The announcement of the ABC’s news and current affairs team for the Athens Olympics has sparked debate – this is how it unfolded…

Sealed section February 2

The ABC has chosen its elite team to cover the Athens Olympics – and it looks like Aunty is preparing for lots of non-sporting news to break out in Greece.

The composition of the on-air team of six is causing some ructions in the ABC, especially as many on the list are fairly junior players with little or no experience of sport, or international coverage.

Fran Kelly (now in London), a great political reporter – maybe – but sport?  She had better brush up on her Olympic sports very fast, as it’s widely held that she doesn’t know one end of the javelin from another.

Of the TV team, Paul Lockyer is a professional with lots of all-round experience. But his appointment as one of two TV presenters highlights the charmed run he’s received from the ABC since his return from Nine.

Lockyer’s fellow TV presenter, Mary Gearin, is a former NT reporter who’s been presenting the Melbourne TV sports news with Christine Ahern for a couple of years. The appointment of both junior operators to the team is a vote of confidence in the Melbourne sports desk – and their future.

Kelly, Lockyer, Simkin and Zoe Daniel are the senior team members – and will be heavily relied on if terrorists strike at Athens 2004.

This is how ABC bigwigs Walter Hamilton and John Tulloh broke the news to staff today:

”More than 40 expressions of interest to cover the Athens Olympics were received. The following have been chosen:

Radio:
Christine Ahern
Zoe Daniel
Fran Kelly
Mark Simkin

TV:
Mary Gearin
Paul Lockyer

It is regrettable that, inevitably, this will cause much disappointment, particularly to those who made thoughtful and wide-ranging submissions.

Our choice was based on a combination of editorial and field experience; the ability to turn round both news AND current affairs packages quickly and credibly; presentation and proactive work methods; the impact on normal operations of an absence of a month or more from base; a knowledge of all issues relating to the Games, and the sports themselves; and the need to have sports specialists on base in Australia to monitor all events and package the highlights.

Walter Hamilton, John Tulloh
Head, National Coverage, Head, International Operations.”

How well will the ABC team match up against Bruce McAvaney and Roy & HG on the official broadcast team at Seven? Send your insights to [email protected]

IN DEFENCE OF AUNTY’S OLYMPIC TEAM
Sealed section February 3

An Aunty insider writes:

“Whoever wrote up the ABC at the Olympics article in the last sealed section didn’t do much homework.

The fact is that ABC TV like everyone but Channel Seven on the TV side of things is a non rights holder so it can only show  a couple of minutes of sports pix on the news. Given that, having sports only experts on the TV job would be a complete waste.

The big blue was to suggest Mary Gearin was the junior in this mix. She’s not. Mary was an ABC cadet back in 1991 (I think) and went on from her ABC start to be a very good sports feature reporter on Sports Sunday before Nine axed it.

She’s since been a reporter at Ten and then again at the ABC, on both News and 7:30 Report. She’s more experienced than most of the team and if her Sports Sunday work is any guide will do a fine job.

As for the radio side of things, the small news team is hardly there to take the place of the sports experts. The ABC is the official broadcaster and will have its usual large, knowledgeable and erudite sports team there. Names like Karen Tighe, Peter Wilkins, Peter Walsh, Gerry Collins, Glenn Mitchell, David Morow and Tim Gavel. They are the ones who will be competing with Bruce McAvaney’s coverage on 7, not the news team named by ABC today.

This announcement only covers the few extra people going to provide coverage for TV and radio news and the current affairs programs 7:30 Report, AM, PM and The World Today.

I dare say that Fran Kelly would have done an excellent job of covering the bombing at the Atlanta Games or the arrest of Anwar Ibrahim during the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games. That’s precisely why the ABC doesn’t only send sports reporters!”

MARK SIMKIN: SPORTS NUT

A colleague writes:

“I’ve known Mark for over 15 years, having been at Sydney Uni together in the late 80s early 90s and can vouch for his sporting credentials.

He’s a sports nut and seemed permanently ensconced in his Gordon rugger jumper most of the time we were at university.

He also wrote a compelling piece on basketball in Australia during his time as editor of the Union Recorder (the Student Union’s version of Honi Soit, then paper run by the SRC under a separately elected editorial team). The piece has stuck in my memory as exceptional for someone, at the time, with little journalistic experience.

IMHO I also rate him as one of the ABC’s finest foreign correspondents. His quirky reports out of north Asia suggests his coverage of Athens will not focus solely on the track, field or pool but dig deeper.

We’re not close friends but I have bumped into him at various times in the past decade, firstly when he shared a house in Fitzroy with my sister and secondly as fellow journos in the Canberra press gallery.

While I empathise with those who missed out, I say: good call, Aunty! And I look forward to his coverage.

Benjamin Haslem”

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Peter Fray

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