In the Mediaweek Podcast studio this week Mediaweek editor James Manning speaks with recent Kennedy Awards & News Awards winner Sharri Markson.
In just the past few weeks, the national political editor of The Daily Telegraph, Sharri Markson, has been named the Kennedy Awards’ Journalist of the Year and also won the Excellence in Journalism Award at the annual News Awards. She talks to Mediaweek’s James Manning about her Barnaby Joyce scoops this year.
Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner was interviewed for Mediaweek on Sky News Business yesterday. The interview will be played again on Thursday at 2.30pm AEST.
By James Manning
Here are some of the highlights:
You started talking on the earnings call about a focus on ratings, revenue and costs. If you were judged like contestants are on reality TV, is two out of three too harsh a score?
You could probably give us three out of three.
Let’s run through them – our ratings performance in the first half of this year has been history making. No one has ever achieved a 41.6% share to the halfway point. You would have to give us a tick there.
Revenue was soft in the first half and we committed to doing something about it and we have done it. In the second half we were pretty close to a 40% share – 39.91% – and we are forecasting we will be back to full strength in terms of revenue share.
Cost – we talked about some pretty muscly targets in February and we have over-delivered on them. We have renewed cost targets and we are focused on hitting them too.
The record ratings don’t seem to have brought in extra revenue.
We are forecasting the overall TV market can grow this financial year and there are a number of factors that underpin that. We are seeing a swing back to FTA television and away from some of the more spuriously measured media. We are seeing big brand builders, who need to rehabilitate their brand, come back to television with strong campaigns. It will also be an election year.
Could the merger of Nine and Fairfax have ramifications for the flow of revenue in your sector?
That will be their aim. Our aim is to prevent that and make sure our offering is even more compelling.
There is an enormous amount of work to do to put those two organisations together. That will create opportunities for others, including Seven West Media, and we will make the most of those opportunities.
Did Seven West Media look at Fairfax?
We have looked at a range of possibilities right across the media landscape. And we are still doing that now. In terms of Fairfax, it was one we decided not to pursue. There are other potential commercial tie-ups in the absence of a corporate transaction that can make a lot of sense for us.
Has there been some underperformance from the shows so far launched in the Q2 2018 TV year?
What is the threshold of success these days? We have hardly launched any of our back half yet and there is a lot more to come. One thing I can guarantee is very strong year-on-year growth and I don’t think the others can say that.
As more brands opt for native content to connect with their target market, companies likeNews Corp-owned Medium Rare Content Agency are flourishing.
By Kruti Joshi
The company is the publishing home for some of the biggest brands in Australia like Qantas, Foxtel and Coles. The latest to join the ranks is Jetstar.
The person leading the content strategies for all Medium Rare clients is its chief content officer Margaret Merten.
“With specific retention, acquisition and sales goals in mind, I work to understand which audiences brands want to speak to, the best channels to reach those audiences, and the types of content needed to best engage those audiences,” she told Mediaweek.
In a nutshell, every brand has a story and Merten works out how best to tell those stories.
At the most basic level, one of the main differences between a custom and an on-stand magazine is that the former has a guaranteed circulation. An on-stand magazine depends on the number of copies sold. Therefore, custom publications like Woolworths’ Fresh and the Coles magazine are among the most-read in Australia.
However, this does not mean the custom publishing sector has been less impacted by the changes sweeping the media industry at large.
“The biggest challenge is the pace of change,” Merten said. “The trick is coming up with creative ideas, often very quickly, that really resonate with target audiences.”
These creative ideas are not limited to a certain platform. “The number of consumer touchpoints just continues to grow. Our content planning doesn’t just encompass print, digital and social. For many clients it now also includes events, visual merchandise, point of sale and more,” Merten said.
In just the past few weeks, the national political editor of The Daily Telegraph, Sharri Markson, has been named the Kennedy Awards’ Journalist of the Year and she also won the Excellence in Journalism Award at the annual News Awards. She talks to Mediaweek’s James Manning about her Barnaby Joyce scoops this year and how media people hold grudges.
On the day we spoke recently, Markson had broken the story about Peter Dutton being urged to resign from cabinet and challenge PM Malcolm Turnbull for party leadership. Three days before the challenge, she correctly predicted, “Next week could be a big week.”
Some of the highlights:
You have been on fire lately with a handful of major awards.
There is never a shortage of something to write about in Canberra… in fact there are too many things.
