It’s about the team
Lisa Wilkinson believes she succeeds by ignoring the critics, writes Siobhan Duck
SHE’S never been one to shy from a challenge, but there were plenty of critics who questioned the wisdom of Lisa Wilkinson’s move from Weekend Sunrise to the drama-plagued Today show.
Today had long struggled in the ratings and was constantly lampooned, but Wilkinson sensed the show — under the leadership of new executive producer Tom Malone — was emerging from its rough patch.
Wilkinson’s predecessors, most notably Jessica Rowe and co-host Karl Stefanovic, had faced intense public scrutiny for their on-air performances in 2006-07.
She knew, in accepting the job, that she could face harsh criticism.
That hasn’t happened to Wilkinson, nor any of her Today colleagues, since she’s been with the show.
‘‘Too much focus on particular people rather than the news we deliver is not healthy. I took it as a good sign when we stopped getting column inches,’’ Wilkinson says.
‘‘It’s a fantastic chance to stop being about individuals and be about about the team.’’
Last year, when she was offered the job, she sat down and watched Today to get a feel for the content and the team. Despite all the criticism she liked what she saw.
Wilkinson says she learned early in her career, when she was given her first editing job at Dolly magazine at only 21 and admittedly less qualified than most of her peers, to ignore critics and focus on doing her best.
‘‘I learned when I was editing Dolly that the only way to survive is to put my head down and just do my job,’’ she says.
‘‘When I took the Today job I thought, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? I’ll still have a husband who loves me and three kids who I really love’. I have been blessed in so many ways already.’’
Wilkinson’s gamble on Today has paid off for Nine and the woman herself.
Today’s ratings are on the climb, particularly in Melbourne where it regularly topples Sunrise.
So successful is the show in Melbourne that there have been rumblings it should make a permanent move here from Sydney.
Though she has three school-aged children, Wilkinson is open to the idea of a move if it benefits the show.
Wilkinson says Today’s improving ratings are a result of the fact that they have ‘‘stopped looking over their shoulder to see what the opposition may or may not be doing’’.
‘‘Our producer Tom Malone has had a very clear vision (for the show) since he came along 22 months ago when a lot of the problems were there. Look at Sunrise — it (rise) happened over a few years and it happened quietly.
‘‘We are focused on really getting the content right. We don’t specialise in fluff.
‘‘We know our audience wants more news and current affairs,’’ she says.
Wilkinson seems equally annoyed by the continued insinuation from the Seven camp that Today’s new-found success has been a direct result of copying Sunrise’s formula.
She says the recent changes to Today’s format, such as starting at 5.30am instead of 6am and having Wilkinson and Stefanovic do more solo interviews, are a marked point of difference to Sunrise.
‘‘I am tired of this criticism that the Today show is copying Sunrise. It (Sunrise) does not have the franchise for breakfast television.’’
She says people forget that Today is the pioneer breakfast show, and that Sunrise had used it as inspiration when it started.
it’s all good for Lisa Wilkinson and (below) Today
co-host Karl Stefanovic.