ago almost to the day, a much younger and very nervous John Campbell sat next to Carol Hirschfeld and for the first time both of them read from the autocue.

Tonight they will do the same, for the last time.

Although they say they might crack open a wine and have a "bit of a booze-up before Clint starts on the sports", it will be smoother than that day in 1998.

Two days earlier, TV3's news presenter John Hawkesby had exited stage left, apparently disgruntled with the executive decision that two anchors were better than one.

Campbell's own slot on the show - hosting the current affairs section - had been canned and he was at a loose end, though there was talk of giving him his own show a la Paul Holmes.

The pair had only met twice before for perfunctory rehearsals.

Then suddenly it was 6pm on opening night and Thunderbirds were go.

"When we went to air, it was probably the most stressful thing either of us had done. I can't remember any of it, I blocked it out," Hirschfeld said. "Very few newsreaders begin that way. You were sort of tempered in steel because the situation was so tough."

In the beginning there were blunders aplenty.

"I had really 80s hair," she said.

"And I looked like I had borrowed my dad's suit," Campbell adds.

One bonus was finding they worked well together.

"We did get that unexpected bond between us," said Hirschfeld. "You don't know how two people are going to go, but we are a pretty complementary newsreading pair."

The relationship is the foundation for their new show - Campbell Live, due to start in April with Hirschfeld producing and doing work in front of the camera, and Campbell as host.

They have already used the producer-frontman mix in Home Truths and A Queen's Tour last year.

But it was Campbell's "Corngate" interview with Prime Minister Helen Clark that most people will remember.

After it, Ms Clark called Campbell a "little creep" and accused him of unfairly ambushing her.

" I stand by that interview and my right to do it and the right in a democracy to be able to interview politicians in that way, especially those that stand on a platform of accountability.

"I used to feel quite sad when I thought about it, but not any more. I think the Prime Minister and I realise we have to deal with each other for all sorts of reasons."

Both said there have been discussions with TVNZ about jobs, including when Paul Holmes left.

"We're still here because of the people," said Campbell.

"In 1991 I was a reporter in Radio New Zealand desperate to work in TV3 but they didn't want me. I used a job offer from TVNZ to lever my way in. I sensed that this was the right place for me and 14 years on I still feel that way."

Part of what they liked about TV3 News was its edgy approach. Often, either Campbell or Hirschfeld would be dispatched to present the news from another site - Featherston during the search for Coral Burrows, the Wearable Arts Awards or Waitangi Day.

"My personal highlight, and I was here tending the home fires, was when John anchored it from New York a year after September 11," says Carol.

"He stood at the top of the highest buildings next to the Twin Towers site, at 2am New York time to do the bulletin. John was anchoring the entire first part of the bulletin. I was quite proud of him then."

However there were days when it was just like any other job.

" Not everybody feels like being out there day after day and putting on the makeup and reading the news," Hirschfeld said.

"It may sound mundane, but sometimes you don't feel like being scrutinised. It's not a job where you can sit in a corner and have a quiet day."

"You will have days when you feel totally ordinary and someone has killed a child or done something awful and you just think, 'I'd just like to go home and have a gin now'. But you can't escape just because you feel appalled," Campbell said.

Nevertheless, both admit to a certain twinge of sadness about leaving.

"It is quite exciting to be part of something that feels like a success now," said Campbell. The show has been built up from a 20 per cent audience share to about 30 per cent today.

Campbell said it's rare to leave a job on your own terms. "It's been a fantastic, professional adventure. And it's been bloody good fun."

Head-to-head at 7pm


* Close Up on TV One
Wednesday ratings
Overall viewers: 415,690
Audience share: 31 per cent

* Paul Holmes on Prime
Wednesday ratings
Overall viewers: 95,300
Audience share: 7.1 per cent

* Campbell Live on TV3 is due to start in April.

Source: Nielsen Media Research.