Broadcasting icon Paul Norris dies

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 12:39 14/02/2014
Paul Norris
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BROADCASTING ICON: Paul Norris

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The head of the New Zealand Broadcasting School (NZBS) has described the late Paul Norris as an ''impressive intellect'' with a great sense of humour.

Norris, a well-respected media commentator and a former head of news at TVNZ, died in Christchurch this morning after a long illness.

Tony Simons, the head of the NZBS at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, said Norris brought considerable experience with him when he started there in 1996.

''We were both appointed at the same time [and] worked alongside each other. He had an impressive intellect. I respected him immensely,'' he said.

Simons, who became head of the NZBS after Norris, said he would remember him most ''for the great knowledge he brought to the school''.

''The research he did and the public work he did on behalf of the school did a lot to raise our profile over the last 10 to 20 years,'' he said.

''He always fought for there to be free and accessible public space in broadcast media and increasingly in online media [and] he was instrumental in getting television cameras into courts in New Zealand.''

A lot of students, however, might remember him for ''one of his favourite lectures'' - one that he always gave to new undergraduate broadcasting students: ''The words you are not allowed to say on radio or television.''

''He didn't hand out the list. He actually read it out to the students - dramatically. You can imagine this serious [tutor], that the students are somewhat fearful of, doing this.''

Norris retired with ailing health last year and his career was celebrated in an event for staff and students co-organised by NZBS tutor Ruth Zanker.

Zanker said: ''It was extraordinary that as soon as word got out, we were contacted by former colleagues from the BBC, SBS Australia and TVNZ.''

Judy Bailey and Jim Hickey were among the journalists, presenters and researchers who offered tributes via video and in person.

Newstalk ZB mornings host Chris Lynch said this morning that Norris was ''a true gentleman'' who encouraged him at broadcasting school.

''He was well liked and a respected man and he'll be missed. Paul was the man who kick-started Holmes' television career and looked after TVNZ news in the good days of television of Judy and Richard and the team,'' he said.

Norris, originally from Timaru, completed an MA in History at the University of Canterbury before reading philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University.

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In England, he worked at Fleet Street paper the Sunday Express before getting a foot in the door at the BBC.
Well-respected at the BBC he eventually became a founding member of news and current affairs programme Newsnight.

Norris returned to New Zealand in 1987 to take become director of news and current affairs at TVNZ, where he paired newsreader Judy Bailey with Richard Long - a partnership that would last 15 years.

Paul then became head of the NZBS, ran media seminars in Christchurch and contributed to industry debates around media ethics before ill health forced his retirement last year.

Among the students Norris taught are Jack Tame, Matt McLean, Ruth Wynn-Williams and Rebecca Edwards.

Christchurch City Councillor Ali Jones, a former broadcaster, said Norris was extremely supportive in a professional capacity.

''He was someone that I would ask questions of and get advice from when I first started in television 20 odd years ago,'' she said.

''I had huge respect for him.''

VIDEO: PAUL NORRIS INTERVIEW

- The Press

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