GOOD NEWS TWEAK
Ten is looking to change the way we look at news, and a pivotal part of the process is George Negus. Guy Davis spoke with the veteran journo at the vanguard of a new initiative.
totally renovate the 5pm to 7.30pm news structure”, Ten is sticking with its longestablished 5pm news broadcast but from January 24 will follow it with 6pm with George Negus, a half-hour national program the reporter calls “ a different way of looking at what’s going on in this country and the world”.
A state-specific news bulletin will air at 6.30pm before The 7pm Project caps off the two-and-a-half-hour block of news and current affairs coverage with its irreverent but informative take on the day’s events.
At a time when news on television, especially on commercial channels, seems to be diminishing or increasingly marginalised, it’s a big move on Ten’s part. And Negus can’t help but revel in it.
“ I’ve been a critic of all that,” he said of news’s shrinking presence. “ Which is why I found it very hard to say no to Ten when they made this suggestion. I suppose it’s me putting my body where my mouth is.”
Negus will be aided and abetted by a line-up of respected reporters, including award-winning investigative journalist Chris Masters, but the title of the new program makes it clear that Negus is viewed as the drawcard.
Justifiably so, one might say. Negus’ no-nonsense approach to news and current affairs analysis has seen him regarded as one of this country’s most revered journalists for decades, and the straight-talking presence he has recently brought to Ten’s 7pm Project is winning over a new generation of admirers.
That combination of integrity and approachability would seem to make him the ideal presenter for a program looking to shake up the current state of play.
“ It’s very bold indeed, putting someone like me, not a newsman but more an analyst and observer of current affairs – someone who spouts the odd opinion and the odd dad joke – up against news,” he admitted. “ It’s actually unheard of but I feel rather thrilled by it.”
Looking back over his career, Negus feels that the variety of news and current affairs projects to which he’s been attached are linked by their originality, beginning with his first job on This Day Today (“ the original current-affairs program”) through to The 7pm Project (“ My therapy program – my shrink bills have gone down since I’ve started appearing on it,” he laughed).
“ I don’t know what it is about me that makes people look in my direction when original programming is developed but I’m really pleased that they do because I’m no good at the same old same old,” he said. “ I’m very uncomfortable inside the square. I work best outside it.”
Ten’s efforts to revamp the programming paradigm have had ups and downs, but the gradual success of something such as The 7pm Project bodes well for this new initiative. And with Negus on board “ throwing the odd hand grenade”, it’ll certainly be interesting to see what happens next.
“ With a bit of luck, it’ll scare the living daylight out of the competition,” he chuckled. “ And I like that idea.”