If the walls of the SBS foyer in Sydney could talk, they’d have plenty to say about the state of the world today, and even more about what it means to be human. That’s largely thanks to a weekly program called Insight which has been hosted by acclaimed journalist, Jenny Brockie since 2001.

And how did you feel when your life completely fell apart?

Panel shows are usually filled with people trying to outsmart or out-funny the person sitting next to them. They can be glib, awkward and far too easy to switch over when something better comes along.

Insight is different. If you want to understand people, their motivations, their tragedies, their histories and their lives then you can’t afford to miss it.  And tonight’s episode, “Child Warriors” is no exception. It kicks off the 2013 season with the question: what happens to children who grow up in extreme political circumstances?

On the panel: a man who grew up in an IRA family during The Troubles in Belfast, Ireland, a child solider from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army,  an American former neo-Nazi skinhead and a woman who endured a childhood under Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

On paper these four people would be nothing less than extraordinary. On television the effect is magnified – electric, devastating and absolutely un-missable.

The most incredible thing about Insight is observing the affinity that emerges between people, despite their extraordinary personal histories and circumstances. Previous episodes have pitted bikie against bikie, Syrian Australians from both sides of the political divide, cheating partners and baby boomers versus Gen Y.

There is a powerful moment played out in tonight’s episode when Deng, the Ugandan child solider and Frank, the ex-neo Nazi, admit to having been raised with the same principles of hate. Despite having once represented disparate sides of the world, politics, culture, religion, thought, philosophy – you name it – they somehow manage to meet each other, in front of a captive television audience.

On screen, the Insight space looks vast, but once inside the studio you realise how close everyone sits to each other. And that must be unnerving experience for many of Insight’s guests who find themselves sitting elbow to elbow with people of diametrically opposing views.

It’s clear that the show host Jenny Brockie is the glue holding Insight together.  She is warm and well-spoken, with a gentle and open face. These are qualities that make it easy to see why people feel comfortable divulging their most intimate details of their personal stories.  But Brockie’s questioning is also determined – each guest has an opportunity to share and will be readily cut off if they’ve gone on too long.

Research is key to the selection of the topics for each program. Brockie told The Punch she spends several days before filming each episode memorising the details of each guest’s personal story to ensure when the cameras are rolling she captures the most important aspects of their experience.

Sydney psychologist Bill Campos told The Punch, the format of Insight also contributes to people’s willingness to share their stories. “When you know that people want to listen to you and share your story, this makes it easy to feel relaxed and comfortable,” Dr Campos said.

“Sometimes when you have a specific experience to share it’s hard to talk about it if nobody else has experienced it.  A forum like Insight is encouraging because it helps you to normalise your experience and you don’t feel so hidden.”

Hidden they are definitely not. And it’s hard not to feel in awe of people who are willing to reveal not only their identity, but also some of their most painful memories for our viewing pleasure.

The results however, speak for themselves - there’s no other television show quite like it.

Insight returns to SBS ONE tonight at 8.30pm.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST

Most commented

26 comments

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    • Fre says:

      07:29am | 12/02/13

      Wow, the Punch has stooped to TT and ACA standards of blatant cross promotion.

    • Sean says:

      03:32pm | 12/02/13

      I’m with Thea. Tell me how this is cross promotion?

    • Roxanne says:

      08:14am | 12/02/13

      And the next Punch story will deal with the latest saga on Home and Away I take it?

    • Cheezldoob. says:

      11:01am | 12/02/13

      You do realise Punch articles are opinion pieces and nothing more don’t you?

      The authors could talk about their cat if they desired.

    • Roxanne says:

      01:40pm | 12/02/13

      Really Cheezldoob?  Wow!  Thanks for telling me that.  Gosh, I feel so much better now.  Looking forward to all the upcoming riveting stories on things like cake baking, how to trim puppies nails, etc. I am sure that will bring the numbers in.  But so glad to have an educated person looking down on me.  Thank you for your condesencion, I was feeling lonely and deprived, but now I feel alive!!

    • Jeff says:

      02:40pm | 12/02/13

      So Roxanne’s response to someone else’s reality check is to use ugly sarcasm? I think Cheezldoob made a good point. People don’t always recognise the difference between opinion pieces and news articles, and consequently get too worked up.

