Some children ask for a specific cake. Others want goodie bags. But when Mitch McCann turned five, he had one unusual request for his birthday party – a current affairs quiz.
"That's a bit weird, right?" laughs Newshub's first-ever US correspondent. "I probably even told mum the questions I wanted her to ask so I would win it!"
It was this early love for news that shaped Ashburton-born Mitch, who "all through school" knew exactly what he wanted to do.
Now based in New York with wife Olivia Schwass, the 28-year-old has covered a number of international events, including the death of Queen Elizabeth II. In fact, they had only just moved from Auckland to the US for Mitch's new role when he got the call-up to hurry to Balmoral Castle.
"We'd been in New York two weeks when the Queen died," he tells. "So I left Olivia dossing on my friend's couch while I went off to Scotland. It was such a whirlwind start to cover this sombre, unforgettable occasion."
Since then, the couple – who have been together for 12 years – have settled into a tiny apartment in an old tenement building in Manhattan's East Village. At first, Mitch admits he was a little worried Olivia might feel like she was a passenger on his adventure.
"But she's fallen in love with the city too, and has found work managing the Rodd & Gunn store in Dumbo, Brooklyn," says Mitch, chatting to the Weekly while home in New Zealand briefly for his sister's wedding.
"So we've both ended up working for Kiwi companies in New York. Singer Shawn Mendes is rumoured to live in the apartment building above her store, so she's waiting for him to pop in."
The biggest challenge so far for Mitch has been adjusting to working solo and setting up his own camera shots, often in the dark.
"I wouldn't say it's been easy to set up the camera with my lights, and hoping I'm in focus and that all my microphones are working. But I'm embracing it.
"It's interesting going from a working environment with so many extroverts in the newsroom to banter with, to working by yourself and learning how to navigate that. But we work with [news channel] CNN in the Warner Bros Discovery offices in New York, so I've been stocking up on Whittaker's chocolate to use those to get to know new people."
Mitch says it's been nice to learn that saying he's from New Zealand has broken the ice when interviewing people.
"You never know how combative they're going to be, but when they find out we're not American media, they're actually very friendly to me. I went to a Trump rally recently, and supporters were very interested in New Zealand, why we were there and our political system."
Likewise, it always amazes him how interested Kiwis are in US politics too.
"The US elections next year are going to be fascinating and I think it's too early to write off Donald Trump," shares Mitch. "When we travelled around the country, it was eye-opening to see how much support he still had. He manages to avoid everything that comes his way, whether it's scandals or prosecutions.
"We also went to an African Methodist Episcopal Church in Savannah, Georgia, which was holding a campaign rally for a local senator. The church, more than 100 years old, with elderly black pastors and old gospel sermons, and there's American filmmaker Spike Lee! I was like, 'What is Spike Lee doing in the middle of Georgia, hearing them talk about abortion laws?' There are some surreal moments. It's definitely been the wildest six months of my life."
Now, as Mitch makes a home in one of the world's most fast-paced cities, he and Olivia are looking to move to Brooklyn for a bit more space so they can have Kiwi friends and family to stay. This includes his 81-year-old nana Val Cranfield, who has been a proud cheerleader of her grandson's media career.
"So I got this mail in New York and Nana had cut out recent magazine articles on [news presenters] Melissa Chan-Green and Sam Hayes for me to read," smiles Mitch.
"Once when I was an anchor on the 6pm news, she came up to Auckland and I showed her around the newsroom. And then I couldn't find her. But she'd found Melissa and was having a yarn, telling Mel how cute her son was!"
Your first TV job was as a reporter for The Paul Henry Show – what was that like?
It was such a great experience. I used to get out and do the "Nine in 10" segment, giving away a spa pool. I never knew what Paul was going to say on-air. I'd be doing a live cross and he's telling me to do sprints to rubbish bins. He was very kind to junior reporters.
What's your favourite "only in America" moment so far?
Each year, New York attracts thousands of spectators to the Halloween Dog Parade, in Tompkins Square. It wasn't for work, but I took my camera to have a look. There were dogs dressed as King Charles at his coronation and Dolly Parton. It was amazing.
Share your experience of what a Trump rally is like?
Well, at the start it's quite fun, like an A&P show. There's '80s music playing, everyone around my parents' age are dancing, there's food trucks. It's like a full-on festival. Then Trump's plane flies in. It's fun until you hear the speeches.
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