Nine sacks Brisbane staff, accepts resignation following “Chopper-gate” debacle

By David Knox on August 25, 2011 / Filed Under News 79

The Nine Network has sacked three staff in the wake of faked live crosses to reporters in a helicopter and accepted the resignation of QTQ’s Director of News Lee Anderson.

Anderson said in a letter, “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.”

Following his resignation, two reporters, Cameron Price and Melissa Mallet, have been terminated. News Producer Aaron Wakely has also been dismissed.

Nine launched an inquiry following the revelation that two live crosses during weekend bulletins purported to be “near Beerwah” but were actually near Nine’s Mt. Cooth-tha studios. It was revealed one of the two crosses didn’t even require the  helicopter to leave Nine’s helipad.

Nine Queensland Managing Director, Kylie Blucher and Nine’s Director of News and Current Affairs, 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.”

Nine Managing Director 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.”

Last night QTQ News apologised to viewers for the ‘misrepresentation’ in its weekend bulletins.

In a statement Nine advises that ‘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.’

TV Tonight understands an unfair dismissal case by some of the parties is now under consideration.

79 Comments »

  1. Adam August 27, 2011 at 11:11 pm -

    Channel 9 advertise in their “Wherever News Happens” that Mount Coot-tha is a valid locale for reporting.

    See here: youtube.com/watch?v=n4juGvUcS4g

    Who da thunk it?

  2. Keith August 27, 2011 at 7:43 pm -

    @ michael, Dude, Mt Cootha is a long way from Beerwah, so please don’t use a silly technicality like that. I’d hate to be dragged by the short n curlies from Mt Cootha to Beerwah. As for using 7 as a scapegoat, again mate, 9 is not governed by 7, 9s staff decided tp pull a swifty n and got busted, no worse of a scam than that stupid ABC program, only the ABC getsaway with it.

    I do however, agree that sacking was a little bit heavy handed, but, the station has to look after its reputation.

  3. Sheba Percy August 27, 2011 at 6:38 pm -

    JM, there is a full story about how everything was found out in todays Courier Mail.
    If you look on line it may be on their homepage.
    Great story.

  4. Kenny August 27, 2011 at 4:41 pm -

    @Matthew – The TEN studios & building in Sydney are actually in Pyrmont.

  5. Chris August 26, 2011 at 10:23 pm -

    Whoever thought this was a good idea was a bloody idiot.

  6. Ann August 26, 2011 at 9:49 pm -

    What would Kerry Packer say!!

  7. Elise August 26, 2011 at 9:14 pm -

    Straight out of Frontline. Classic.

  8. michael August 26, 2011 at 8:23 pm -

    Shame shame shame channel 7. News …on saturday….fronting up to the morcombe home on saturday evening……this wasn’t an interview…..but harrassment…..if journalists could not have the sensitivity to realise that he had asked him far too many questions and it was time to stop……but they persisted ….to extract more and more from mr. Morcombe….this warrants sacking…..i felt sick watching it.
    As for channel 9….at no time did they state they were….at beerwah…..but ……near beerwah….there is a big difference……
    they were obviously trying to re-enact the happenings of the day when the choppers were….at beerwah….by re-creating the scene for their viewers…..
    It is a sensitive story……which was brought to us from channel 9 studios to our lounge room with that same sensitivity by news anchor, eva milic…….well done.
    Channel 9 should re-consider and re-instate cameron price, melissa mallet…..aaron wakely and lee anderson.
    I don’t believe for one minute that channel 7 have not stretched things a little….and stated that they were near somewhere…..but may have been 3 houses down…..where do you draw the line…….
    Remember they were …..near beerwah……..not at beerwah…..there is a difference.

  9. Sheba Percy August 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm -

    JM , I read in Courier Mail today that the helicopter proof was through it being tracked by Aviation map, I’m not sure if that is through airport or not???
    I first became aware of all this brouhaha in the Courier Mail personally,so I’m assuming a leak of some sort, Channel 7 has been reporting on it, surprise there!!!, and channel 9 gave a brief story and apology on it the other night.

