The secret diary of ... Mark Sainsbury

Mark Sainsbury
Mark Sainsbury

The secret diary of Mark Sainsbury is in the spotlight of Stephen Braunias in May Contain Facts.


School closures in Christchurch, new figures on child poverty, Kim Dotcom returning to court, Obama and Romney on the presidential campaign - this is a big, big news week, plus you never know what else might happen, what breaking news, what shock announcement.

The trick is to keep your nerve. That's what fronting a live television news and current affairs programme is all about. Holmes understood it. Poor old Paul! I should drop him a note.

Where was I? Oh yes. Nerve. And focus. You have to remain alert at all times.

Pie. That pie looks good. That pie tastes good, too.

So. News. Lots of it this week. Focus. Nerve. Pies. But that's not all. Preparation. You've got to be prepared. You've got to do the work. Poverty, education, Dotcom, Obama - you've got to look like you know what you're talking about, so I head to makeup. It's exhausting having to sit there while they fuss all over you. So I grab some sleep. But first I grab a cookie.

I wake up with crumbs in my moustache. No time to brush them out! Off to the studio! The thrill of live television! The big stories! Kim Dotcom is closing a school! Obama has new figures on pies! But I stay cool. The trick is to look like someone who's just woken up after a good feed. Someone who isn't threatening.

Someone who doesn't ask questions. Above all, someone who . . . Where was I?


The strangest thing happened when I got to work. There was a man sitting at my desk, and rifling through my drawers.

I said, “Can I help you?”

He said, “Sainso! Mate! Gidday, as you Kiwis say! Haw, haw!”

I said, “What?”

He said, “Mate! Sainso! It's me, Ross Dagan!”

I said, “Who?”

He said, “Haw, haw! Ross Dagan! Call me Digger Dagan, if you like!”

I said, “Why?”

He said, “I'm from Australia! That's why they made me head of news and current affairs!”

I said, “Where?”

He said, “Here! At TVNZ!”

I said, “When?”

He stood up angrily, and bounded out of the newsroom, shouting, “What's with all the questions?”


First it was the Americans. I lost count of how many consultants were flown in from the US to tell us how to make the news. The strange thing is that none of them ever had any advice on how to report the news.

Then it was the Australians.

They always got the top jobs, like the previous head of news and current affairs. Flannery someone. Or was Flannery his surname?

Came from Australia. Returned to Australia with Paul Henry to do breakfast television.

They became the one thing that everyone on TV is afraid of: History.


“Mark Sainsbury,” Digger Dagan said when he made today's announcement, “has earned a deserved place in television history.” Holmes drops me a note. Good old Paul!


That was New Zealand Close Up.

What's next for 7pm?

I looked in at the Americans and the Australians planning the replacement show.

Its working title is Light And Magaziney Entertainment, or LAME for short.

They had charts. They had figures. They had pies. One less.


Where was I? Oh yes, charts and figures.

I wondered whether they could actually read them.

» Stephen Braunias is an award-winning writer and author of four books.

The Southland Times