Boy with stammer now reads news

Last updated 14:53 20/10/2011
Mike McRoberts
ROBERT CHARLES
MR CRISIS: Journalist and 3News presenter/reporter Mike McRoberts.

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Few New Zealanders have witnessed as much history unfold in recent years as TV3 newsman Mike McRoberts.

Mike has been the anchorman for TV3's six o'clock news bulletin since 2005 and is also the face of 60 Minutes.

However, for many Kiwis he is Mr Crisis.

Over the years Mike has regularly ditched his anchorman suit for a flak jacket to bring viewers reports from some of the world's most dangerous places including Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza.

He has also covered some of the world's worst natural disasters - in the Philippines, China and Haiti, and the earthquakes in his hometown of Christchurch.

Mike was born in Dunedin and grew up in Christchurch where he started his career in broadcasting straight from high school with Radio New Zealand.

He now lives in Auckland with his wife and two children.

This weekend he is heading to Nelson to talk about his new book Beyond the Frontline at a Page & Blackmore Readers and Writers event at Founders Heritage Park on Saturday at 4.30pm (tickets $14).

Mike will also be taking part in the sold-out Thinking Brunch on Sunday.

What's the best thing about being a TV news anchorman?
Working with an amazingly talented group of people, from reporters and producers to camera operators and editors.

And the worst?

When there is no news around. Not that you could say that about this year, it's been the biggest news year I can ever remember.

What's one of the biggest misconceptions about TV news?

Most people have no idea about how many pairs of hands are needed in putting together an hour of news. It's a huge operation that depends on the input of so many. It amazes me sometimes how it doesn't all fall over more often than it does.

What is it you like about TV over newspapers and radio?
I think each medium has it's own advantages and disadvantages. I worked in radio for 11 years before moving to television, but I've never written for newspapers. What I love about television is the craft involved in writing to pictures. I also love the intimacy you can achieve with television in an interviewing situation.

Hunter S Thompson once described the TV business as a "cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason". What do you make of that?

Yes I've read Hunter S. Thompson's book called Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the 80s  it's a pretty sad indictment on the state of television journalism. Although, interestingly, it also says occasionally television throws up a, "token human like Ed Bradley". For many years the American 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley was an idol of mine, and his style was a major influence on my own.

What do you make of new media - are you on Facebook? Do you Twitter?

Yes, I'm on both Facebook and Twitter. I love the candour and immediacy of Twitter, and the connection it can give you with an audience. Hilary and I quite often tweet during the news hour. What I'm less enthusiastic about is so- called "entertainment reporters" trawling through tweets and publishing them.

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What about the women's magazines? What do you think of them and are you contractually obliged to appear in them?
I'm not contractually obliged to appear in women's magazines but I am expected to play my part in the promotion of 3 News and 60 Minutes. Sometimes that includes being involved in a story for a woman's magazine. I'm fine with it; I think it'd be hypocritical not doing a story when I so often ask others to do exactly that with me.

What was it like writing Beyond the Front Line?
Writing the book was quite cathartic at times. There were a number of experiences and emotions that I'd forgotten about or hadn't thought about for a while. There were also other events that I'd tucked away for a reason. The physical process of sitting at a computer for three or four hours a day writing was incredibly challenging. It was probably just as well I had a deadline or I may never have finished it. And of course I was still working throughout the writing process so it was a very busy time. Having finished the book and seen it published and on the shelves has certainly been an exciting time and I'm thrilled with the final product.

What's the most frightening experience you've had reporting overseas?

Covering the Iraq elections in Baghdad in 2005 was certainly the most dangerous situation I've ever been in. The unseen or hidden danger is often the hardest to counter and I was very aware every time we travelled around the city we ran the risk of bombing or shooting or kidnapping. To date it's been the only story where I've felt the need to have armed protection in the form of Iraqi bodyguards. I can't begin to describe the relief of finally leaving Baghdad.

What's the funniest?
Often the funniest moments have come from a time of great tension. In the heartbreak of covering the Christchurch earthquake in February I interviewed a man about a community shopping area that had been completely destroyed. When I asked the man about the relationship the community had with the group of shops and shop owners and how they were more than just store owners he said, "Yeah, actually my brother-in-law owns the Psychic shop around the corner  he didn't see this one coming".

On screen you've always been a very calm - almost Zen  presence. Do you ever get stressed and if so how does that manifest itself and what do you do about it?

Well, thank you  I'll take that as compliment. I certainly do get stressed and am often trying to do my job in extremely stressful situations.
I've found the old method of taking a few deep breaths to be incredibly useful. I do try and aim to be calm in chaotic environments; I think it makes for a much stronger and more accessible message.

Who is your favourite news reader on TV One?
That's a tough one. I was lucky enough to work with Paul Holmes for three years in my time at TVNZ. I'm thrilled he's back on screen.

What's one thing not a lot of people know about you?

I reveal in the book that in my early teens I had a pretty bad stammer.
In fact if you'd told me back then that one day I'd be presenting the six o'clock news I would have laughed at you.

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