If 6PM with George Negus wanted to drive home any message, it was simply: this is not A Current Affair nor Today Tonight.
Consumer stories look like they will be returned to sender on this show, and that’s a good thing.
This is actually the second time Negus has fronted a nightly programme in this type of timeslot. George Negus Tonight aired weeknights at 6:30pm on the ABC from 2002 – 2004.
“I’m thrilled to be part of what is a genuinely different way of looking at things that matter, both here in Australia and the rest of the world,” he said.
TEN’s new show led with an interview with PM Julia Gillard -a move most current affairs producers will openly admit is a viewer turn-off. But TEN appeared to be saying “hang the risk factor, we need a point of difference.”
In a pre-recorded interview about flood recovery, Negus wasn’t able to cut through the Gillard-speak, but she did manage to wish him luck. Even Julia likes George.
It was followed by a story on flood survivors, which didn’t tell us much that was particularly new. Nine and Seven would probably argue they covered such stories around the time the events actually occured, when TEN only managed one day of rolling coverage.
Hamish MacDonald filed a story on teenage girls in the Middle East training to become suicide bombers. It was a good get, if somewhat brief. Negus’ former Dateline would have delved a lot more beyond the brevity of this scoop. It was footnoted with a trademark Negus’ editorial about how suicide contravenes Islamic law.
Hugh Riminton spoke to Negus about Gillard’s standing in the polls. Given we had only just seen her, this was an interesting placement. Riminton will be a significant asset to this programme, with a long track record in news and carrying viewer credibility. He also touched briefly on the findings of the Christmas Island review.
There were brief wraps on Irish politics, the latest turmoil for Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi and a short 7PM style interview with Victoria Cross soldier Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith.
The mix of stories was the show’s best feature, but as The 7PM Project discovered, rushing through them for fear of viewers turning off does nobody any good.
The show also didn’t fulfill its promise to tell us “why?”
Why, on a day when an inland sea is headed towards Swan Hill, for example, are the Victorian floods lacking the same coverage as Queensland? Negus might have told us why news editors are so fearful of flood fatigue alienating their audiences.
Yesterday’s results of the Christmas Island review deserved a lot more analysis, having previously been a story of national interest.
Negus also didn’t land any punches on the first night. Fewer references to his globe-trotting past would be welcome (even George likes George) and the autocue seemed a bit too far for him to relax. Just one news update on 6:30 Evening News is also warranted.
But if history tells us anything Negus is just warming up. This was a promising start to a major reinvention of the 6pm timeslot. Between them, Seven News and Nine News (Melbourne) last night had stories on Tottie Goldsmith, Shane Warne, trainsurfing, and a beach box that cost more than an average house. Why, indeed…..
Briefly, the Melbourne edition of TEN Evening News appeared to be little more than recycled 5pm stories, some local, some national, some international. If it’s going to recap national / international stories, shouldn’t it cover the big ones? The first story on rising prices for fruit and veggies was woefully belated. And one young reporter surely had some first day nerves…
6PM with George Negus airs 6pm weeknights on TEN.