  10. Matthew August 26, 2011 at 6:56 pm -

    Ten News Sydney always say their reporter is located in Pyrmont and then we see them one story up in the Channel Ten building with the Ten News studio in the background. I don’t thinks there’s anything wrong with what they did. It happens time to time. I would have been surprised is they were suspended let alone sacked.

  11. Allie August 26, 2011 at 6:56 pm -

    @JM, Air Services Australia records apparently show that the chopper involved in the Saturday night “live cross” was actually circling above Nine’s studios. On Sunday night, Seven News recorded footage of the second chopper that was supposedly “near Beerwah”was in fact sitting on Nine’s helipad going nowhere. I don’t live in Brisbane, so I don’t know if Seven News there showed the footage they filmed it as part of their Sunday bulletin, or whether they leaked it to the press after the fact. Either way, it is a really bad look for Nine. Really bad, credibility shattering look.

  12. Willmax August 26, 2011 at 5:47 pm -

    Was the content of the story correct? Yes, then who really cares where they were while reporting it!

  13. Guy August 26, 2011 at 5:28 pm -

    As bad as this is and as much as i hate Nine News, they don’t deserve to be sacked over the matter. They were told where and when to report from and only followed what they have been told i would have thought. If anyone should be sacked over this its the head of Nine News not the journo who is only trying to do their job. This is just an absurd thing. Its a bad look but its Nines fault not the journo.

  14. JM August 26, 2011 at 5:07 pm -

    Did Channel 7 release the footage of the Helicopter circling? Or did it just appear out of thin air? Did 7 report on it? or leak it to a newspaper?

  15. no one knows news. August 26, 2011 at 3:30 pm -

    I always remember my mother saying:
    “believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.”

    Take the “I don’t need news challenge”. I did.
    Don’t read the paper.. don’t watch TV news.. and your life will be so much happier.
    Yes.. happier.

    What is called news these days is not much more than gossip and fear, with lists of accidents and fatalities from near and far.

    What passes for current affairs now is little more than ‘creative’ ways to promote products.

    Stop watching this s#it, read a book, learn something, talk to the people you share your house with and you will discover what really matters to You.

  16. Sheba Percy August 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm -

    Actually just read in paper they were caught out when Melissa Mallet was doing her report from inside the chopper Sitting on the helipad at Mt Cootha while Cameron Price was in a chopper circling Mt Cootha.
    Melissa’s actions happened in front of Channel 7 news crew.
    Kinda asking for it…

  17. LorenzoM August 26, 2011 at 3:08 pm -

    Hmmm… says:
    August 25, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    “Journos have the right to refuse any orders that are in direct violation to the Code of Ethics. They had a choice to do this.”

    Quite right. Well said. If a lesson is to be learnt, it goes to the training of young reporters. Are they taught the ethics of the craft?

  18. MuchoTB August 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm -

    You’re right, DB!! There totally is a smiley face in the lower left corner of this site.

    I wonder how long that has been there.

  19. DB August 26, 2011 at 11:37 am -

    I don’t understand the logic of people saying that the journos should be sacked by their employer for doing something (assumedly) that their employer asked them to do.

    Also, I’ve just noticed a smiley face in the bottom left hand corner of the site. Has it always been there?

  20. steven guy August 26, 2011 at 11:15 am -

    One of the more perverse media stunts of all time !

  21. Kyle August 26, 2011 at 10:49 am -

    Jeffrey Brownes high standards weren’t present when, as MD of Nine Melbourne they faked that toilet footage a few months ago. Mr Browne is also the man who famously brought us the industry the term “boned” and “shit sandwich”. The rot starts at the top. Time for him to go.

  22. Mike August 26, 2011 at 10:24 am -

    I am amazed. I would have thought they’d just move them to their like-minded colleagues at Today Tonight. Does this mean that stealing footage from other channels and using it unattributed will now be a sackable offence at Nine??

