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Hadyn Jones is driven by the conviction that everyone has a story, writes Karen Tay .
Don't let Hadyn Jones's fresh face fool you - there's more to TVNZ's rising star than his good looks. The clean-shaven, dimpled 32-year-old (his skin is so flawless he doesn't need to wear makeup on TV) is the new kid on One News. But his CV includes reporting roles on 20/20, Holmes, Close Up and - during his OE - Canada's CBC Television where he got his break in TV.
His own story started at the Gore Ensign in Southland. That was back when he was 19, when the native Southlander - you can still hear it in his "r"s - scored a job as sports reporter after a year at Otago University.
"I was probably the last of that journalism generation who learned on the job," he reminisces with a grin. He did eventually finish his BA, then gained a graduate diploma in journalism.
While working for 20/20, Jones won a 2006 Qantas Television Award for best current affairs reporter. Although he's not a finalist this year, he is content to pass on the crown.
After all, the boy from Gore has already interviewed more famous people than most Southlanders can dream of meeting in a lifetime. He has been hang-gliding with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, and asked Nicky Watson that question about her breasts (yes, they're fake; in fact, she's on her third set of implants).
"The story idea came about over a couple of drinks on Friday night," he says. "We were kicking around [names of] people we'd like to interview and I said, 'Wouldn't it be great if we could get Matthew Ridge or Watson and they could say exactly what happened.' We decided to approach her, but on the basis that it had to be completely honest. She was happy with that. There were some things she wanted to say . . ."
Watson ended up talking about everything from her divorce to her suicide attempt. The item finished with Jones filming her and friend, ex Penthouse Pet Hayley Marie Byrnes, having their nipples pierced.
In contrast, his Qantas award-winning entry was an expose for 20/20 on drug dealers at Auckland's Grey Lynn Park. "I had a little altercation with them outside the courthouse. I won't pretend it wasn't scary. All I asked was if they were dealing drugs at Grey Lynn Park, and they were gonna try and beat me up. I had security there, or I wouldn't have asked. I don't get into fights, usually I run away!"
Jones values human interest material above celebrity gossip and hard news.
"I love telling Average Joe stories. I like stories that come from the man in the street." One example is the intriguing fan at the World Netball Championships. "I was sitting near this old woman. And I thought, 'OK, you're obviously not playing and the game hasn't started. Why are you here?' So I just bowled up and said hey."
The woman, it turned out, was no ordinary fan. "She said, 'I'm 81 years old and I've been to every world champ since 1963 and I'm the only one left in the world . . .' And there's your story."
It has been quite a change of pace going from 20/20 to the rush of the 6pm news bulletin, where lead stories can change at a moment's notice. But Jones is adamant it's where he wants to be.
"I went from Holmes to 20/20 when I was 28 or 29. I think I was the youngest guy there for a while. I missed the rush and thrill of the chase. At 20/20 you don't have that, you [can] take three weeks to investigate one thing."
So how does he get people to open up? "If you come from a position of honesty - especially if you discuss at the start what you want to address - often they'll open up a bit more because that trust has been established. It's harder on the news because you're not there for a long time."
He cites the case of Christchurch property developer Dave Henderson, whose four-year battle with the IRD has been made into the film We're Here To Help. Henderson was the subject of Jones's last 20/20 story.
"I spent a lot of time with Dave . . . he was saying he could produce evidence and then the IRD produced a report for me . . . It was hard to get my head around it."
It's a journalist's job to stay unbiased though, he reckons.
"It's not up to me to decide who's telling the truth. I just need to present both sides of the story. I don't believe that journalists go out with agendas to ruin people or to spin them one way or another. I think that's a common misconception of the public."
One News, 6pm Monday to Friday, TV One.
- Sunday Star Times