Peter Ellis story gets podcast treatment

02 Feb, 2023
An image of Peter Ellis with a diary entry next to it reading

This summer’s hit podcast Peter Ellis, the Creche Case, and Me, produced by Newsroom, came in to being with the help of podcast producer and Lecturer in the School of Communication Studies, Dr Lewis Tennant.

Topping the Apple Podcast charts since early January, the podcast draws on the rich archive of material built up by Newsroom investigative reporter Melanie Reid, most of which is previously unheard and unseen.

During the Christchurch Creche Case allegations and trial, Melanie Reid recorded many video interviews with Peter Ellis – mostly in complete secrecy. Rescuing the old analogue tapes from a skip at her then employer TV3 during its shift from analogue to digital, Reid later sought help in digitising the material and began working on a video series project in May 2022, before Ellis’s posthumous exoneration on 8 October 2022.

“Melanie Reid and Bonnie Sumner from Newsroom Investigates were convinced Peter’s story was ideal for the podcast format. My boss from my breakfast radio days recommended me to the Newsroom team as a podcast producer, and once we’d met the project moved at a pace,” says Dr Tennant.

“As a lecturer in communication studies I always stress the importance of establishing enduring relationships to our students so it was interesting to see those previous connections bear fruit this way myself.”

Dr Tennant says the podcast tells a story not just about Peter Ellis, but about New Zealand. “It’s such an important story to tell, and the podcast format allowed us to tell the story from beginning to end, in a way news reporting can't. The impact and success of a project like this is about the right timing, the benefit of hindsight, the availability of crucial resources like Melanie's hoarded tapes, and other proverbial stars aligning.

True crime and stories about miscarriages of justice frequently top podcast charts. Dr Tennant says this is in part due to the strength of podcasts as a long-form, deep-dive medium. “Retroactive explorations of high-profile events and stories have mass appeal. Podcasts range from exploitative and crass to the nuanced and investigative. Part of the appeal is helping listeners imagine the unthinkable.

“The material presented and the story told in the podcast is a testament to Peter Ellis' unwavering integrity despite the system putting him through unforgivable hell.”

Peter Ellis, the Creche Case, and Me Podcast was made by Melanie Reid: Newsroom's lead investigations editor, Lewis Tennant: Podcast producer & editor, Bonnie Sumner: Newsroom Investigates reporting team and Paul Enticott: Newsroom's Video Producer

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