The latest Listener includes a piece by television writer Diana Wichtel on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire host Mike Hosking, who’s also been filling in on Close Up. In it, Hosking tells Wichtel he’s not interested in doing the Close Up job fulltime. Why not? she asks. “Because I’m doing breakfast radio”. (Well, he’s not, actually – but he will be next year when he takes over Paul Holmes’ slot on Newstalk ZB.)
Wichtel then points out that Holmes did Close Up as well as the breakfast show. To which Hosking replies: “Ah, yes he did. And there’s a lesson in that, I suspect.” He then explains: “One of the great lessons I’ve learnt is that the most important thing in the world to me is being a dad. I want to be at the school gate at three o’clock each day.”
Wichtel doesn’t take this any further, which is curious because Hosking seems to have thrown her a rather fat cue. Unless I’m misreading him, he seems to be suggesting that Holmes was so tied up in his work that he neglected his duties as a parent; that if he had been there for his children when school finished each day, perhaps Millie Holmes’ sad brushes with the law wouldn’t have happened. Hosking seems to be saying (and good on him) that he’s not going to fall into the same trap.
At least that’s the meaning I took from it. But either Wichtel missed the cue, or she considered Hosking’s meaning so obvious that she didn’t need to elaborate or draw him out.
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In the same interview, Hosking vents some steam over the media's treatment of disgraced sports frontman Tony Veitch. At the end of the day, says Hosking, Veitch is just a guy who reads an autocue. “He’s a working journalist. The end.”
Except that Veitch wasn’t just some semi-anonymous hack who read the sports news. If he were, the media would have taken little interest in him. But Veitch was much more than that. He was a product of TVNZ’s star-making machinery, to borrow Joni Mitchell’s phrase. He had been assiduously nurtured and promoted as one of the network’s celebrities.
In making the leap from journalist to public figure, he also made himself public property – all of which appeared to suit Veitch and TVNZ fine, as long as the attendant publicity was good. Then it blew up hideously in their faces.
There is an ethical argument to be had about whether, and to what extent, the public is entitled to know about the private lives of public figures. But one of the lessons to be learned from the Veitch affair is that the celebrity culture TVNZ has created comes at a price.