For a number of years I worked as a political reporter at Parliament Buildings in Wellington (New Zealand).
During my time in that highly competitive pressure-cooker environment I learned a lot about truth, perception, political ‘reality’, and human nature. I hope I also learned to be careful with what I say.
While I was in the Press Gallery and for a while afterwards I filed a regular ‘Politics’ column for the NZ Federated Farmers magazine Straight Furrow. Once, writing a column about some issue to do with how ‘maverick’ Winston Peters was functioning in the then Bolger government I made the comment “This man has lied to me before”. By saying it, I was alerting readers that Peters — who I still regard as arguably the most naturally talented politician of his generation — was a complex operator, and a man of many shades. Someone to watch.
Shortly after publication, Peters stormed into our office in the Press Gallery (he may have been clutching Straight Furrow or not, I don’t recall) and angrily demanded of me: ‘When have I lied to you?’
I quickly gave him three examples each of which involved me personally and looked him in the eye. After two or three seconds, his trademark smile appeared and he calmed down. He said something like, ‘Oh. OK then’, muttered to himself, and left the office. He was a man about it.
As Kim Hill, who I worked with at Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report’, would say:
‘Which is it? Do you say I’m wrong? Or just that you don’t like me saying it?’
I’ve learned that there are two basic approaches to argument (and these can apply to me under pressure, just as much as the next person): Continue reading →