Northern Irish journalist Andrea Vance worked in British tabloid newspapers during the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. The avid newshound, who abandoned her honeymoon to cover Nelson Mandela's funeral, is part of 1 News' election-coverage team.
1. Growing up in Northern Ireland, did you always want to be a journalist?
Yes. I grew up near Belfast where my dad edited three local newspapers. I remember being fascinated by his job; the rolling presses, the smell of the paper and ink. Dad tried to cure me of my interest by giving me a holiday job on one of his papers, thinking I'd be bored writing about garden shows but it so happened there was rioting that summer so I was covering pipe bombs and burning cars. Of course it had the opposite effect to what he intended.
2. You worked at British tabloid News of the World for seven years. Did you enjoy that job?
I loved it. It was so much fun. One of my first stories was a woman who claimed Jesus was in her baby scan. It's long hours, you work dawn to dusk shifts, and hugely competitive. It taught me to never give up and never take no for an answer. I spent a large part of my life on stakeouts. I lived in my car. You spend up to 16 hours on a job, just waiting. You take turns with the photographer going to get the papers, a bacon roll, coffee and cigarettes. I've had pizza delivered to a stakeout. You give the address of the person you're staking out and then flag the motorcycle down as it comes along. If you left a stakeout and missed a story you'd get such a bollocking. Once our photographer had to go up a tree to get shots for a story about a politician flogging cars while on sick leave. He was a bloody fantastic paparazzi photographer - Paul Gascoigne ran over his foot once - he'd never give up.
3. You were at News of the World when the phone- hacking scandal broke. Did you or your colleagues ever tap phones?
No. It was an enormous shock to everyone in our Glasgow newsroom when Clive Goodman was arrested. No one had any idea it going on. At that stage we thought it was an isolated incident. I don't recognise any of the culture described in Nick Davies' book. But there's no doubt it happened and it seems to have been widespread across all the tabloids. The reason I left a year later was it was time to get out of the field. I learned so much on the night news desk at The Scotsman - the intellectual heft was huge. To be honest, I could not do the type of journalism now that I did then. As you get older, things get less black and white. You develop more empathy for people.
4. What makes a good tabloid reporter?
You have to be nosy. There's a lot of street smarts in the things you do to get a story. It's not a skill you can teach - you either have it or you don't. In the UK it's bread and butter. There's this weird image of the tabloid journalist dressed in a dirty mac rifling through bins, but they're just ordinary people. Contact-building is key. You need contacts across the whole spectrum of society and you have to earn trust over meeting after meeting, listening for that little nugget that might make a good story if you go away and do the work. You have to be careful because what people believe to be the truth is often perspective. My dad used to say there's three sides to every story; what he said, what she said, and the truth is somewhere in the middle.
5. How did you meet your Kiwi husband?
In Scotland. He was a respectable journalist for a metropolitan paper. Its great having a husband that understands the demands of the job. He even agreed to spend the first week of our African honeymoon alone in Cape Town so I could go and cover Nelson Mandela's funeral in Johannesburg.
6. Do you have children and what do you think of the way Jacinda Ardern handled that question?
No, just a puppy named Dubh. She's my obsession. It's a very human thing to ask, "Have you got kids?" I think it's okay to explore how people juggle family and work but the very suggestion that having kids should have anything to do with Jacinda's ability to be Prime Minister is just disgusting. I thought she handled that really well and kudos to her because she spoke for all women our age.
7. Since moving to New Zealand you've switched from newspapers to TV. Do you enjoy the medium?
I really struggle with having to worry about my appearance because it's not something I think about. I look a mess 80 per cent of the time. My hair is a constant battle because I'm always running my hands through it. I got some makeup training but I'm really shit at it and when I'm stressed I rub my face, so by the time I do the live cross I've wiped it all off. But I've learned it's an important part of the job because if my hair was standing on end it would distract from what I was saying. The camera operator will tell me if it's sticking up.
8. Which TV stories are you most proud of?
There's been a couple this year; one was about a young gay Fijian guy, Josh, who died in the apartment of a New Zealand diplomat after they'd been out drinking. The diplomat made a number of calls to his colleagues in the half hour before calling emergency services. He's left the country and will never face charges but at least we were able to give Josh's family and friends a voice.
9. And the other?
The story that made my year was Danielle McKay, a partially deaf girl who was going to lose her hearing if she didn't get a cochlear implant in six months. It turned out she wasn't even on the DHB's waiting list. It was clear to me she'd fallen through the cracks. You have to keep professional boundaries but that story really got under my skin. She's such a lovely, bubbly person with her whole life ahead of her.
We had a petition signed by 25,000 people. When Jonathan Coleman's office rang last week to tell me they're funding 60 extra cochlear implants a year including Danielle's, I burst into tears. They let me break the news to her.
10. Have you ever cried on the job?
I cried at Pike River. After the final explosion they held a meeting with the families while we waited outside. You could hear the howls of grief - it was really visceral, absolutely hideous. There were very few journalists without tears in their eyes.
When they came out there were people being held up. I remember the media being really respectful but the families probably felt like they had to run the gauntlet.
11. Are you enjoying being on the election campaign trail this year?
I am. What looked like a really dull election campaign has suddenly got so exciting. "Jacinda-mania" has been amazing to watch. I was quite sceptical and thought the gallery was just getting carried away but when you actually see her in the field it's organic and spontaneous. The only other time I've seen that celebrity phenomenon was with John Key on his 2011 campaign trail.
12. What's the difference between politics here and in England?
It's a world of difference. It's so much more of a slick business in the UK. The press is much harder on its politicians, more aggressive and relentless. Sex sells but in Kiwi politics there's an unwritten rule that we don't go there. A genuine sex scandal like Len Brown will be covered but in general New Zealanders don't have an appetite for it.
• 1 NEWS Vote 17 Election Night Special, September 23, 7pm, TVNZ 1
Q + A election special, September 24, 8am to 10am, TVNZ 1