  23. Jason August 26, 2011 at 10:22 am -

    Really people – calling for more people to be sacked, I think this was harsh enough as it is – surely channel 7 nose isn’t so clean! The anchor reads an autocue – isn’t producing the news and probably isnt keeping tabs on where all of the journalists are when they are reading the news (isn’t that the job of the producer????) What about the camera man, the pilot surely they knew – but for my part I think enough people have lost thier jobs over what is a ‘storm in a teacup’

  24. Georgie August 26, 2011 at 10:11 am -

    it’s an interesting debate. Whilst I deplore the actions of Nine news in Brisbane, let’s look at other similar ‘creative crosses’ that occur every night.

    Quite often TEN sydney news cross to Angela Bishop or one of their specialist reporters…But the cross is from the news set to the walkway one flight up! In fact if the reporter turned around they could wave at the news reader. Every network has done ‘live crosses’ to reporters on the roof, out the front, even the car park.

    The fact is it’s just a bit of stage management to give the story more gravitas…the reality is the information would be the same so in many ways the location of the reporter is irrelevant.

    Of more concern is the grey area between news and advertorial, such as the yellow brick road story on ACA last night. In my mind that is a far greater abuse of journalistic power than a live cross location. It is more a case for dismissal as well.

    But will Jeff Browne sack his bosses wife?…probably not.

    The lowering of standards of news and current affairs in this country is driven ultimately by us…the viewers. We prefer to watch the tabloid trash rather than shows with real journalistic integrity and there is nothing wrong with that, it’s everyone’s right to choose…but let’s not complain when we get what we seek.

  25. rob August 26, 2011 at 9:39 am -

    They Do it all the on Gold Coast news or they have very good cameras and only use for the weather. when they do a live feed to Paul Burt doing the weather in winter, it was pitch black outside my place and on the tv it looked like it was done at least 45mins before. you could see background clear as day.

  26. Kev August 26, 2011 at 9:23 am -

    I don’t understand this obsession with having reporters “live, at the scene” even when what they are reporting on may have occurred many hours earlier. Even if the helicopter had actually been where it claimed to be, it would have been a stupid waste of resources as it was dark by that time. I suppose it’s all about news as showbiz.

  27. Sheba Percy August 26, 2011 at 9:10 am -

    They were found out by a tracking device of I think the Brisbane paper Courier Mail obtained, I guess a journo may have been eagle -eyed about background enough to suss it out .
    I think it is sick what they did considering the story they were covering, they could of just said look, the weather’s gone too bad to fly out there after all, we’re mid flight back to Mt Cootha, and said the story from there.
    Insensitive, awful thing they did.

  28. steveany August 26, 2011 at 8:17 am -

    I guess Nine bosses think this public sacrifice is necessary to ‘save the brand’.
    No sympathy for the producer but none for the reporters either – in this life you’ve got to stand up for what is right, or live with the consequences of your decision.
    Important life lesson there for all of us.
    But in the business world the rot always starts at the top, so there should be some more sackings imo.

  29. Stevie August 26, 2011 at 7:07 am -

    Agreed.. It could have happened to any news reader in the country. It’s unlucky, but she would have trusted the “behind the scenes” people to get the little details right.. and on this occasion they stuffed up.. big time. It’s a shambles.

  30. Justina August 26, 2011 at 7:00 am -

    This is absurb, far too harsh. I feel for the reporters, probably too scared to say no to management. As for Eva Milic, well it’s impossible for the news anchor to be checking the location of the chopper while presenting the bulletin.. it’s up to the producer to make those changes. Remember.. presenters are paid to read off an autocue!!!

  31. John August 26, 2011 at 6:30 am -

    Even if it wasn’t the reporters’ idea to fake the cross, they were entirely complicit. They would have an audio feed in their earpiece and would have heard the introduction as ‘near Beerwah’. A conscientious journalist would have corrected Eva and then they’d still have their jobs.

