Rachel Smalley's "candid" interview

rachel_smalleyWhenever I read the words “candid interview” I wonder if that means the reporter was just having a friendly chat and then all of a sudden a comment became newsworthy and a story was born.  This is the case with a story this morning where Rachel Smalley is said to “blast ‘Ken and Barbie’ TV”.

“I didn’t feel that there was any desire to invest in women in senior primetime roles and I knew I couldn’t keep doing those hours. So I was at a real crossroads. I was frustrated.

“I didn’t feel either programme had the support of senior management, the top levels of management of MediaWorks, so there was only so far I could take both programmes.”

She was realistic about the amount of resources and marketing that could be pumped into non-primetime shows. “But that didn’t help the programmes I was on.”

Smalley said she loved her time at TV3 but was enjoying gentler surroundings than the sometimes cut-throat world of TV journalism.

“The reality with TV is it can sometimes be like working in a crack den because there’s so much paranoia swirling around the corridors and there’s a lot of patch protection. And that’s quite exhausting.” She attributed that to new shows and uncertainty in the world of current affairs. “And that’s the environment you’re going into every day. It can be quite lonely, I think, working in television.”

She described herself as “purist journo” who was in the business because she loved knowing things – not the recognition – which in her opinion isn’t always the case in television.

“There’s a lot of people coming into media now, particularly TV … and the reality is a lot coming into TV now really should apply for X-Factor because they want the celebrity and the fame that goes with it,” Smalley said.

“I really do love what I do, I don’t do it because it triggers some element of recognition. I just love it. … I love knowing everything I can about something. I found it fascinating being so involved with what’s going on and it’s fun – and work’s got to be fun.”

At Firstline she was sole anchor which is a format she thinks works best for television news rather than the traditional, in New Zealand at least, male/female newsreading duo.

“Now, I despair at the Ken and Barbie style news presenter. I don’t think you need a male and female fronting your news, you just have your journalist or whoever the best person to front that is.”

Mediaworks wouldn’t comment further this morning other than the comments from Mark Jennings that were already public.

“Women have key roles on-air and many of our top producers and managers are women. Two of the most important stories of 2013 were the Teina Pora and David Bain investigations, led by Paula Penfold and Melanie Reid.”

He disagreed with Smalley’s views about uncertainty leading to patch protection. “If there is any it comes from the highly competitive nature of our journalists … They all want to produce the best possible programmes and do the biggest stories.

“We are known for the fact that all our presenters are journalists … Yes there are egos but I don’t think any of them are in it for the profile, many of them really dislike the fact that the print media see them as celebrities … It is simply too tough a job for that.”

The Ken and Barbie approach is used the world over so I’m not sure it’s helpful to deride it considering in many other cases where it’s not a duo presenting the news, it is an older man.

Also, when I spoke to Mark Jennings last year about The Nation, I recall him telling me that Rachel Smalley’s job as host of the current affairs program in 2014 was certainly not off the table.

Subscribe to our mailing list

About the author

Regan is one of the co-founders of Throng Media.
If they're on, I'm usually watching Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, 24, Battlestar Galactica, The X Factor, Survivor, House of Cards, Mad Men and the NRL.
More from this author »

  • Name

    Rachel Smalley hired her own publicist while working at TV3, so it’s funny she’s saying she wasn’t in it for glory. This was simply a puff piece because ZB are in survey right now, and new owners APN are giving them a helping hand.

  • Anon

    Well if she thinks going to TVNZ is a better move … she’s misguided. This interview is an insult to the network that made her what she is and gave her plenty of opportunities. Can’t stand the woman and it’ll be interesting to see where she is five years from now.

  • Anon

    Who, exactly is she referring to as the Ken and Barbie news duo? Presumably Wendy and Simon – not clever, now she’s working for TVNZ. Could hardly describe Hilary and Mike in that way. I find her dry and boring to listen to and she’s the same as Susan Wood when interviewing people – constantly interrupting and not interested in what they have to say.

  • Abbi

    I don’t understand her new radio show. Who, aside from dairy farmers, insomniacs and really early starters, would listen to it? Sometimes, like now, I listen to ZB and the people who call between 4am and 5am are really odd. And most of the stuff she says gets repeated by Mike Hosking in his time slot. In that article she said she gets to work at 3:30am but wouldn’t she have a producer to line everything up for her so she could just arrive half an hour before her shift to prepare? Seems a bit strange and a horrible way to work. I also read she lives in Piha though – maybe she likes getting home to spend time with her family during the day or something.

    • Citizen Cane

      Hi Abbi, She would arrive a lot earlier then half an hour before hand. Her producer and her would do a lot of prep work for the next day after the last show. When I worked at ZB it wasn’t uncommon to have the 7am hosts arriving at 4:30am

  • .

    From John Drinnan at the Herald today:


    Rachel Smalley went public this week with an attack on her former employer TV3, saying that as a woman she was held back. But her ambition might have got the better of her, as I understand that she was insisting on a place in prime time, challenging John Campbell on Campbell Live.Radio host Rachel Smalley at the Newstalk ZB studio in Auckland City. Photo / APN

    Smalley will be a loss for TV3 and she is entitled to be ambitious given her background as an anchor for Sky News in Britain, but it was bold to try to unseat Campbell. Smalley has a following and has always been ambitious.

    She even took the unusual step of hiring her own publicity manager, Niki Schuck, who also represents the millionaire Eric Watson, and the Radio Network.


    • Anon

      Well clearly her perception of her “brand” and popularity differs from what everyone else thinks. Did she seriously think she could justify having her own primetime slot? She must be even more up herself than I thought!