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Career

Corin Dann on his move to Morning Report with Susie Ferguson and the tough times the duo has already faced together

It’s a new dawn for this morning radio star.

By Julie Jacobson
March was one of the toughest months broadcaster Susie Ferguson has faced in her many years on radio.
Similarly, former TVNZ political journalist Corin Dann, who has just started co-hosting duties opposite Susie on Radio New Zealand's flagship Morning Report, endured a harrowing few weeks.
Both were in Christchurch, but for very different reasons – Susie (41) to cover the unfolding tragedy of the mosque terror attack and Corin (44) back in his home town dealing with his own heartbreak, the death of his much-loved mother Marg.
As the duo – who despite being two of the country's top broadcasters had never previously crossed paths – prepare for the Weekly's photo shoot, Corin talks of walking past armed police at Christchurch Hospital in the days after the shootings to be with his mother who had been diagnosed just six weeks previously with an aggressive cancer.
Corin is excited to join Susie in the Morning Report hot seat
Marg died on April 6, the last three weeks spent at home surrounded by her family.
At the same time, Scottish-born Susie – whose six years reporting from war zones, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone is the stuff of media legend – was also in the city, close to tears on numerous occasions as she spoke to distraught relatives and emergency workers.
"You have to do your absolute best for the listeners, but at the same time you're dealing with highly emotive and disturbing information," she says.
"It's not like war reporting, but I suppose it's the closest I've come since I arrived in New Zealand.
"The way I approach stuff like that is: you go, you give it your best shot, you're in it heart, boots and all. There's also an awareness that while you're there you are living it, but you also have the privilege of being able to walk away from it.
"There's a curious period afterwards when you come out of those full-on crisis situations. There's a moment of calm and then you're hit by the storm. I do a lot of sleeping and I do a lot of crying, and then I steady the ship and move on. You'd have to be a stone to talk to people in these situations and not feel anything."
Corin knows the feeling well. His 30-year career has seen him cover the Boxing Day tsunami, Pike River and, like Susie, the Christchurch earthquakes.
"Those experiences are emotionally exhausting," he says.
"You have to focus 100 per cent on the moment, so you can't just be the person in the studio. You have to go there as a human being and, yeah, you crash big-time when you get back from those."
That pressure to do their absolute best – whether they are interviewing politicians or school principals – weighs on both broadcasters.
It's something Susie, who is out of bed at precisely 4.07am each day and in the Wellington studio by 4.45am, tries to mitigate with regular yoga classes.
She has been with the show for five years, bar the six weeks of medical leave she took when she had a hysterectomy after enduring years of endometriosis.
"It's a strangely demanding job. It's not physically demanding, but it seems like you're running a marathon every day."
The mother of two is in bed by 8.30pm every night "so I don't feel like I've been run over by a bus in the morning".
Meanwhile, father of three Corin is swapping a once-weekly trip to Auckland to present TVNZ's Q&A for a punishing daily regime of clocking in before sunrise.
He's both excited and apprehensive, with the move marking a return to RNZ – he began his career at the station 20 years ago as a cadet sports reporter.
"Morning Report is the best broadcasting gig in the country, without doubt. It's New Zealand's show. I'm super-excited. But, like television, there is this expectation to perform. It doesn't matter if you wake up with a cold or whatever, you've got to perform every morning. It definitely has the potential to keep me awake at night – it's a big responsibility."
Of his new co-host, he says, "She's a fantastic broadcaster, and a brilliant journalist and interviewer. Like most of the country, I feel like I know her to a degree because I've woken up with her every morning."
While Susie's departing co-host, Guyon Espiner, was based in Auckland, Corin will be in Wellington alongside Susie. They're not sure how suited they'll be to "cohabiting".
"I think, in the nicest possible way," Susie says, "it will be slightly weird at first because my normal is that I sit in a box on my own and now there's going to be someone else there."
"Yeah," adds Corin, "and I'm going to be super-annoying."
"Oh great, so am I," counters Susie, as they are ushered into the studio for photos.
Corin makes himself comfortable before asking his new workmate if she has her own chair.
"Yes, you're in it," she says with a grin.
And then, because it's almost midday, the conversation turns to food. Corin reminisces about the in-house café that served roast lunches and a generous cheese scone.
It's gone, but you can eat in the studio, Susie suggests, before they move on to the eating habits of various Morning Report alumni. Geoff Robinson was renowned for drinking Bovril, Sean Plunket liked a good pie, Gary Ahern was a connoisseur of lamingtons...
The discussion wraps with a question about their dream interview subject. Susie chooses "real people, interesting people in amazing situations".
"Bob Dylan," says Corin after some thought.
"He's notoriously contrarian and he doesn't like being interviewed."

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