BY ETHAN GRIFFITHS

He started as a teenager, writing stories for none other than TEARAWAY itself. At 17, he woke up early one morning a week to appear on TVNZ’s Breakfast programme with Paul Henry and Pippa Wetzell. Years later, he’s one of TVNZ’s most well-known and successful journalists, working for the Sunday programme and hosting his own show- a six part series on DUKE called The Inside Word, focusing on mental health. I took a break from my Netflix based routine and had a chat with one of TEARAWAY‘s most well known alumnus.

Jehan grew up as a teenager in Lower Hutt. His father was a journalist in his home of Sri Lanka, and Jehan grew up with news in his blood. “I’ve always loved the news. I grew up in a household where we were always talking about what was happening in the world.”

Jehan has always had a fascination with the news, he tells me, but more so the story behind the news rather than the news itself. “I wanted to climb into peoples lives and find out what made them tick.”

And do just that he did. At 10 years old, Jehan was writing letters to editors of papers all over the country, commenting on what was in the news and making sure that the views of young people were heard.

At 13, a young Jehan whose voice was still indistinguishable from a female of the same age, contacted a youth television programme wanting to report for the show. He was swiftly turned away. Jehan did what any other 13 year old would and then contacted the producer of New Zealand’s top television show, Holmes. They took him on board, and his first story was introduced by Paul Holmes, who accidentally identified Jehan as a ‘her’ on live TV.

At 14, in the year 2004, Jehan officially kicked off his print journalism career with us, right here at TEARAWAY. Jehan headed TEARAWAY‘s coverage of the 2005 election between Don Brash and Helen Clark.

At 16, the New Zealand Herald published his first major report, an investigation into the Ministry of Youth Development. “It was a struggle. At sixteen, no one took you seriously. I wanted to talk about issues relating to young people because I felt those issues weren’t being covered at all by the mainstream media.”

Jehan would write pieces for newspapers across the country, often sending them without detailing his age. “I would get responses like ‘no you’re not qualified’ or ‘no you don’t have enough experience,’ but I never ever took ‘no’ for an answer, I kept pushing.”

Print media wasn’t his only success. By 17, with no official journalism degree and still at school, the producer at TVNZ’s Breakfast programme gave a youthful Jehan a weekly slot at 7:20am with hosts Paul Henry and Pippa Wetzell. Jehan would discuss everything from youth affairs to what affected youth politically.

“I would take the train into Wellington at 5:30am on a Tuesday morning and I was on air with Paul Henry at 7:20, and then I would get changed into my school uniform and head off to school… Looking back on it, my teachers were always very supportive, my school mates found it quite bizarre. I would arrive at school in the morning and they would say, ‘saw you on TV this morning,’ but other than that, no one really knew what I was up to. I had my own thing going on.”

Jehan (left) on the set of his latest show, The Inside Word. Image supplied.

From 2006 to 2010, Jehan laid low for a while, doing some freelance work and studying for his Bachelor of Arts majoring in International Relations and Public Policy from Victoria University.

From 2010, Jehan was employed straight out of uni, as a reporter on Mark Sainsbury’s Close Up show and after it was axed, moved to Seven Sharp. In 2016, Jehan became a reporter on the country’s leading current affairs and investigative journalism programme, Sunday on TVNZ 1.

One of Jehan’s most well known stories was his visit to Gloriavale in 2015. He was the first journalist to interview the founder of Gloriavale, the late Hopeful Christian (formerly Neville Cooper), a convicted sex offender. “I spent a night inside Gloriavale with my cameraman and we were given pretty good access to speak to the people living there and explore the piece of land… It was surreal. It was another world. Just as sheltered as you’d think it would be”

Not only did Jehan enter Gloriavale as a journalist, he also covered the aftermath of the 2014 Sydney siege, arguably the closest form of extremist terrorism Australia and New Zealand have witnessed in years. He’s covered stories interviewing teenagers dying from cancer, to the fight for legalised medicinal marijuana in New Zealand, and grilled high ranking officials for their perceived lack in working to reduce our large suicide rate. “Regularly I find myself in peoples homes, and I feel really privileged to have been let in.”

Not only has Jehan been a leading journalist on the Sunday programme, over the last few weeks his show The Inside Word has been broadcast on TVNZ’s DUKE channel. The show focuses on high profile Kiwis and their experience with mental health and struggles in their lives. The six-part series was released in full on TVNZ OnDemand in April, and the final episode aired on DUKE last Sunday. “I was really keen to create conversations around mental health that weren’t about particular conditions, but more about the bigger life challenges that we all face. I hoped the series starts to shift the way we think about mental health, and I think its done that.”

On the success of the show, Jehan says the response has been difficult to comprehend. “I’ve had people coming up to me on the street saying, ‘Hey, I’ve been watching the show and I’ve found it really encouraging.’ I’m really stoked with how its gone.”

On journalism as a whole, Jehan says he’s never let anything hold him back. “The biggest piece of advice I would give to anyone is never ever let anyone tell you no… I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the fact I kept pushing.”

 

You can watch all six episodes of The Inside Word now on TVNZ OnDemand and catch Jehan on Sunday at 7pm on TVNZ 1.

 

Young, passionate and a wannabe babysitter for Jacinda’s baby, Ethan won’t stop talking about politics. Likes a bit of cricket, wearing trendy ties and is in love with Jeff the purple wiggle.

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