Howson breaks his own rules – duds his listeners

Opinion from Peter Saxon

Last Sunday, after his shift, before the microphone barely had a chance to cool in the 3AW studio, following his heated altercation with Julian Assange’s mother, John-Michael Howson went up Collins Street to the gay and lesbian community station, JOY 94.9, where this time he was to be the subject of an interview.

He was the guest of the infinitely more composed Dean Beck, who was, at the time, oblivious to the battle his subject had fought just minutes before.

Howson, in turn was oblivious to the fact that he would soon be suspended. Nor could he have foreseen the eruption in the media, much of it ‘friendly fire’ from Neil Mitchell and Derryn Hinch, fellow presenters at his own station,.

Howson had calmed down considerably as he settled in behind the guest mic with a sympathetic host on the other side of the desk who had come prepared to conduct an uncritical interview about the great man’s life and times, as well as a mammoth plug for his forthcoming play “More Sex Please, We’re Seniors.”

Compared to the mighty 3AW, Joy 94.9’s audience may be small, but it is well targeted for selling a dinner, show and a bit of glamour.

deanbeck_160Clearly, here Howson was in his comfort zone, speaking candidly with the genial Beck (left), as he unwittingly hoist himself on his own petard, explaining the interviewing style that had sustained him all his professional life.

“If you’d done your research. If you go in well informed and pleasant, pleasant, [Howson said it twice for emphasis] you will get a lot out of people. They will open up in areas you never expected.

“I didn’t go in there with any guile. I wasn’t out to ‘get’ anybody. And I think some people today think that they have to go in and get somebody – that they’re not really doing a good job unless they embarrass somebody… or they castrate them. But I don’t like that. I mean I don’t want it to happen to me and I certainly didn’t want to do it to anybody else.

“But if you can go into people who are intensely shy – Streisand’s very shy – once you get through, and she knows that you’re not going to go for the jugular, you’ll be surprised what you get out of her,” said Howson.

Well, John-Michael Howson, you got nothing out of Christine Assange. And neither did your audience. You broke every one of your own rules. You didn’t do your research. You were out to get her. And you certainly weren’t pleasant.

But mostly, you were unprofessional. Which is surprising from an old stager like you.

Of course, you have a right to your opinion. That’s what talk radio listeners want to hear… strong opinions. But if you wanted to simply have a rant against the Assange clan and voice those opinions unopposed, Ms Assange was superflous to your needs.

By having her there, promo-ing the fact that you would be talking to her, your audience had a right to expect that they would get the opportunity to hear her side of the story even if you, and many of your listeners, are hostile to her and her son’s cause. Instead, they got nothing. You dudded them.

Further on in the hour long interview with Dean Beck , which can be heard in full, Howson waxes lyrical about freedom of speech and the right for everyone to have their say. Sadly, it seems, like so many who advocate such freedoms, it only applies to those who they agree with.




Peter Saxon