Why I walked
A heavy-hitter retires to relax and concentrate on his nice side, writes Siobhan Duck
MIKE Munro is hesitant to describe his retirement as the end of an era for Channel 9 news and current affairs.
The former host of A Current Affair and current host of Missing Persons Unit and This Is Your Life will depart on October 31 after 22 years of service.
Following Ray Martin and Jana Wendt’s departures, Munro’s retirement leaves a gaping hole in Nine’s once stellar line-up of current-affairs hosts and long-serving reporters.
Their departures, coupled with the recent axing of Sunday and Nightline, has dented Nine’s arsenal of journalistic heavy-hitters.
The timing of Munro’s resignation — only days after the Sunday axing was announced — sparked speculation he was unhappy with the Nine establishment.
But Munro dismisses talk his retirement was expedited by budget cuts and an unhappy newsroom.
‘‘I made the appointment to see him (Nine chief executive officer David Gyngell) long before any of that (the Sunday axing),’’ Munro says. ‘‘I wanted to go on my terms. ‘‘I did not want to go as someone who was becoming more and more frustrated, not doing more around the place and being paid too much money (Munro’s salary has been estimated at $500,000 a year).
‘‘I wanted to get out of the pressure cooker. I wanted to be a nicer person— to be more relaxed.’’
Munro says the axings, though unfortunate, were inevitable given the current climate in commercial television.
‘‘No one likes it, but it’s the nature of the beast these days,’’ he says matter-of-factly.
He also believes plenty of talent remains at Nine to fill the void left by Wendt, Martin and himself.
‘‘It was purely personal,’’ he says of his decision to retire.
‘‘It’s a decision I had been discussing with Lea (his wife) for a long time — before Ray and Jana even left. Lizzie Hayes is still there.
‘‘There are some great women reporters there now. It’s a strong female line-up.
‘‘Maybe it’s the end, but I wouldn’t want to say of an era. Hopefully the tradition of news and current affairs will continue at Nine.’’
Munro wanted to leave while ‘‘morale was up’’ and the network in a ‘‘great position’’.
To outsiders, it seems difficult to believe morale could be up given the budget cuts, high- profile resignations and well-publicised accusations of sexism in the newsroom.
Sure 60 Minutes is on a ratings high, but Seven’s Today Tonight is beating Nine’s A Current Affair nationally.
It’s the same story in the nightly news battle, where Seven’s news is well up on Nine’s nationally.
‘‘It’s (morale) much higher than it’s been in quite some time,’’ Munro says.
‘‘We’re neck-and-neck with Seven in the national ratings.
‘‘No one expected us to be in this position going into the Olympics.
‘‘Who knows what will happen in the second half of the year?’’
Munro says Gyngell tried to talk him out of going and has left the door open for work in the future.
He may do special episodes of This Is Your Life and continue to be involved with Missing Persons Unit, but has ruled out any more work in TV news or current affairs.
‘‘More than enough people are doing special reports for 60 Minutes already,’’ he says with a laugh.
‘‘I’ll leave that sort of thing to those more qualified than me.’’
Munro will not write a follow-up to his memoirs, saying ‘‘I ain’t no Hemingway’’, or emulate his former 60 Minutes colleague Martin and become a news gun for hire to report on major events.
‘‘I’m not someone who will be wanting to get my boof head on TV in a year’s time. I’ve been happy to promote the programs I’m in, but I won’t miss it,’’ Munro says.
‘‘I’ve never been interested in courting fame. Once a journalist, always a journalist. Whether I go back to newspapers or do a stint on radio, I don’t know.
‘‘I also do a lot of volunteer work and public speaking for various charities.’’
Gyngell says: ‘‘I have begrudgingly accepted Mike Munro’s early retirement.
‘‘Mike will always be part of the Nine family and we hope to see him back here — if and when he gets bored.’’