Media person of the year

One exasperated question from Morning Report presenter Guyon Espiner should live long in the political lexicon.

"Oh come on mate..." he said in a now infamous campaign interview with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

Infamous for Peters. Peerless for Espiner, who with his polite version of an FFS said what 93 percent of his listeners were thinking as the 72-year-old politician tried to argue with a key spending figure on his own party's official website, claiming it was wrong and his new number was the party policy.

Espiner's interview was one standout performance in an election year in which he was the foremost media presence - deeply informed, steeped in context and permanently incisive. 

He is my Media Person of the Year for a stellar contribution to informing the public and cutting through the spin.

His accomplishments went beyond the ratings-topping Morning Report on RNZ National. With RNZ podcast chief Tim Watkin, Espiner also created the acclaimed The Ninth Floor series of interviews with five of the six living former Prime Ministers. The most recent, Sir John Key, declined. The series, which will also run on television and has been made into a book, was notable for letting the grandees speak for themselves. Each interview was loaded with political treasure and the whole was even greater than the sum of the parts.

Espiner's enforced study of our modern political history for The Ninth Floor reinforced his direct personal experience as a former press gallery reporter and political editor for a good part of the 28 years covered by the series.

Listeners were the beneficiaries as he, and his first-class co-host Susie Ferguson, made Morning Report essential listening in an extraordinary election year.

And Espiner's commitment to using te reo proudly and fully, criticised late in the year by Don Brash among others, underlined RNZ's policy to reflect this place and its people.

Runners Up:

Patrick Gower, Newshub political editor:  the year started with mock 'I'm voting for Paddy Gower' T-shirts for sale online and ended with his retirement from one of the media's most important political jobs. In between, Gower saw things early and helped the public see what was really going on, sometimes before politicians themselves had fixed on their intended outcomes. He was outstanding in his biggest gig yet, moderating Newshub's leaders' debate between Bill English and Jacinda Ardern with customary colour, humour and aplomb. He is getting out on top.

Olivia Carville, NZME, for her leading role in the Herald's Breaking the Silence series highlighting the country's appalling rate of suicide and lack of progress in addressing causes due to a failed academic and legal loyalty to suppressing public information on the deaths. Moving and compelling stories.

Martin van Beynen, and his Stuff.co.nz colleagues, for a runaway hit podcast series Black Hands, in which the journalist talks his way through the Bain family mass murder and trials and eventual freedom of David Bain. The podcasts caught the attention of a global audience, sitting near the top of charts in the UK and Australia. History told as drama.

Mihingarangi Forbes and the team at The Hui, the current affairs programme running on Three, for their work telling the harrowing stories of a group of Māori men who were dreadfully abused while in state care; one of the long-term national scandals that look now to be headed for a proper public inquiry. Also notable is Forbes' excellent work on the documentary Stories of Ruapekapeka, a collaboration between RNZ and Great Southern TV with NZ on Air.

* Journalists at Newsroom.co.nz have for obvious reasons been left off this list - but Melanie Reid's repeated big scoops this year would put her on any detached observer's list of major journalistic achievements in 2017.

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