When I received a phone call out of the blue from the programme manager at Radio Pacific asking me if I would like to do some talkback hosting, I didn't say yes straight away.
I sometimes listened, usually when driving, to talkback radio. I wasn't very impressed. It seemed to me most callers where either mad, bad or extremely sad. I would drive along often yelling at the radio, giving the caller a piece of my mind or berating the host. Of course I had all the answers, plain as day!
I told the manager I hadn't any experience as a talkback host. Quick as a flash he came back with, "I never thought that would worry you."
It didn't and a couple of weeks later I was flying solo as a Radio Pacific talkback host. I thoroughly enjoyed the job. I did the graveyard shift from 1am to 5am four times a week.
The callers weren't mad, bad or sad. They were typical New Zealanders with a wide range of views to express and with a platform to do so.
You would start the show with a variety of subjects you thought the listeners might be interested in. Something reported that day in the news, a politician making a foolish statement or an event overseas that might have repercussions on New Zealand. A topic that would resonate to kick the show off. That was the theory anyway.
As it happened, if a caller wanted to talk about a certain topic that was usually it. Nothing was off limits but as the host you had to have your wits about you. There was no shortage of racist calls but I never got upset.
They were invariably older callers not understanding what was happening around them.
New Zealand was changing and Māori were determined to reclaim their language, culture and place in New Zealand society. It was unsettling for many callers.
I didn't have the energy nor the inclination to spend time debating with them. But mostly people just wanted to talk. I used to think what on earth are people doing listening to talkback in the middle of the night.
After Theo died I knew the answer to that.
There was a seven second delay button I could push to cut out anything objectionable I might have let slip and to delete really abusive calls - those that threatened to kill the prime minister or extreme ugly racist callers.
The F word had to be deleted and I can proudly say the C word only slipped through once undetected on my watch.
The problem was, disgusting as they are, I didn't react as quickly with the button because – well you hear those words in everyday conversation don't you? People have views and they're entitled to them, whether I liked it or not. If only the callers could have seen what I was mouthing in the studio. But as the host I never got that upset with a caller that I would allow myself to rant and rave.
Not that I wasn't tempted but I never did. Once "on the airways" there is no taking it back.
Even today I can't think of any occasion, no matter how riled I might become, where I would call anyone, or any group of people, a leech or leeches. Any country a hellhole. It's something I would never do. I know what those words mean. They are insulting. They would be extremely hurtful to those directed at because words do matter. And speak volumes about a person who utters them.
Heather du Plessis-Allan, Newstalk ZB presenter, must regret making these remarks recently on air.
The prime minister's 24-hour trip to the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru was being discussed.
She called the Pacific Islands "leeches", a waste of time and money. "Nauru is a hellhole."
Someone give that woman a history lesson. New Zealand has benefited for decades from cheap labour provided from the Pacific Islands, contributing to growing New Zealand's economy.
Nauru became a "hellhole" because the island was exploited by the extraction of cheap phosphate for Australia and New Zealand farms.
Maybe these days they don't have the seven second delay button on the control panel in the studio.
Realising what she said, du Plessis-Allan could have erased her objectionable comments and no one would have been any the wiser.
Then again if you don't realise you're being ignorant why would you even consider it necessary.