How good was winning another News Award, this time the major one?
It was incredibly special to have both Murdochs onstage. Lachlan Murdoch gave a really beautiful tribute to his dad and spoke about how inspiring he was and how he dedicated his entire life to journalism. I got to be onstage with them, which was great – I have spent nearly my entire life at this company since I was 16. I felt very grateful to be there.
Tell us about your previous News Awards win.
Back in 2004, before they held the gala event in a theatre, the first News Awards were held at our Holt Street headquarters. I was one of the Young Journalists of the Year back then. After that I got a chance to go and work at The Sun in London. Then when they became a bigger event, I again won Young Journalist Of The Year. I didn’t want to enter again, but my editor at the time made me.
Give us the background to how you ended up as national political editor at The Daily Telegraph.
I have a background in political reporting. I was a political reporter for The Sunday Telegraph under Glenn Milne from 2007-2009. I then stayed in touch with politics when I went to Channel Seven and even when I was at Cleo magazine. I was then media editor for The Australian when Chris Dore offered me the job of political editor at The Daily Telegraph and I have been there for just under two years.
I am based in Canberra whenever Parliament is sitting, which works out to be Monday to Thursday for about 20 weeks of the year.
Were there a few things you were proud of before you broke the Barnaby Joyce story?
There were so many stories. The big one from last November was when I got a leak that cabinet was looking at holding the banking Royal Commission. That was a big story, but what was an equally big story was who had leaked from cabinet, something which went on for nearly a week.
Every single day at The Daily Telegraph we break stories and I always have a few exclusives every week from the political round, but others do as well.
Does the Barnaby Joyce story go much deeper than just someone having an affair?
Of course. Otherwise it would have been a story that lasted a few days. After the big revelation that he was having a baby with his media advisor, two days later I had the story the Turnbull Government had created a new job for her that hadn’t existed before. It became a much bigger story that involved the covering up of the scandal at the highest levels of the Turnbull Government, which signed off on the jobs and other entitled issues.
I first tried to write the story in October last year when we ran a front-page story that said Barnaby Joyce had a crisis in his personal life that was causing ripple effects for the government on the eve of the New England by-election. His whole family was devastated, but he hadn’t publicly said he had split up with his wife. I knew he had, but I couldn’t write about the affair without some sort of proof.
Over the summer holidays I had heard Vikki Campion was pregnant and during the first week back in Canberra in February this year we tried to get a photograph that showed she was pregnant.
Were you surprised at the reaction to your story?
One hundred percent. I thought it might last about three days, but I didn’t expect the backlash to whether [the story] was in the public interest. People came out and said it shouldn’t have been published, including Peter Hartcher, the political editor for The Sydney Morning Herald. The Herald didn’t touch it for the first week, neither did The Guardian and Nine was down on it as well initially.
Did you read Barnaby’s book?
No, I haven’t. I read a few chapters of his book the day before it came out, which we published in the paper.
Lachlan Murdoch talked about your “take no prisoners” approach to journalism. Do you think you are at times ruthless?
I don’t know. I would say I am very determined. I don’t take “no” for an answer.
What was it like being a media editor for The Australian?
I definitely went too hard when I was media editor. I made a lot of enemies and there are a lot of people who still don’t speak to me.
Hear also Sharri Markson talk about much more and how she writes her stories and why she needs a deadline to motivate her. “I think it is impossible for me to write without a deadline.”
Don’t miss her story about the ABC’s Emma Alberici, who attended the News Awards this year.
The Sydney Kings NBL team has announced a new ownership structure.
By James Manning
Total Sport and Entertainment (TSE) will assume a 50% share in the Kings. Current owner AEG Ogden will be joined by Australia’s largest live entertainment company TEG amongst the holders of the remaining 50%.
The new ownership group has promised a long-term commitment to transform the Sydney Kings into Australia’s premier basketball club and a platform for corporate support of basketball in Australia.
The key pillars for the new ownership group are:
• Excellence in high performance, building on the recruitment of NBA star Andrew Bogut
• Best-in-market match-day entertainment experience and fan engagement
• Development of the Kings’ brand in tandem with the NBL’s growth plans
Under the new structure, TSE CEO Paul Kind will on an interim basis lead the day-to-day management of the Sydney Kings. Kind will bring over 25 years of experience in sports to this function.
Jeff Van Groningen has been appointed as the Sydney Kings head of basketball while Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze will continue as head coach.
