Why I walked

A heavy-hit­ter re­tires to re­lax and con­cen­trate on his nice side, writes Siob­han Duck

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

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.’’

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