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Stuff dives into live broadcasting for Election Night

StopPress spoke to Stuff’s head of video, Carol Hirschfeld, about what audiences can expect from the news media website’s live election broadcast this Saturday.

Stuff was the second screen of choice last election, and this year – as well as offering coverage people can dip in and out of – the live broadcast will present audiences with multimedia-driven, digital coverage to watch from 7pm, until the election result is announced.

Hirschfeld is spearheading Stuff’s dive into live broadcasting, harnessing the skills and experiences Stuff already have within the company – experienced broadcasters, political specialists, data journalists and designers.

This is exciting new territory for Stuff, and will present audiences with a compelling digital alternative to traditional linear TV. 

“It’s a really exciting initiative for us. We have a live blog that is extremely well read on election night, so by having a livestream hosted coverage it’s really bringing that text to life,” Hirschfeld says.

“People can connect with us via mobile, desktop or Chromecast to their TV screens. We’re across just about anything that our audience wants to be on, and a lot of people won’t necessarily be in front of a linear TV, so I think we’re a supremely good option.”

So what will it look like?

Stuff will have a team broadcasting live from its Auckland office. This will be anchored by political specialist and Sunday Star-Times editor Tracy Watkins, as well as Stuff senior journalist and experienced broadcaster Ali Mau.

“We’re going to harness the incredible skill base we’ve got at Stuff; people like Adam Dudding and Eugene Bingham who have been doing a podcast on the campaign will also be part of that presenting team on the night.

“We’ve got an absolutely top-notch gallery team headed by our political editor Luke Malpass, and anyone who is a regular reader of Stuff will know how this team has excelled over this campaign. I’m really excited that we’re able to not only read what they have to tell us, but they will be able to talk directly to the audience on the night. It is the youth, vigour and insight of that team that in many ways sets our political reporting apart.

“We are in this enviable position of having reporters all over New Zealand and we’ve identified the key seats we will be connecting with on the night, as well as having a range of commentators and different reporters actually coming into our Auckland offices where we’ll be hosting our live broadcast.”

Watkins and Mau will be joined by a diverse range of guests and will provide interactive analysis as the results come in.

These guests include Verity Johnson, Massey University associate professor Grant Duncan, The Sunday Star-Times op-ed writer Damien Grant, Auckland Pride Festival’s director of pride and former Green Party member Max Tweedie, as well as lecturer in pacific studies, teacher and writer for E-Tangata, Emmaline Pickering-Martin.

Add to that the fact that Stuff will go deeper in the regions than any other media outlet, this live broadcast will be something special.

Stuff will be crossing live to reporters out in the field – their gallery team will be reporting from the HQs of all the main parties and will also have a presence in the regions, covering key local seats. 

The reporting team is also using innovative wireless technology to facilitate field interviews, removing the need for camera crews and bulky gear. This means they can be agile while still producing quality footage and audio.

That technology, Blinder, has been co-founded by New Zealander Caley Wilson.

“It’s a pretty simple means by which you can speak with people quite immediately through sending a link, as opposed to downloading an app. Blinder has been used in other TV productions recently; during lockdown Sky TV made a programme called Isolation Nation using Blinder technology, so we’re feeling pretty good about using something that is co-founded by a Kiwi.”

Lastly, Stuff will feature parts of the Māori TV livestream, meaning they can feature meaningful coverage of key Māori seats.

“We’ve had a very good and close relationship with Māori TV over the campaign. We’ve been carrying their live debates for those key Māori seats, so this is just an extension of that relationship. It’s a means by which we can really give value added and depth in terms of our coverage by making sure that we can take some of their expertise and fold it into our election night special as well.”

As for the morning after?

“What you will see is not just through Stuff but the different mastheads up and down the country – The Dominion Post, The Press, The Waikato Times – just the best follow-up coverage for the night, complemented by probably the best photo round up that you will see. Very few organisations have the strength in numbers that Stuff has across the country in terms of reporting. We’ve got a huge team out on the night, so without a doubt [the audience]will get the most comprehensive coverage on the morning after.

“I’m really excited about being able to showcase our reporters in a different way. It’s very different when you have people who are normally involved in storytelling in terms of written text actually also being able to talk very directly to a story, so for me it’s really thrilling to watch those reporters have another string to their bow in terms of the way that they can communicate and tell their stories.”

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