AEG Ogden chairman and CEO Harvey Lister will continue as chairman of the Sydney Kings, with Total Sports Entertainment (TSE) chairman Paul Smith, TEG CEO Geoff Jones and Paul Kind comprising the new board.
TEG CEO Geoff Jones said the new structure brings together a wide range of skills and experience from the sports and entertainment market, giving the Kings a solid foundation.
“We have assembled a group of business leaders with true global experience in sports management who enjoy a shared vision for the Kings franchise,” said Jones.
“Importantly we have collectively made a long-term commitment at this critical juncture in local professional basketball’s return to relevance here.”
Lister said: “The timing was now right to bring in complementary skills and capabilities to grow the business. AEG Ogden acquired the Sydney Kings two seasons ago to provide the Club with an opportunity to survive as Sydney’s only professional men’s basketball franchise in one of the most competitive and congested sports markets in the world.
“As the operator of Qudos Bank Arena, we were also in the unique position of being able to support the club by providing stability through a permanent long-term home venue, training court and administration base at Sydney Olympic Park through to at least 2031.
“This year, the new ownership group has demonstrated our commitment through the rebuilding of the playing roster and the inclusion of Andrew Bogut, arguably the most significant signing in the history of the NBL.
“These moves are all targeted at positioning the Sydney Kings to once again become a powerhouse in the NBL and one of the most recognised sports and entertainment brands in Australia,” Lister added.
Pacific Magazines’ Women’s Health annual fitness event Fit Night Out will be returning for its third year on August 31.
It will be held at Sydney’s International Convention Centre and more than 600 people are expected to attend.
Hair care brand Garnier has signed on as naming rights partner, while health food brands The Chia Co and Vital are also supporting.
Attendees will break a sweat with fitness classes hosted by Keep It Cleaner girls Steph Claire Smith and Laura Henshaw, Base Body Babes Felicia Oreb and Diana Johnson, Amanda Bisk and Orangetheory Fitness’s wellness director Dan Conn.
There will also be hair and beauty treatments, a smoothie bar, a live DJ and healthy snacks available.
Jacqui Mooney, editor of Women’s Health, said: “Fit Night Out has become the event on the Sydney fitness calendar, and is yet another example of the deep way Women’s Health engages with our rapidly growing audience of health-conscious women. It’s such a great opportunity to bring together our community of fitness fans and we’re thrilled to have Garnier, The Chia Co and Vital join in on the action this year.”
Fit Night Out will be promoted across the Women’s Health network, which reaches more than 800,000 women through print, social and online. In addition, it will be supported via the extended Pacific stable (print, online and social) as well as a 30-second TVC broadcast on Seven in the lead-up to the event.
Former Bauer Media GM for lifestyle Jayne Ferguson has joined premium content agency Edit’d as partner.
She joins founding partner and ex-News Limited editorial director Karen McCartney at the creative content agency. Founded in early 2016, the agency provides brand development, original content and design across all communication platforms.
“I’m delighted that Jayne is joining the business,” said McCartney. “She brings a wealth of strategic and commercial experience, having managed and developed some of Australia’s biggest brands. She’s highly experienced in positioning premium brands in the digital and print space and in implementing strategies for business growth.”
Ferguson said: “I’m excited to work with Karen at Edit’d. She has a wealth of experience working with brands in the space of interiors, architecture, design and homewares. I’m looking forward to continue helping brands tell their stories with inspiring, world-class content.”
• Just doing his job! Keith labelled drama queen on The Block
• Underrated foreman key to Nine’s H2 property winning again
• Pilot Week Day 3: Taboo delivers for the audience that tuned in
By James Manning
After a healthy 730,000 on Monday, Home And Away dipped to 668,000.
On weekdays at present the channel is pulling bigger crowds at 5.30pm than it can muster after 7.30pm.
Dance Boss did 397,000 at 7.30pm followed by 800 Words on 472,000 after the drama returned last week with 506,000.
A Current Affair started with feuding brothers living under the one roof as 736,000 tuned in after 886,000 on Monday.
The Block foreman Keith is one of the show’s underrated attractions and he was labelled a drama queen last night for just doing his job. The Tuesday episode did 952,000 after 918,000 on Tuesday one week ago.
Nine then screened a new episode of True Story With Hamish And Andy with fellow Radio Karate partner Ryan Shelton among the cast. The episode did 699,000 after 632,000 a week ago. Nine then programmed a repeat episode to follow with 546,000 watching.
