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TV & Radio

Dec 14, 2011

The quality journalism project: SBS anchorman Anton Enus

SBS might be a small player in the Australian television game, but it regularly produces top-notch journalism, particularly in international affairs. South African-born Anton Enus is one of its most recognisable faces.

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SBS might be a small player in the Australian television game, but it regularly produces top-notch journalism, particularly in international affairs. South African-born Anton Enus is one of its most recognisable faces. Since 2007, Enus has presented its nightly 6.30pm World News Australia. Before SBS he worked as a journo at South Africa’s national broadcaster SABC, followed by a stint at CNN. Oh, and he’s hosted or co-hosted the Walkleys — Australian journalism’s glittering night of nights — a whopping nine times.

But what does Enus regard as the top source for quality journalism in Australia?

Enus is the latest participant in Crikey‘s quality journalism project, where we pick the brains of Australia’s top journalists and applaud the best of the Australian media. Our experts so far include Laura Tingle, Leigh Sales, Chris Mitchell, Alan Kohler, Wendy Bacon, Mark Colvin, George Negus, George Megalogenis, Marni Cordell, Tom Switzer, Ashleigh Gillon, Ita Buttrose, Michael Gawenda, Fran Kelly, Tim BurrowesBill BirnbauerMike CarltonEric Beecher, Monica Attard and Ross Gittins.

Now it’s over to SBS anchorman Anton Enus …

What is your definition of quality journalism?

Reporting that adds substantial value, challenges my assumptions and presents ideas within what I fancifully refer to as the arc of elegance. Most importantly, I should have great difficulty working out who the writer votes for.

Anton Enus’s top 10 quality journalism sources in Australia

  1. ABC Radio National: Intelligent talk. I would put the early morning team at the top of my list. Fran Kelly and Michelle Grattan are essential listening. In a broader sense, I also dip into the “Reports” (Health Report, Law Report, etc) because they always add value without any flab. On a Sunday morning I lie in bed — sometimes half-asleep — listening to Encounter and Correspondents’ Report which, with its distinctive music and consistent presentation, is very reassuring.
  2. The Sydney Morning HeraldOver the years I’ve become very assured by the kind of journalism I’ve seen at The SMH (to my shame I have to admit that I don’t get to The Australian Financial Review as often as I should). I would single out David Marr, Richard Ackland, Malcolm Knox and Richard Hinds as favourites.
  3. World News AustraliaI’m biased, I know, but this news service boxes well above its weight, whether in broadcast or online content (the iPhone/iPad app is great). We have determined, interesting people in the newsroom who have to find lateral ways of thinking to get stories of such depth to air — within the reality of the resources we have. I’m proud to be associated with this newsroom.
  4. SBS current affairs: Dateline has long been a fine example of how good ideas turn into great television. And I can tell you there’s no smoked salmon and champagne in the Dateline esky. Dedicated journos prepared to take the risks, often travelling alone, are the backbone of the show.
  5. ABC television: Media Watch is a must-see program for me, if for no other reason than to tear out my hair at the lack of ethics in some murky corners of our industry. On a more serious note, Four Corners is world class. They’ve had some truly amazing talents passing through their portals, not the least of which is that thoroughly deserving gold Walkley winner, Sarah Ferguson (who, like Nick McKenzie, has passed through the SBS newsroom, I’m pleased to say).
  6. The Monthly/Quarterly EssayI wish I spent more time with these publications, which provide an antidote to most of the shallow politics and celebrity-obsessed pap we find elsewhere in the print media.
  7. The Age: I love The Age’s opinion pages: often quirky, always entertaining. I find Melbourne a fascinating city and so am happy to dip in vicariously to local sensibilities. On the news front, Nick McKenzie has, in a very short few years, carved out a very impressive career in investigative reporting.
  8. Crikey: The letters page stoushes and Bernard Keane are enough to keep me coming back. I’m not a subscriber, so there’s less available for free than there used to be, but still enough to get me clicking.
  9. Mumbrella: Allows me to skim headlines from the media industry and ignore the boring bits.  I sometimes get the feeling that technology is galloping away from me, so it helps to be able to see what interesting things industry leaders are up to.
  10. The Rival: A friend recently pointed me to The Rival. It certainly has potential as a platform for news and cultural analysis. So far, the writing looks good and the ideas provocative (I’m probably the only person on the continent who hasn’t actually read or watched The Slap, but I was intrigued enough to read Carmen Michael’s take on what it’s really about).

What media do you consume on a daily basis?

When my bedside radio switches itself on at 6.30am, it’s Fran Kelly who wakes me up. I did live radio news and current affairs in South Africa and I know how intense it is, so I take my hat off to Fran for doing such a great job in perhaps the toughest gig in news broadcasting. I stay tuned for AM and then the half hour that includes Michelle Grattan and whatever the featured interviews are.

I have just two print edition subscriptions delivered at home: SMH every day and The New York Review of Books once a month.

I love flipping through the paper over a coffee, picking out the news stories that catch my eye. I read most of the op-ed pieces (there are a few columnists, some having since departed for new pastures, who are just too irritating or strident for my taste), as well as the letters page and Column 8 (for the pedant in my soul). I usually check in with The Midday Report on ABC1 or if I’m in the car I’ll dip into ABC NewsRadio.

When I’m out and about, I’ll have a look at what people are saying on Facebook (I’m amazed at how many breaking stories have alerts or links on social media these days) and I find the SBS World News Australia app on my iPhone very useful for a quick update.In the newsroom I’ll skim the major titles to see if there’s an analysis piece that appeals. I don’t read the tabloids except for a laugh. I’ll generally have Sky News going on the monitor on my desk, just because the rolling news format allows them to accommodate breaking news and longer news conferences. David Speers is very good value.

At 6pm I’ll check what the commercial networks are leading with, though I usually end up getting irritated that they put the apparently immense resources at their disposal to uses such as live crosses that add nothing of great value beyond having their reporter on the spot; or, worse still, to cross-promote some show or celebrity.

I don’t get to see ABC’s 7.30 live because it’s on as I’m heading out of the WNA studio (and I’m generally too lazy to check their website the next morning — unless there’s chatter about it on Facebook or Twitter). Lateline: I’ll generally get sucked in to watch the featured interview because they have access to really excellent talent. But I generally change channels if it’s an attack dog verses attack dog Canberra debate.

What particular stories – either Australian or international – do you think are classic examples of quality journalism?

  • Blue Death“, Four Corners: Sue Spencer and Paul Barry’s expose on mesothelioma (which I saw in South Africa).
  • David O’Shea: somehow manages to dodge bullets and still come out smiling in his reporting for Dateline.
  • Shadows and Whispers: Peter Charley and Kim Jung-Eun’s Walkley-winning doco on dismal life in North Korea (possibly the most emotionally charged piece of journalism I’ve ever seen).
  • Any Saturday morning on Radio National, with Geraldine Doogue at the mike. She is a treasure, just so impressive on every level: engaged, informed, sharp-witted.

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