Apart from the core of AUT student journalists, radio and TV students and staff who had ditched their mid-semester break to come along to be challenged, inspired - and even entertained - by Fisky, there were academics, civil rights activists and many others. Robert Fisk was in NZ for a promotional tour for his latest book, The Age of the Warrior.
The AUT booking was thanks to Amnesty International. The lecture theatre (chosen for its intimacy and which normally seats 160 people) was packed out with at least another 40 or 50 people for the hour-long lunch date. Just as well there were no health and safety hawks drifting around. Fisk was at his inspirational best - it's quite extraordinary to see a journalist having such a cult following. Many editors were sighted in the audience, including the NZ Herald's former editor-in-chief Gavin Ellis, who chose the AUT rather than his own University of Auckland bash, which was charging $25 a head for a Fisk Amnesty fundraiser.
Fisk had plenty of gems on offer for his audience including anecdotes about his contempt for how the internet has become "a system of hate". Scolding media for not reporting the full truth about the Middle East, he also had some advice for the neophite journos that wouldn't go down too well with either the digital natives or the digital grandstanders:
- "Write only for newspapers, which print what you write as you write it".
- "Get on a good relationship with a trustworthy editor. If you can't find the right newspaper in New Zealand - and I can imagine what you might reply to me - look elsewhere."
- "Don't go into blogging, it doesn't work. It doesn't have the integrity that the printed paper has - you won't get into mainstream journalism that way, anyway."
- "Don't refer to the mainstream press as the mainstream press."
- "Don't waste your time writing for the alternative press because it is only read by believers."
- "Challenge your government."
- PMC photographer Alan Koon captured Te Waha Nui editor James Murray (top right) joining the believers at the book signing after he had seized an earlier moment to video the scribe in full force.
- Pacific Media Centre's Melissa Fidow's audio report
- PMC Katie Llanos-Small's profile on Robert Fisk
- PMC photo gallery on Fisk
- Other Fisk reports
- Only the internet can stop Robert Fisk