  32. Njk August 26, 2011 at 6:21 am -

    I love all the comments expressing pity for the reporters because ‘they were just doing what they were told to do’. It’s true – they were – but as a reporter myself it would be nice to get the same sort of understanding from the public when we are sent out to cover difficult stories – eg going to someone’s house after a relative has been killed. In times like this, too, we are just doing what we are told and often (almost always) loathe what we are doing. It is the culture of a workplace and senior management who should be readjusted in these situations rather than wielding the axe to the juniors. Shame on ch.9

  33. Knowfirst August 26, 2011 at 5:10 am -

    As a trained journalist I would expect to be sacked if I faked a report. They got what they deserved. End of story.

  34. Curtis August 26, 2011 at 1:01 am -

    Sorry what about Eva milic, she would have had full knowledge of the lie, and she was the face of Nine News, should she be dismissed?

  35. Harvey35 August 26, 2011 at 12:49 am -

    Guess what will be on Media Watch this monday? :)

  36. chris August 26, 2011 at 12:42 am -

    Could someone please explain how they were busted?

  37. V'ger August 26, 2011 at 12:25 am -

    They didn’t sack enough of those Nine morons.

  38. Kuttsywood August 26, 2011 at 12:23 am -

    I’d love to make a long comment on this, but I won’t.

    Seven and Nine Brisbane need to now realise, the next time some live cross even looks like it’s suspect, there will be questions asked. After all, “Brisbane viewers, don’t forget”.

  39. Robbie August 26, 2011 at 12:07 am -

    About time someone stood up & had the Balls to do something right,about bloody time.
    Channel 9 you are a disgrace.

  40. Wayne Wong August 26, 2011 at 12:02 am -

    classic channel 9… very very harsh! Will be switching to 7 news now…

  41. Blockheads August 25, 2011 at 11:07 pm -

    News of the world? Phone hacking v fake crosses. Sure it’s not illegal but it is immoral. Gotta feel for the journos but maybe opens the door for nine to make good for Katrina and Amie from the block as the next batch of wannabes. Who needs a degree to be on tv?

  42. Jake August 25, 2011 at 10:58 pm -

    What about bloody Eva Milic – the one who actually told viewers the journos were at the scene. 9 is an utter joke. Don’t give a damn about their staff.

    Andrew your points about ACA are very valid.

  43. GuanoLad August 25, 2011 at 10:57 pm -

    I am sick of unnecessary live crosses. Who gives a monkey’s if they’re standing in front of, or near to, or three suburbs away from, where something happened six hours previously, especially as now it’s just an anonymous empty street again? It doesn’t matter!

    I like the reports that are narrated by a recorded voice. They are prepared, articulate, and have structure. Desperate live reporting is further weakened by awkward interaction with the studio anchor. It’s just awful, and I want it to stop.

    And while I’m at it, ban the word “exclusive” because nobody outside of the Network even cares.

  44. Fauchs August 25, 2011 at 10:51 pm -

    Good thing that Today Tonight and A Current Affair never lie about anything. Nor TV news anchors every other day with their “Joe Reporter joins us Now”… oh wait…

  45. Jezza August 25, 2011 at 10:47 pm -

    So the poor sacked reporters were just following orders eh? The same can be said of many people in 1930s & 40s Germany. Sometimes you need the backbone to stand up and say ‘no I am not gonna do this crap’. No sympathy for anyone involved.

  46. Buddha August 25, 2011 at 10:39 pm -

    @Andrew: Very good points.

    In this case, Nine probably sacrificed the Brissie staff because they’re … well … there in little Brissie, aren’t they? – a long way from the boardrooms of Docklands or Willoughby – and hey, Jeff Browne is a lawyer by trade – they’re not the sort of personality type to care about junior reporters’ livelihoods or impact on their families – but they’re great at writing motherhood statements.

    I agree with several earlier posts that the reporters were probably just doing what they were asked/told to do by the producer. Maybe they should have refused to do it, but then maybe they trusted the judgement of the producer.
    And the producer’s judgement was probably flawed by the format edict from Sydney that nearly every Nine News story must have a live cross tacked onto the front and end to give their grubby news credibility.

