A self-confessed “news junkie” now he’s about to front his own late-night show, TEN Newsnight, to air at 10:30pm Monday to Thursday on TEN.
The 45 minute show will feature news, interviews, music performances, social media trends, weather, finance and the return of Sports Tonight.
As tipped by TV Tonight, the ‘agenda-setting weeknight news and public affairs program,’ hopes to get the jump on the stories that will define the following day.
“We’re getting away from the idea that late shows are putting the day to bed and embracing the fact that in the global 24 hour news world that timeslot is actually the start of the next day’s agenda,” Macdonald says.
“There’s stuff breaking all around Australia and all around the world at that time.”
While many viewers lament the exit of TEN’s long-running Sandra Sully-hosted late night news, others have noted the smarts of the young Macdonald, tipping him as Australia’s answer to CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
He laughs politely at those notions.
“I’ll leave it to other people to do the comparisons. I’m interested in doing my own thing and creating a programme that’s really distinctive and different from whatever else is on Australian TV. There is room to do some pretty cool stuff,” he says.
Despite TEN failing to attract interest in its 2011 experiments in the early evening, it has a long success with late night news. With the fresh-faced Macdonald at the helm, the key will be to appeal to younger viewers over those watching Lateline and World News Australia in the same timeslot.
“You can still have quality, be interesting, break stories, and be entertaining, engaging and accessible all at the same time. That’s what I want to try and focus on,” he says.
“It’s not just going to be politicians every night. There’ll be a huge range of interesting people.”
The show also plans to feature live musical performances and social media engagement.
“There is a reason why my generation has switched off News & Public Affairs TV –because we haven’t really responded to the changing way they receive and consume news,” he suggests.
“People of my generation are finding things out first online through Facebook, Twitter and all sorts of social media platforms. We don’t want to be tokenistic about it, we want to engage and use it to full effect.
“We know that people are not necessarily just lying at home on the couch, they’re probably on the couch with a laptop, iPad or phone and possibly the telly on in the background. So we want to engage with the whole spectrum of media that they’re playing with at that time.”
Since arriving at TEN in early 2011 Macdonald has filed significant stories on Cairo, Afghanistan, Indonesia and local pieces on the Australian Army and bikie gangs. He will continue to deliver investigative pieces for TEN.
“TEN have been very firm about that. They still want me to be able to break stories and cover the big stories around Australia and around the world as they happen. So that’s hugely exciting,” he says.
When there are big news stories breaking, TEN Newsnight may also be presented from on location.
“Absolutely. Wherever and whenever possible. It’s definitely a programme that’s going to be aggressive and chasing the news stories,” he insists.
“When I was anchoring at Al Jazeera that was the thing I loved more than anything, when they decided to take the network on the road and do a week from a war zone. It’s not something that’s happened quit so much here but the guys at TEN said when there are big stories we want it on location.”
But despite the looser environment of late night news, fans of ‘alternative’ bulletins once hosted by Graham Kennedy or Clive Robertson are out of luck. Macdonald baulks at the idea of adding comment to his presentation.
“From anything I’ve ever done I don’t think you’ve ever seen me making a comment or expressing my opinion. That’s not my style and it never has been. It’s not something I’m interested in,” he says.
“I’m more about quality, balanced journalism. Strong interviews, definitely. But taking a position on things, absolutely not.”
Whether he lives up to suggestions of being the next Anderson Cooper remains to be seen. Right now his focus is on putting together a good product, as entertaining as it is informative.
“It will be cool, fun, creative and live. All the things that I really love and am passionate about.”
TEN Newsnight begins 10:30pm Monday June 4th.