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Prime Ministers on The Project

10 February, 2020

A comparison of Waleed Aly’s interviews with Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack.

The recent terror attack in Christchurch has created fevered political discussions around the role of our leaders. One of Australia’s most prominent commentators Waleed Aly provided the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand an opportunity to discuss the event in two separate exclusive interviews on The Project.

An analysis of the conversation on Twitter found that most viewers highly rated New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s interview and were critical of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s performance.

Yet, there were also alternate voices that questioned Aly’s agenda and suggested that he ‘set Scott Morrison up’.

While we must take into account the very different context surrounding each interview, Mediaverse took a close look at the style of each interview and how that influenced viewer perception.

Use of chairs 

Mediaverse Blog Feature Images (11)-min

The Project provided Morrison with a chair that had arms and a notable backward lean. As a result, he spent most of his interview leaning back or awkwardly leaning on one of the chair’s arms with his legs crossed. This made him appear indifferent and like he wasn’t taking the interview seriously. Aly maintained upright posture throughout the entire interview and seldom moved his body, giving the sense that he was the one leading the conversation.

In contrast, Ardern was in a chair with a much straighter back and appeared to lean forward rather than backward. However, this didn’t really matter anyway, as the majority of the interview focused closely on her and Aly’s faces, taking the chair out of the equation completely.

Interestingly, it was reported that Channel 10 staff scrambled to find suitable chairs as the PM’s office only gave final approval early that afternoon.

Edited vs. unedited

The Morrison interview was a 40 minute live, unedited ‘raw’ exposition of character, while Arden’s moment in the hot seat was heavily edited and ran for a third of the time. Morrison and Aly were the only voices to be heard in their interview, whereas Arden’s was overlaid with soft and sentimental music that really tugged on the heartstrings of the audiences.

Of course there were issues that Morrison specifically had to address, and Arden entered her interview from a very different position. However, any comparison of the two interviews needs to be tempered with an acknowledgement of the influence of body language and editing in addition to the questions themselves.

Putting aside individual political views, these factors played a significant role in how The Project was influencing audiences to perceive each leader.

It also raises questions around how the interviews have legitimised The Project as a serious current affairs vehicle further straying from its original magazine style format.

Maybe the budget reply speech in the not too distant future?



Image credits
Heading image: Photo provided by the New Zealand government.
Body image: AAP Image/Martin Hunter

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