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.

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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.”

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