Newshub’s Melissa Davies and Tom McRae’s night of terror in Paris

The news presenters’ friendship was forged under siege in Paris.

Looking back, Tom McRae and Melissa Davies both agree they have a lot to thank a glass of French red for.

Sitting in a Parisian restaurant across the street from their hotel, the pair – who at the time were foreign correspondents for Newshub – enjoyed their first ever conversation over a bottle of France’s finest – and boy, did they have a lot to talk about.

“It’s not quite what it sounds,” chuckles Tom (35). “We were there reporting a terror attack!”

“And Tom had a very special set of skills…” adds Melissa (34), laughing.

In fact, their first real meeting had come after one of the most frightening nights of their lives, when the duo became caught up in a wave of panic in Paris.

Just hours after terrorists attacked multiple locations in the French capital, both Melissa and Tom were standing by in separate locations to cross live to The Paul Henry show, when reports of a gunman in the area caused mayhem.

However, it was this terrifying shared experience that helped them into their roles as weekend news presenters on Three.

“I think that’s probably why they sent us to Paris, to see how we would get on. I mean, if we can get on over there, we can get on in a studio!” says Tom.

In fact, the two had never met each other until they were both sent to the city to cover the devastating attacks, which left 137 dead. Melissa, as the Europe Correspondent, was dispatched immediately from London. And after news bosses realised how big the disaster was, they sent Australia Correspondent Tom, too.

“It was almost a trial for the job we have now,” he says. “It was, I guess, a bit of a test?”

Melissa and Tom now present the weekend news together.

After only five hours on the ground, a jetlagged Tom took up his place in a square filled with mourners and memorials for the victims, while Melissa was a couple of blocks over in front of the Bataclan Theatre.

“I was doing a live cross with Paul Henry, and all of a sudden, I could just feel these people running past me,” she recalls. “The producer in the live truck was telling me to stop, that there was a gunman in the area.

“I just had to say, ‘We’ll be back soon – something’s going on and we need to leave.’ I ran to the truck and then I thought, ‘They can shoot through a truck’, so I ran to a hotel. I had no idea what was happening.

“I sent my mum a text, and told her not to worry and that I loved her. I don’t know if thought, ‘I’m going to die’, but it did make me think about what’s important.

“Eventually, when it emerged it had been a false alarm, we got back to the hotel and I realised Tom had been in the thick of it.”

Shaken up, Tom and Melissa decided they needed to calm down before carrying on with work, so they walked to a café and poured themselves a wine.

“I think we realised it was more important to have a glass of French red – that was the priority!” Tom says. “It was probably the first proper conversation we’d ever had.

“It made us, I don’t know, ‘bond’ sounds so cheesy… It gave us something to talk about, that’s for sure!”

Now, two years after the pair returned to New Zealand and took on their weekend news anchoring roles as well as weekday reporting, Tom and Melissa have forged a firm friendship. Having moved back at the same time, the duo found themselves going through the same challenges – and both were new to news presenting.

“There’s a photo up in the newsroom of us on our first day. We thought we were cool, calm and collected,” Tom begins, before Melissa adds, “But we look terrified!”

They both say their connection helps them with their roles.

Melissa tells, “You can’t fake a friendship – people would see it a mile away.”

Adds Tom, “I think we’re quite similar in what we aspire to in that we see ourselves as reporters, not just people who sit behind a desk.”

And, they’ve both enjoyed settling back into life in Auckland, despite the fact that weekend news reporting does tend to put a bit of a dampener on nights out.

“I have a young son – I don’t have a social life anyway!” Tom smiles, adding that he and Melissa, and their respective partners, get along famously outside of work.

“My little boy is obsessed with Melissa’s partner’s beard, so over summer I had a couple of weeks off and I decided to give it a nudge. I came up embarrassingly short!”

“I think we were impressed with what growth you did have!” Melissa laughs, who has just happily announced her engagement.

“That’s very kind of you,” Tom replies. “I’m glad I have that on the record!”

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