QTQ Director of News, Lee Anderson, tendered his resignation today, and three Nine employees have been dismissed in the wake of the misrepresentation by Nine News of QTQ helicopter’s location during two live reports last weekend.
Further, newsroom procedures and lines of communication have been reviewed, resulting in immediate changes to QTQ’s news gathering guidelines. All News staff will receive further training on their editorial, legal and code obligations. These actions follow a full internal investigation of the incidents ordered by Nine Network Managing Director, Jeffrey Browne, and conducted this week by Nine Queensland Managing Director, Kylie Blucher and Nine’s Director of News and Current Affairs, Mark Calvert.
In a letter today Mr. Anderson said “This morning I tender my resignation as Director of News accepting full responsibility for the events of the last few days. I have served this network to the best of my ability for almost 25 years. It has been a privilege and I wish the team all the very best.”
Subsequently, Nine management dismissed Nine News Reporters Cameron Price and Melissa Mallet, and QTQ News Producer Aaron Wakely.
Kylie Blucher and Mark Calvert said in a joint statement: “This has obviously been a very difficult process, but our primary consideration was always Nine News’ commitment to accuracy. This is critical not only to our charter, but to maintaining the trust we have developed with our audience over a very long period.”
While Mr. Anderson’s resignation was accepted, and his decision was the right one in the circumstances, they acknowledged his long and distinguished service with Nine.
Jeffrey Browne said: “Our position is unequivocal. We rightly demand accountability and high standards of others, and we must meet those expectations ourselves. Over the weekend, we did not. Our clear determination is to ensure that sort of conduct is never repeated, and we have drawn a very clear line in the sand by removing the staff involved in in that breach of trust with our viewers.”
It’s a pretty amazing outcome for the situation. 4 casualties – the two reporters, the producer and the News Director – and too many reports and column inches written about Channel 9 in a negative light. It all spawned from the following report, showing the cross to (in this instance) Cameron Price in the Ch9 chopper, with Ch7 footage (bottom left corner plus timecode centred) of the Ch9 chopper on it’s helipad on Mt Coot-tha and then taking off and landing again once the cross was complete.:
That the Channel 9 Brisbane chopper was still on the helipad was joked about by some Channel 7 Brisbane staff, including cameraman Jimmy Cannon:
While QTQ9 didn’t have a new second News chopper, what they did have was a massive problem – they’d been busted. From the twitter niggling that night (now all deleted) I though that’d be it, possibly including a mention on Media Watch (which it did get). The problem for all concerned was the timing… Ch9 had not long launched into a new promo pointing out you should turn to them for “News you can trust”. Oops.
Channel 9 issued an apology statement and Melissa Downes (regular Ch9 BNE News Anchor) was left with the task of reading a prepared statement of apology over the fiasco. It was suitably sheepish, however I expected that to be it publicly. Sure, the staff may be counseled or given a formal warning, but that’d be it. Then it broke tonight across Twitter (starting with Ch10 ex-BNE news man Hugh Rimminton) that 4 scalps, at least one high profile, had been taken in what was now a real scandal for the network. Then came the above press release. Bam. This is uber serious.
Not that it wasn’t serious in happening – just as many have pointed out this now sets a very high bar for at least Channel 9, if not the other networks, around the seriousness of news reporting. Others have suggested that “the same high standards should be held on the current affairs staff too… except that would mean most of those reporters might no longer have a job either as a result.” My experience with the entire team at QTQ, including the Newsroom and the ACA office, has been that they are professionals of the highest calibre – so this outcome came as much a shock to me as others who’ve been watching from the outside.
Both reporters offered this tonight via their twitter accounts:
Bottom line is this: a strong and respected News Director has taken the fall over the Network’s decision to fire the two reporters (Price & Mallet) and the producer (Wakeley) involved in this shenanigan. This is absolutely a loss for Ch9 Brisbane and the entire Nine Network. That those directly involved now face an uncertain and possibly letigious future is at their own hand. The pressure to deliver a story with vision first ahead of your competitor has become a cut-throat game. Will this be the last time we see an incident like this? Not bloody likely.
As a journalist said to me as the drama unfolded through the evening: “A lesson to junior journalists, you’re responsible for your stories and shouldn’t bow to any pressure to bend the truth.” This story is now not over by a long shot.