Sydney’s TV newsrooms are a gossipy lot, full of primping prima donnas and prancing show ponies, not to mention producers, editors and studio folk. And do they like to chat. And this week the gossip level has been the highest for months because of the poaching of Tony Ritchie from Seven back to his old stamping ground at Nine.
That was trumpeted by Nine’s hired spin doctoress, Prue McSween, as a big vote of no confidence in Seven, with reader, Ian Ross particularly upset.
Seven promptly revealed that Ian Ross had re-signed for two years and fired back by suggesting that Tony Ritchie’s hiring had been option A to put pressure on Nine’s Sydney news boss, Max Uechtritz. Like all gossip and innuendo, there’s a lot of bluff and bluster, but there’s always the odd nugget of gold and this week, there’s enough to give both yarns some legs.
For example at Seven, newsroom occupants say Tony Ritchie was sad to go, but grabbed the Nine offer because he had become somewhat disillusioned with the way the newsroom was being run and the sort of leadership shown. Some felt his main gripe was against Seven’s Sydney news boss, Chris Willis, while others felt it was more a loss of spirit and belief in some people higher up the food chain. There was also something of a desire to “return home” to Nine.
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Some wonder if Ian Cook will return to Nine, but others over at Nine remember that Cook has been sacked by Sam Chisholm (at Sky in London).
The feeling is that Seven will miss Ritchie for a while because he made the newsroom happen, got things done and understood technology, where others in the management chain had great difficulties.
Over at Nine the opposite tack: that Ritchie’s arrival fills a yawning gap in Nine’s management, one that Max Uechtritz and his team in the newsroom seemed unable to fix. Poor news selection, sloppy production and a slowness in decision making have worried journalists and producers alike in recent months.
The question of the high cost western bureaus staffed by reporters Daniel Street and Stella Lauri are a case in point. Nine seems to be repeating the headaches it had with the western Sydney bureau under Ian Cook that operated at the old 2WS studios. Poor communications, camera crew and reporters being moved around the place and coming back to Willoughby to cut stories, or even doing stories in town and not heading west. The bureaus were supposed to be self-contained but are far from it.
Sam Chisholm for all his bluff and bluster, knows that good nuts and bolts people like Tony Ritchie, are essential to places like newsrooms. That’s why he was upset when he arrived to find that former Sydney news EP, Graham Thurston, was no longer there: shafted by Max and now taking up time at Business Sunday.
A solution would have been to bring Thurston back into the newsroom, but with Max there, that was impossible. So Tony Ritchie’s hiring could mean that Max will not be pushed just yet, but Ritchie is there in case he is. Thurston apparently warned Max last year the western Sydney bureaus wouldn’t work.
People in the newsroom who saw that happen, have drawn the lesson that dissent is not encouraged. Nor is discussion.