Interview with AAP New Zealand Correspondent, Ben McKay
Ben McKay is the New Zealand Correspondent at the Australian Associated Press. Medianet sat down with Ben to discuss his career in the Australian media industry prior to his arrival in the New Zealand media industry.
Tell me a bit about what your day-to-day work is like as a New Zealand Correspondent for AAP...
Never a dull day! As AAP's New Zealand Correspondent my broad brief is anything that's interesting to Australians in New Zealand: so that's politics, courts, news, wild weather, sport, and the odd bird or earthquake story. I'm based in the Press Gallery in Wellington's Parliament House, so there's a focus on Kiwi politics - and plenty of Australia's favourite politician: Jacinda Ardern. But AAP gets out and about for Bledisloe Cups or Waitangi Day or the odd trip into the Pacific. It's a dream gig.
Is it lonely work at times, or do you still have enough camaraderie with other New Zealand journalists or your colleagues in Australia?
As the only Australian journalist for an Aussie outlet in New Zealand, the long stretches of border closures felt very real over the past two years, but the Kiwis pride themselves on their 'manaakitanga' (meaning hospitality), so I've been well cared for by the Press Gallery whanau (meaning family). Kiwis are deeply generous.
Is there a highlight from your time working in New Zealand or a particular experience/story that has stuck with you that you could share?
I'll never forget covering the sentencing of the Christchurch Mosques terrorist in 2020, which took four days as the NZ justice system allows for lengthy sentencing processes where victims give impact statements. I was dreading the grief overload - and sitting in court with the terrorist. But so many victims found delivering their statements to be a life-affirming, powerful process - it was incredible to witness. There were spontaneous celebrations in the streets when he was sentenced to life without parole. You'll never find a more incredible group of humans than the March 15 survivors and families.
What's something that has surprised you or that you've learnt about New Zealand culture or their media landscape?
Two things: Kiwis shorten Australia the place to Aussie, so they'll say "I went over to Aussie for the weekend" and it always grates to hear given an Australian would never say that. And despite the reputation, All Blacks-mania is overhyped. Rugby is definitely the biggest sport, but actually I would say the national passion is bushwalking, or as they call it, tramping. With such beautiful wilderness on the doorstep, Kiwis are always out and about - and in terrible weather too.
What are you looking for in a story pitch or press release? How do you decide what stories are important to share through AAP with an Australian audience?
Obvious news values, Australian angles & access to talent. Generally AAP isn't looking to fill space with odd spots or human interest, but I'm always happy to connect with people who know what they're talking about. I'll always read your email.