    • Thea says:

      09:08am | 12/02/13

      Its not cross-promotion…The Punch and SBS aren’t owned by the same people. And Child Soldiers is a real issue, hardly Home and Away. Sounds really interesting, Lucy.  I’ll be watching tonight.

    • Paul says:

      05:14pm | 12/02/13

      Same.  Some people need to relax

    • simonfromlakemba says:

      09:56am | 12/02/13

      Insight is a great show with some really good topics discussed. Good to see an article free from the usual dimwits that fill the other articles on a regular basis.

    • Gordon says:

      09:56am | 12/02/13

      Sounds like a great antidote to Q&A: the last word in glib, awkward and far too easy to switch over when something better comes along.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      10:26am | 12/02/13

      Is it just me or is ‘Masterchef: The Professionals’ a brilliant show or what? No sarcasm, I have a huge bro-crush on Marco. And for once we can watch actual chefs cooking, not idiots who have been told their mud cake is fantastic, why not open a cafe?

    • stephen says:

      04:54pm | 12/02/13

      It’s an excellent show.
      I only wish the contestants would talk to themselves more whilst they cook so’s the rest of us can hear what they put in their dishes.

      And Leggos’ have a new tin of peeled Italian tomatoes out in the stores and they are sensational ... but you have to strengthen up a pasta dish with a sachet of their paste as well.

    • Pattem says:

      10:55am | 12/02/13

      Media Watch is a great show, isn’t it!

    • Embarrassed says:

      02:31pm | 12/02/13

      Lucy got a mention last night!

    • Emily says:

      11:18am | 12/02/13

      Why not include someone who grew up in Communism, Eastern Europe?

    • Samantha says:

      02:13pm | 12/02/13

      Probably because there are several people who could fit into this mould of living under Oppression, they just picked these people.

    • Loxy says:

      11:58am | 12/02/13

      I watch insight every week and consider it to be in a calibre of its own as far as covering hard-hitting and controversial topics in an unbiased, informative, open and empathic manner.

      Jenny Brockie is an amazingly skilled mediator and really makes the program.

    • Samantha says:

      02:15pm | 12/02/13

      Jenny Brockie is one of the few journos who actually likes to hear both sides of the story, instead of cutting someone off because she doesn’t agree.  She may not like hearing the things that is said on the show but the professionalism she shows in not letting her opinion be known (at least not obviously) speaks for itself.  I don’t get to watch Insight often but when I do, I enjoy it.

    • pattem says:

      03:49pm | 12/02/13

      The singular topic format of Insight makes it much more insightful (no pun intended) than the glib audience question format of Q&A, which plays more as argument for arguments’ sake.

      I am glad to see Insight back on the menu for 2013.

    • cybacaT says:

      01:08pm | 12/02/13

      Good article - I agree with your comments on Insight.  It’s one of the rare shows with genuine depth and humanity.

    • Bazza says:

      02:14pm | 12/02/13

      I was interviewed once to be on an Insight audience. Cool story. I know.

    • Sean says:

      03:30pm | 12/02/13

      @Bazza - I am NOT trying to play one upmanship here, but I was offered a place on the panel (in the chairs,facing the ‘audience’, being interviewed). I turned it down and have kicked myself ever since. It was a pretty sensitive topic they were covering, and I just wasn’t ready to have my face plastered nationwide with the stigma of the topic at that point in time. But man, it would have been awesome to be a part of such a great show. Love Insight.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      05:48pm | 12/02/13

      Sean, interspecies love will be acceptable one day… keep your head up!

    • Neil says:

      03:36pm | 12/02/13

      Why don’t they talk about mass immigration? See if non white Australians want it. See if say, Chinese Australians want our capital cities to end up like Chinese cities. There’s no such thing as hard hitting media because no one ever talks about this, population control, or euthenasia.

      Sometimes ACA or TT will address it, so I put them on par with all other media.

    • the aussie pope says:

      05:58pm | 12/02/13

      Jennie Brockie has Insight
      Tony Abbott has none !

    • the aussie pope says:

      06:00pm | 12/02/13

      Is Insight better than Q & A ??

 

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