That of course boosted Nine’s share and pushed back two episodes of Kath & Kim that did 312,000 and 234,000.
Guest co-host on The Project last night was Harley Breen before he returned later in the night on Taboo. Just a year ago Breen couldn’t get arrested co-hosting 2Day FM breakfast. Now he has become a very hot property. The Project did 535,000 after 7pm, same as Monday night.
Survivor then saw The Contenders back to another tribal council where Paige was sent home in another thrilling blindside. They had better merge soon or there will be none of the tribe left. The episode did 661,000 after 634,000 a week ago.
Pilot Week day three and it was Taboo’s turn in the spotlight. The program, with Harley Breen hosting for production house Lune Media, was great TV although it didn’t pull big numbers. Breen had great fun with his guests and proved himself a good television performer.
The Pilot Week numbers for far:
• Skit Happens 350,000
• Drunk History 367,000
• Taboo 277,000
• Disgrace 229,000
One of the best pieces of television last night was the episode of Foreign Correspondent, which followed former Papua New Guinea ABC correspondent Sean Dorney back to the country with his wife for what could be his last visit, given the state of his health. It was a wonderful celebration of the reporter and the people of the country he grew to love. It was also a timely reminder of what the ABC does best. The episode did 489,000.
Another episode of the new season of Catalyst followed with 453,000 after it returned last week with 501,000.
The second episode of Essential Media & Entertainment’s Search For Second Earth provided more stunning images. Producer Chris Hilton spoke to Mediaweek yesterday about the CGI work and it was all there on the screen to marvel at. After launching with 249,000 last week, episode two did 273,000.
Plenty of marvellous travel images from India on Great Indian Railway Journeys as Michael Portillo made his way across southern India. The episode did 364,000 after 315,000 a week ago.
Insight then did 253,00 followed by Dateline on 175,000
|ABC ME||0.8%||7mate||4.1%||GEM||3.4%||ELEVEN||2.4%||Food Net||0.9%|
|ABC||Seven Affiliates||Nine Affiliates||Ten Affiliates||SBS|
|ABC ME||0.8%||7mate||7.1%||GEM||5.5%||ELEVEN||1.7%||Food Net||1.1%|
|TUESDAY METRO ALL TV|
16-39 Top 5
18-49 Top 5
25-54 Top 5
Shares all people, 6pm-midnight, Overnight (Live and AsLive), Audience numbers FTA metro, Sub TV national
Source: OzTAM and Regional TAM 2018. The Data may not be reproduced, published or communicated (electronically or in hard copy) without the prior written consent of OzTAM
Google vice-president of news Richard Gingras says the search and advertising giant has a vested interest in seeing news publishers prosper and dismissed claims it and Facebook destroyed the business models of media companies, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.
Gingras, who arrived in Australia on Tuesday and is expected to meet with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission regarding its digital platforms inquiry, said Google’s support for publishers and journalism through its $US300 million ($A408 million) Google News Initiative (GNI), announced in March, was proof.
“Too often what I read is the notion that says ‘news models were disrupted because of Google and Facebook, otherwise known as the duopoly’ and that is factually just not the case, that’s just not what happened to newspaper business models,” Gingras said.
“What did happen is the internet happened. The internet put a printing press in everyone’s hands, the internet enabled an extraordinary explosion of content, and much of it great content, that’s given people around the world, access to information they never had before.”
The return of The Bachelor for 2018 on TEN has seen both episodes last week top the Nielsen Social Content Ratings.
SBS World News also made an appearance in the top 5, with its midweek bulletin outperforming the Sunday night edition of The Block in social media interactions.
In sport it was all AFL with matches screened by Seven and Fox Footy across Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Melbourne win on Sunday ranked #1 as it overcame West Coast on the Eagles’ home ground in Perth.
The Digital Originals charts this week again belong to the Netflix prison drama Orange Is The New Black, which ranks #1 in Australia and New Zealand.
A new arrival on that chart in New Zealand is the second season of Harlots on Lightbox. The series is available on SBS On Demand in Australia, although it hasn’t charted in that market yet.
On the Overall TV charts Brooklyn Nine-Nine continues its amazing run as it again ranks #1 in both territories, something it last achieved a month ago. American Horror Story is top three in both countries with Foxtel announcing this week the launch of season eight of the popular series.
There’s plenty of room for improvement but Kyle Sandilands is most definitely onto a winner with his latest foray into television, reports News Corp’s Jonathon Moran.
