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Ian Wishart ‘On The Record’ About Taping Tamihere

Ian Wishart ‘On The Record’ About Taping Tamihere

By Kevin List

During his regular breakfast chat with Paul Holmes this week, John Tamihere pointed out that he “had no idea there was a tape recorder on,” during his candid conversation with Ian Wishart. This conversation was reprinted verbatim in the latest, and probably best selling Investigate magazine ever.

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Scoop contacted Investigate editor, Ian Wishart for an ‘on the record’ interview to ask him about how the now legendary lunchtime conversation with Mr Tamihere came about. What follows is a verbatim transcript of Scoop's Kevin List's 'on the record' interview with Mr Wishart..


The ethics and logistics of interviewing a politician

Scoop: Some journalists would say, pretty much everything is ‘on the record’ – how do you approach interviewing people?

Ian Wishart: OK, ethically the situation is very simple, if anyone wants to go off the record all they have to do is ask and then we go off the record. Then we go back on the record at the moment when the off the record [comment] passes and we are quite clear that that was an aside.

In this particular case with John [Tamihere] the request we made of him initially was we’d like to interview you for our April issue of the magazine and do a profile piece, ‘do you have any objections with that’? The reason I asked that question is that he is a Labour MP. Investigate is not flavour of the month with the Labour Party.

I was making sure that he was happy to do it. He said ‘no problems I’m a politician and its election year so I’d love to be interviewed - when do you want to do it.’ That was the initial phone call invitation/offer.

We simply made the time and date and agreed it would be over lunch. He turned up and I took out my recorder (with its red light) pushed the button and plonked it down in front of him, and he watched me do it, and then we started talking. I made sure to check every so often that it was still recording, as you do. We just had a long frank, open, meandering conversation about life the universe and everything.

The questions weren’t deliberately intending to lead him into nasty areas. It was just that he decided to open up on it. Now for him to suggest it was ‘off the record’ I think as everyone else does that is absolutely naïve. There was no request for ‘off the record’. We wouldn’t be doing with John an off the record interview for the magazine. If I was doing an ‘off the record’ interview it wouldn’t be for the magazine just for background information. I certainly wouldn’t be taking cover shots of him afterwards, which he happened to pose for.

Scoop: So you went to the restaurant did the interview and he was actually photographed after that?

Ian Wishart: I said to him I need some shots for the cover of the magazine ‘are you happy for that’ he said ‘ yep, no problem lets go and do it’. So we went out the back of the vineyard watched by the vineyard staff and took ten or twenty photographs.

I think a likely scenario here is that John has got cold feet after the event and subsequent to his stoush with Duncan Garner has had a discussion with Helen Clark and presumably the question was ‘what else have you done?’ and he said 'I’ve done an interview with Investigate’. At which point her heart would have dropped and he would have said ‘it was ‘off the record’.

I’m happy for John to take that step if that is what he wants to do to save face with his political party. I know that interview was on the record, it was intended for publication and that is why we did it.

Scoop: Was there supposed to be another meeting after the restaurant?

Ian Wishart: No, that was it.

Digital recorders and noisy restaurants

Scoop: Why did you do an interview in a restaurant because the sound quality isn’t that great, is it?

Ian Wishart: It was probably noisier than I anticipated. Metro [magazine] has done quite a few interviews over lunch and it is just a nice relaxed way of having a discussion. I guess that is part of the whole interview. You get a different interview if you sit them down in front of a TV camera with all the lights blaring and hangers on watching every twitch that you make. If I’m guilty of making John Tamihere relax just after he’s been investigated by the SFO then I plead guilty.

Scoop: The sound quality was quite bad for Tamihere, although your questions were reasonably clear - did you shove the recorder right under his face?

Ian Wishart: It was on his right… pointing towards him. It’s an omni-directional microphone which goes everywhere. I’m a broadcaster so I project my voice, particularly being aware of the fact I wanted my questions recorded. I’m probably more conscious of the need to do that than he is.

Scoop: Did he know that he was being taped because he says he only saw a phone on the table?

Ian Wishart: There was never any attempt by me to cover up the fact I was recording the conversation.

Scoop: So he just didn’t manage to notice a recorder on the table.

Ian Wishart: He’s either being disingenous saying I didn’t realise I was being taped or just deliberately fudging as part of his it was ‘off the record’ defence - saying he didn’t know he was being taped.

Just getting back to you earlier question about the ethics of an interview. Any interview between a journalist and a politician is on the record unless it is explicitly ‘off the record’. Having said that there are obviously times [and the press gallery would know this] where, say you are in a pub with an MP and have a quiet chat I think it would be morally wrong to run their comments verbatim. Unless both parties knew that was the intended purpose of the deal.

This wasn’t that [situation] - this was an open interview. There was a request for an interview – request granted. Whether or not I’d used a tape recorder or whether or not I’d taken copious notes it is still an interview, it is not off the record.

Scoop: He said he only saw a phone which you can record an interview on. Was it a tape recorder specifically?

Ian Wishart: It’s a digital recorder. It’s got a little red light and it has a screen with digital ‘wheels’ to show people that you are recording. It is like a little dictaphone.

Scoop: You don’t mind me asking what make and model just to make certain that it didn’t look like a phone?

Ian Wishart: It doesn’t look like a mobile phone. It is called a Ripflash. It is about a centimetre and about the size of a cigarette packet with a red light on top and a little digital screen with little wheels that go around.

Above & Below… Two Makes Of Ripflash Recorders
(Note: Scoop does not know whether it was one of these in particular that was used.. however they do illustrate the difference between a recorder and a mobile phone. Note also that some mobile phones these days have built in voice recorders…. so folk who wish to stay off the record ought to watch out.)

Scoop: It looks nothing like a mobile phone?

Ian Wishart: It looks nothing like a mobile phone It would be the most bizarre looking mobile phone you could ever hope to see.

Scoop: Thanks very much for your time that was on the record by the way.

Scoop then asked a brief off the record question regarding sales of the April Investigate magazine

Ian Wishart: On the record I think Tamihere will look back on this one day and think this is the best thing that ever happened to him


© Scoop Media

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