    Fair enough the QTQ News Director should be penalised somehow along with the producer – but one must remember that generally speaking, the News Directors of stations usually have Sat & Sun off, so in this case, maybe having to quit in his case is a bit extreme.

    I’m not defending the false reports nor that some form of punishment action should be taken, but Nine do have form in this sort of fakery, as @Andrew noted. Of course, so too do Seven, with a mixed record of punishment for those who have stuffed up making fake reports (such as the TT Barcelona/Skase Chase story) over the years.

    As to comments hinting that Seven are bad sports by exposing this, well, do you think Nine wouldn’t hesitate for a nanosecond to take Seven to task if the situation was reversed?
    I think not!

    Very smart of Seven to have a camera focused on Nine’s chopper pad to see when they are off on their way to stories.

    It’s a jungle out there in news war-land!

  47. Dean August 25, 2011 at 10:38 pm -

    Cameron Price is a fine reporter – the journalists are there to push the boundaries and the producers are there to reign them in….
    Sky News should welcome them to the Brisbane bureau – it needs some help…..

  48. Kaylen August 25, 2011 at 10:38 pm -

    Suspension, yes. Disciplined, yes. On-air apology, pay dock, winding down of responsibilities, community service – yes. Any of those are acceptable, and better terms of punishment.

    Fired? No.

  49. Craig August 25, 2011 at 10:38 pm -

    Didn’t expect anything but a slap on the wrist, but I think this is a bit of over kill, first those who ‘ordered’ this but not the reporters, of course unless they were behind it.

    But I want to know is why? Why do it? Was it some ratings game to one up Seven/TEN?

    It will be interesting to see if the firings stick or where they end up.

  50. Jason August 25, 2011 at 10:29 pm -

    “All News staff will receive further training on their editorial, legal and code obligations.” – Most of the news staff are Journalists, did they not go to university?
    Nine is over reacting in fear…

  51. JamesJ August 25, 2011 at 10:22 pm -

    As people have said, I too am surprised at the sacking of the reporters — I mean, obviously I wouldn’t know full details so I don’t know, but I doubt they would be the source of the idea to fake the cross…

  52. deedeedragons August 25, 2011 at 10:15 pm -

    It was silly to do it, but fired?

  53. JB August 25, 2011 at 10:11 pm -

    I’m sorry, but disagree with those that say it’s unfair the young journos have been sacked. They bloody well should have so well done Nine. As someone who studied journalism, any journalist with any integrity would not do that. The media may not be as terrible as the UK, but we’re heading that way in Australia. The fact shows like Today Tonight and ACA are so popular means the media will continue to get worse, because people are watching.
    The journos should be sacked. They could easily have said no, they decided going against the code of ethics was more worthwhile. Now they see the consequences.

  54. Peter August 25, 2011 at 9:50 pm -

    As one who has stood up to EPs in the past (and paid a price), these pathetic reporters did not have to agree to do this. The producers and idiots and the reporters are bigger idiots. They’d stoop to anything to get their mugs on the telly. Shame shame shame. They should not be re-employed anywhere in the media.

  55. Adam August 25, 2011 at 9:46 pm -

    I feel sorry for the junior reporters. Like someone else said they were just doing what they were told it seems

  56. Ingle August 25, 2011 at 9:44 pm -

    This shows nine down in sydney was P*ssed off

  57. Andrew August 25, 2011 at 9:44 pm -

    I’m just curious why Nine has sacked three journos over this story, but what consequences were there for Nine News faking ‘security camera’ footage of a man hiding cash in a Channel 9 toilet? Or ACA taking a 4 minute chunk of a Today Tonight interview and passing it off as their own? Were those things not as deceptive to viewers than this helicopter story?

  58. The Other Adam August 25, 2011 at 9:37 pm -

    seems a bit harsh!

