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Veteran inspires the next generation of journalists

15 May, 2024

“You’ve chosen an incredible career,” said Newshub journalist Karen Rutherford to a roomful of second-year students at the New Zealand Broadcasting School (NZBS).

“You wake up in the morning and you’re not sure where you’re going to work that day. When I was recently in Christchurch to cover the Port Hills fire, I was talking to the cameraman and he said he had no idea he would be getting up close and personal with a whale that same day,” she said, referring to news coverage of the stranded whale in Moncks Bay in January.


The former NZBS student had the “best years of my life at NZBS,” she said, reflecting on working long hours on her journalism projects with other students, on biking through an icy Hagley Park on her way to Ara on winter mornings, and on meeting so many interesting people.

“We as journalists are just so lucky in this job. The contacts you’ll make and the experiences you’ll have are extraordinary. And no two days are ever alike.”

Besides Newshub, Rutherford has also worked for TVNZ and Sky News. She served as Chief of Staff for Newshub for ten years and as a news presenter for Sky. Now, she’s based in Cambridge and covers the whole of the central North Island by using new technologies and a late-model iPhone to film and edit the entire story for both live and recorded broadcasts.

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“It comes pretty darn close to a real camera,” Rutherford explained, demonstrating to the students how stabilisers attached to both ends of the cell phone can be used to pan the phone, as you would a television camera.

“You’ll never be able to replicate the craftsmanship and imagery you get with a big broadcast camera, but for fast, agile breaking news there is a place for mobile journalism.

“With this technology, we can make beautiful television while being incredibly mobile, agile and getting it out fast. This is probably what you’re all going to be using in your jobs. This is the future.”

Jeff Hampton, NZBS journalism tutor who also worked with Rutherford at Three News, said he invited the leading-edge journalist to speak to his students because “she’s one of the best journalists in the country.”

“She’s a real newshound through and through and has worked on so many big stories, like the disappearance of the Waikato man Tom Phillips and his family, the capsizing of the

fishing charter vessel Enchanter with the loss of five lives and the subsequent trial, and many more. She’s a master of a well-crafted script but is also great with people, so she knows how to gain people’s trust and get them to share their stories with her.”

Hampton said he thought it was important to get Rutherford in front of the journalism class to hear from her first-hand, see some of her stories, and watch her use her kit.

“Her enthusiasm rubbed off on the class and she got some of them to do live crosses which were sent up to the master control room at Newshub. A great day all round.”

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Journalism student Holly Grundy loved Rutherford’s presentation. “She was awesome. I think she’s the best guest we’ve had and she was so interesting. It’d be good to have her back again.”

While Rutherford agreed it was an uncertain time for media in New Zealand at the moment, she also affirmed to the students that they will adapt to the changing dynamics of broadcasting with their strong grounding in journalism and their ability to use changing technologies.

“Make something that people will want to watch,” she said. “What we do is a craft, so make it beautiful.”