Wak­ing up with Ge­off Robin­son

Joseph Romanos asks Ra­dio New Zealand pre­sen­ter Ge­off Robin­son about Welling­ton in the 1960s, in­ter­view­ing the Dalai Lama and broad­cast­ing dur­ing the Septem­ber 11 tragedy.

Kapi-Mana News - - FEATURE -

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Twick­en­ham and grew up along the road in Hamp­ton.

Why did you move to New Zealand?

One friend of mine moved to Canada, an­other to Rhode­sia and a third to Aus­tralia, so I thought I’d go some­where dif­fer­ent. I imag­ined I’d be away for two years but af­ter I’d been in New Zealand six months I didn’t want to go back. What was the at­trac­tion? I’d com­muted throughout my school years, so by the time I got to Welling­ton I’d done thou­sands of hours of com­mut­ing. Liv­ing in Mt Vic­to­ria, walk­ing to work with the dawn break­ing over the hills was won­der­ful.

What was Welling­ton like in the 1960s?

As we sailed into the har­bour I was amazed by the dif­fer­ent coloured roofs, the first time I’d seen that. There was 6 o’clock clos­ing and the 6 o’clock swill, which was a shock. Peo­ple would buy big jugs of beer and drink from lit­tle glasses.

When did you start on

In 1976. It ran for one hour, from 7am. It was mainly re­porters’ pack­ages and we did about three live in­ter­views a week. The long­est in­ter­view was about three min­utes.

What time do you start work?

I leave home at 4am. It’s tough if you think about it, but you get into the habit. I’ve trained my­self to sleep in on week­ends but af­ter a cou­ple of weeks on hol­i­day I be­gin wak­ing up early.

You never sound very com­bat­ive on ra­dio.

I’m a po­lite sort of per­son. You can al­ways be po­lite, even when ask­ing dif­fi­cult ques­tions.

What about when some­one sim­ply won’t an­swer your ques­tion?

You ask a cou­ple of times, then move on. If you per­sist, it’s just show­boat­ing. The au­di­ence soon un­der­stands if some­one is avoid­ing a ques­tion.

Are there any in­ter­view sub­jects you’ve par­tic­u­larly ad­mired?

It was a lit­tle strange in­ter­view­ing Jac­ques Cousteau, be­cause he’d been a child­hood hero.

You in­ter­viewed the Dalai Lama didn’t you?

Yes, it was an out­side broad­cast at his ho­tel. I was un­der a ta­ble try­ing to put the phone jack in and as I crawled out, there was this smil­ing chap with his hand out wel­com­ing me.

You must have in­ter­viewed a lot of Prime Min­is­ters.

The first was Rowl­ing. I re­mem­ber in­ter­view­ing Mul­doon for Mid­day Re­port when he was leader of the Op­po­si­tion. He left his cau­cus meet­ing to do a three-minute in­ter­view. I can’t imag­ine that hap­pen­ing now.

Broad­cast­ing on Septem­ber 11 must have been an ex­pe­ri­ence never to be for­got­ten.

It was. When I got in we were tak­ing the CNN feed. Vicki [McKay] had done a great job on the all-nighter. We [ Morn­ing Re­port] be­gan broad­cast­ing early. Ini­tially it was mainly the CNN feed, plus keep­ing lis­ten­ers up to date. As time went on we did more and more in­ter­views. Kim Hill was on Nine to Noon then and came in early to join us. Sean [Plun­ket] and I car­ried on till about 10am. It was an in­cred­i­ble story, but now and then you’d see tragic scenes on the tele­vi­sion and the scale of the dis­as­ter would hit you.

You’ve also broad­cast quite a few state funerals.

My daugh­ter calls me ‘‘the voice of death’’. I grew up with Richard Dim­bleby and watch­ing the funerals of Ge­orge VI and Queen Mary and the coro­na­tion. I’ve al­ways felt it was a priv­i­lege to broad­cast such oc­ca­sions. My church back­ground has helped – I know the dif­fer­ent parts of the build­ing.

Is that how you look upon your work – as a priv­i­lege?

Ab­so­lutely. Peo­ple are very choosey who they go to bed with, and who they wake up with.

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