Paul Norris' life celebrated

News News & events

27 Sep 2013

Judy Bailey and Jim Hickey were among the journalists, presenters and researchers who offered tributes via video and in person at an event designed to celebrate the career of CPIT New Zealand Broadcasting School (NZBS) tutor, media commentator and former head of news at TVNZ, Paul Norris, recently.

Paul, who is retiring during to illness, was immensely pleased with the event, according to NZBS tutor Ruth Zanker who was one of the organisers.

“The event was originally for staff and students. It was extrordinary that as soon as word got out, we were contacted by former colleagues from the BBC, SBS Australia and TVNZ,” she said.

Students and graduates of the NZBS presented tributes from as far away as London, acknowledging the huge contribution Paul made to media education in New Zealand.

Originally from Timaru, Paul completed an MA in History at the University of Canterbury, before reading philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University. In England, the election battle between Harold Wilson and reigning PM Sir Alec Douglas-Home fired in the young Paul a passion for TV news that would guide much of his career.

Following a stint at Fleet Street paper the Sunday Express, Paul got a foot in the door at the BBC and worked his way up in 1980 to founding member of long-running news and current affairs programme Newsnight.

In an email tribute to Paul, former Newsnight colleague, sports journalist Shaun Brown described the show as “a flagship current affairs programme that continues strongly to this day…

“The contents of the nightly programme were hotly contested by high-profile presenters seeking maximum duration for their interviews and stroppy correspondents flying in from around the world with another dramatic expose.

“Into this maelstrom of editorial grandstanding would step one Paul Norris, a diminutive and kindly figure. Using his characteristic blend of diplomacy and decisiveness he would silence the braying egos and construct a programme that blended all the talents and resources available to Newsnight. It was a masterful performance - repeated nightly,” Shaun wrote.

Paul returned to New Zealand in 1987 to take up Director of News and Current Affairs at TVNZ. There he paired primetime newsreader Judy Bailey with Richard Long — a partnership that would last 15 years — and helped recruit Paul Holmes for the top-rating show Holmes, which fulfilled his desire to make current affairs more accessible to a general audience.

Paul next turned his hand to teaching and research, becoming head of the NZ Broadcasting School at CPIT 16 years ago. He led the second year journalism class and participated with enthusiasm in the 600 and 700 levels of the degree. He ran influential media seminars in Christchurch and was in demand as speaker at media policy events around New Zealand. He contributed to industry debates around media ethics and cameras in courts and was held in high regard by media lawyers and news heads alike.

Journalists sought him out for commentary on media issues, and he wrote influential opinion pieces that fed into national media debates about the importance of public broadcasting and public funding for New Zealand programmes.