Trial By Kyle is the perfect vehicle for the loud-mouthed breakfast radio host, providing a platform to pontificate from above while also showing a warmer, caring side to the loveable FM radio shock jock.
You can’t help but love Sandilands in the Judge Judy-style show, where he presides over case after case ranging from entitled social media influencer Skye Wheatley fighting a botched boob job to feuding porn stars and down-and-out best mates fighting over cash.
Whoever cast this show has done a stellar job, although I’d like to see fewer “influencers” like fame seeking Skye Wheatley and more cases like Karena and Samantha, a mother and daughter fighting over custody of their dog, Storm.
Sandilands is at his best when two extras from TV soap Neighbours enter the court to dispute a disagreement from an incident on set.
“You’re horrible, I can’t even stand looking at ya,” he declared as the men walk out of the court. “You’re an extra (and you) don’t even know how to walk off set.”
TV Tonight asked Kinne Tonight host Troy Kinne what he’s been watching:
• What shows are on your must-see TV list lately?
Lately I’m loving the series adaptation of Get Shorty. I tend to enjoy when someone known as a “funny person” on screen takes on a villain-esque role and nails it. Chris O’Dowd is awesome in Get Shorty and I completely buy him as a tough guy, even though in real life I’m sure I could beat the s%*#t out of him. I felt the same way when David Schwimmer appeared in Band of Brothers as the intimidating drill sergeant. At first sight you think to yourself “oh it’s Ross from Friends”. Then after one minute you’ve completely forgotten that he was Ross from Friends. It’s impressive to watch. I also got into showtime’s series Barry staring Bill Hader as a hitman. Again, for the same reasons.
If ABC wants to attract younger viewers, why did it axe Tom Ballard’s Tonightly? asks Fairfax Media’s Craig Mathieson.
The ABC’s official statement was exactly the kind of corporate affairs spin that Ballard liked to savage with a smile during his opening monologue: “Attracting younger audiences requires bold approaches and we continually experiment with new content and new formats particularly on digital platforms,” it read in part. “We remain committed to exploring and developing projects that connect with different demographics.”
Tonightly actually was a bold approach. Here was the ABC taking on the familiar The Daily Show format with an outlook that was firmly pitched at and produced by mostly 20 and 30-something creatives. The show didn’t speak down to viewers, it spoke to them, and that was apparent in everything from the way it viewed climate change as a scientific reality playing out as a horrific farce through to the vernacular and venom of certain pieces.
The best work on Tonightly – and there’s plenty to choose from – was having an impact, particularly on those aforementioned digital platforms. And despite from the outside appearing to be understaffed, it was making progress. Not only was it funny, but Ballard was improving as an interviewer who could bring a comic perspective and clarity to a range of guests, including those who the ABC often overlooks.
With speculation Australian Ninja Warrior is moving to Melbourne, TV Tonight hears whispers that Melbourne Showgrounds is the likely location for Season 3.
Producers Endemol Shine Australia already film MasterChef Australia and Family Food Fight on site. The Ascot Vale premises, which abuts Flemington Racecourse, is on 19 hectares of event and exhibition space, including a large arena.
After 30 years of comedy, television, radio, film and books, Dave O’Neil finally decided it was high time he wrote his own sitcom, reports TV Tonight.
But after a first attempt at an idea around a detective, it took Glenn Robbins to convince him to write about his own life.
“But I thought what’s so funny or interesting about my life? Glenn said, ‘Every time I ring you, you are doing some rubbish gig and there is some disaster at your house with your kids,’” O’Neil recalls.
“So I said ‘If I write it you have to be in it.’”
That was some two years ago. Fast forward to Friday and Dave will finally see the light of day, with O’Neil – and pal Glenn Robbins – playing himself in the sitcom pilot.
They are joined by Dave Hughes and Brendan Fevola (also as themselves) with Emily Taheny, Dave Thornton, Geraldine Hickey and Dilruk Jayasinha also appearing.
Adelaide radio presenter Ali Clarke has opened up about why she broke down in tears live on air this morning after receiving a critical text message from a listener, report News Corp’s Elizabeth Henson and Polly Haynes.
The text accused the ABC Radio Adelaide breakfast presenter of a “pitiful interview”, saying that she had “embarrassed the interviewee”.
On receiving the text, Clarke, who is known for her bright and bubbly personality, immediately broke down in tears.