  59. Camo August 25, 2011 at 9:35 pm -

    its not an over reaction…but if they had suspended the reporters for a period and just sacked the people who decision it was…COS or producer… then it would have been acceptable as well…in the end if something is not done then who knows what other lies or misrepresentations could happen…if they are as good as what people say, they will get more work somewhere…. in the end its about credibility and they had to go

  60. Matt August 25, 2011 at 9:25 pm -

    Its gone a little bit to far don’t you think? Sacking the 2 reporters is unbelievable (Well done Channel7). Its not like they would have a major say in where the helicopter will fly. Very disappointed with Channel9′s decision and its a huge slap in the face to viewers. Whoever made this decision should be ashamed of themselves.

  61. steve sydney August 25, 2011 at 9:17 pm -

    The producer should have been escorted out absolutely..

    But the others I’m not so sure, oh well, Fair Work Australia will probably manage to get some sort of settlement for the reporters and then Sky News or Seven will snap them up anyway.

  62. Bogues August 25, 2011 at 9:06 pm -

    I’m sure seven news will offer them a job.

  63. Michael Kezza August 25, 2011 at 8:50 pm -

    Woah indeed. I really did like Cam Price. A good young journalist. Can’t believe Lee has resigned either. A reaction and a half but certainly shows how much Nine is annoyed by this event and how they are committed to their news service.

  64. Kaylen August 25, 2011 at 8:31 pm -

    I like Cam Price. :(

    Still in shock…

    Something had to happen, yes, but wow… wasn’t expecting it to be this harsh.

  65. Disgusted August 25, 2011 at 8:30 pm -

    I am so disgusted at this grubby, mud-raking episode. Think of all those families who are now without an income. Channel 7 fed this story to the Courier Mail and the Courier Mail ate it up. I hope they don’t sleep tonight.

  66. Sharpy August 25, 2011 at 8:28 pm -

    Wellllllll…. technically hovering over the helipad at Mt Coot-tha is still “near” Beerwah, from a certain point of view… If they had said they were Over Beerwah however…

  67. Hmmm... August 25, 2011 at 8:27 pm -

    Journos have the right to refuse any orders that are in direct violation to the Code of Ethics. They had a choice to do this.

  68. Paul August 25, 2011 at 8:27 pm -

    Sack the news director and producer(s) involved, don’t sack the reporters……. Melissa Mallet is one of Nine News QLD’s best reporters. I’m sure 7 would welcome her with open arms.

  69. MillerT1 August 25, 2011 at 8:25 pm -

    Yeah, I’m shocked as well. They didn’t have to do this.

  70. Frankie August 25, 2011 at 8:19 pm -

    I doubt the reporters were behind the idea but were in front of the camera. I wish them all the best at Fair Work Australia.

  71. mikeys August 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm -

    *SHFH*

  72. Allie August 25, 2011 at 8:09 pm -

    Not surprised that the news director and producer have been sacked, but I gotta say I do feel sorry for the reporters as they were probably only doing what they were directed to do.

  73. Dave August 25, 2011 at 8:07 pm -

    Melissa mallet would have to be one of the most sensationalist reporters going around. Reporting facts of life such as a whale dying off the coast as ‘terrible news’ and ‘heartbreaking’ when there are deadly famines in Africa and horrible deaths in Libya doesn’t equate to being a good journalist.

  74. Neil August 25, 2011 at 7:59 pm -

    Are ratings that hard to come by.!!!

  75. KFed August 25, 2011 at 7:57 pm -

    If we could just get rid of completely pointless live crosses – about 97% of them – then this stuff wouldn’t need to happen.

  76. Sam G August 25, 2011 at 7:56 pm -

    Overreaction from Nine.

  77. Dodge August 25, 2011 at 7:56 pm -

    Wow. Did not expect that.

  78. Kaye August 25, 2011 at 7:54 pm -

    Woah – didn’t expect them to sack the journo’s. Would they have even had any say in where the chopper & live cross should’ve been? or is it just sacking them because they were the face of the stuff up?

  79. Kaylen August 25, 2011 at 7:47 pm -

    Wow. I am in shock.

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