“Sorry… we don’t always get things right here but we do always try our best, you know, and we sit here with the text line in front of us and it just adds up you know,” she said on-air.
Speaking to The Advertiser after the incident, Clarke said the offending text was sent in response to an interview she conducted with an Adelaide woman who rescued a joey from its dead mother’s pouch at McLaren Vale.
“It was just one of those things, (there were) lots of interviews in a row and for whatever reason it got under my (skin),” she said.
Football fans will be able to watch Usain Bolt live in action in his first football game on Australian soil, with Fox Sports, on Foxtel, to broadcast the Central Coast Mariners’ trial game on August 31.
Coach Mike Mulvey has confirmed that Bolt will feature in the clash against Central Coast Select, and Fox Sports will cover the action.
HD coverage kicks off from 7pm EST, with Matt Shirvington, Mark Bosnich and Archie Thompson teaming up to preview the game.
Adam Peacock and Robbie Slater will take over to call the match from 7.30pm with Glen Lauder on hand to deliver updates from the sideline.
Former international players and international media commentators Mel Jones and Lisa Sthalekar have been named in the SEN XI to lead the radio station’s summer of cricket coverage.
They will join Gerard Whateley, Damien Fleming, Simon Katich and Anthony Hudson calling the ball-by-ball action across both Test and Big Bash.
Debuting at international level in a Test against England in 1998, Mel Jones scored over 250 runs in five Test appearances and over 1,000 runs in 61 One-Day Internationals in a career spanning seven years. The English-born batswoman commenced a distinguished commentary career in 2007 and has been involved in cricket broadcasts around the world since, including the Big Bash and Women’s Big Bash League in Australia over the past few seasons.
Today’s lineup announcement is complemented by the addition of Lisa Sthalekar. Indian-born female former captain of Australia’s international women’s cricket team, Sthalekar made her international debut in 2001 in a One-Day International against England, followed by a Test debut in 2003 and a T20 debut in 2005, raising the bat for 19 fifties and three centuries across the three forms of the game.
Sthalekar holds the honour of the first player to achieve the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in Women’s One Day Internationals and has become a regular expert analyst on the Women’s Big Bash League in recent seasons.
Chief commercial officer and general manager of 1116 SEN Sam Bingley said the women were globally regarded as two of the best analysts in the game.
Telstra quietly broke an internal record this month for the most mobile devices
streaming sport on its apps in a single weekend, with 1.2 million individual devices
streaming NRL, AFL and Netball through the sports apps, reports Fairfax Media’s
At one point on the weekend of August 10-11, 82,120 viewers concurrently streamed
the Hawthorn versus Geelong AFL match. Across all the sports apps, the highest
number of concurrent viewers to date is 109,000.
• Record number of concurrent plays for a single match: Hawthorn versus Geelong, Round 21, 82,000
• Record minutes streamed across a round: Round 19, 22.4 million minutes
• Record number concurrent plays over a round: Round 21, 97,000
• Record number of plays over a round: Round 21, 2.7 million
• Record number of unique devices over a round: Round 21, 500,000
• Record number of devices over a round: Round 21, 900,000
• Round with highest Wi-Fi minutes consumed: Round 20 11.7 million minutes
• Round with highest mobile network minutes consumed: Round 2, 9.3 million minutes
This tribute appeared in The Age earlier this week for Ron Carter by a former colleague at paper, Geoff Slattery:
Ron Carter remains, even in death, the best sports news reporter of his generation.
I used the present tense, because none have passed him since he retired in 1993 after a 40-year career at The Argus, and then The Age. Equalled, perhaps, but never bettered.
He had two great areas of expertise and interest: the Olympic movement – and its sports, however obscure – and footy. And he reported both the old-fashioned way, forming close relationships with people in power, or – just as importantly – all but anonymous people who knew things and wanted the truth, and often the nonsense, revealed.
We’ve lost a giant of the craft, at a time when getting a story up first seems to be more important than getting it right. Ronnie did both, relentlessly.
Mike Sheahan and I went to visit Ronnie a couple of months ago. He was so pleased we had made the trip. He was all but blind and bed-bound, his constant company 3AW, turned up loud, from dawn to dark. We chatted for half an hour or so. His responses were slow to come, but still sharp, still cheeky. He was clearly holding tight to that love of life, no matter his physical frailties.
His wife Dorothy said to me yesterday: “He never wanted to go. Despite everything, he was so strong.”