Today Tonight title card
|Presented by||Helen Kapalos (New South Wales & Victoria)
Sharyn Ghidella (Queensland)
Rosanna Mangiarelli (South Australia)
Monika Kos (Western Australia)
|Country of origin||Australia|
|No. of seasons||16|
|Executive producer(s)||Max Uechtritz|
|Location(s)||Sydney and Melbourne (as a single edition)
|Running time||23 minutes|
|Original channel||Seven Network|
|Picture format||576i (SDTV)|
|Original run||January 1995 – present|
|Preceded by||Real Life (1992–1994)|
Today Tonight is an Australian "current affairs" television program produced by the Seven Network and shown on weeknights at 6.30 pm in direct competition with rival Nine Network program A Current Affair.
There are four different national editions of the program: Helen Kapalos presents the New South Wales & Victoria edition, Sharyn Ghidella presents the Queensland edition, Rosanna Mangiarelli presents the South Australian edition and Monika Kos presents the West Australian edition.
- 1 History
- 2 Achievement
- 3 Criticism
- 3.1 Christopher Skase controversy
- 3.2 Dole Army hoax
- 3.3 Neopets controversy
- 3.4 Contempt of court allegations
- 3.5 The "Serial Single Mum" controversy
- 3.6 The "Wa-Wa" controversy
- 3.7 Defamation of Mark McGaw
- 3.8 Chain stunt
- 3.9 Vietnamese flag controversy
- 3.10 Mercedes Corby
- 3.11 The Chaser's War on Everything
- 3.12 Karl Stefanovic's alleged drinking controversy
- 3.13 The Facebeef Group's Cyberbully Troll
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Today Tonight was a program first aired in Brisbane in the late 1970s on the Nine Network,. The current series initially began as Real Life, presented by Stan Grant. This program was replaced by local editions of a new program, Today Tonight at the beginning of 1995 in each of the main metropolitan markets (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth).
Today Tonight started broadcasting to the East Coast with three separate bulletins: a Melbourne edition presented by journalist/columnist Jill Singer, a Sydney edition presented by Neil Mercer, and a Brisbane edition presented by Carolyn Tucker. Over summer it was usual for Today Tonight to present a single edition broadcast across the entire East Coast.
In 1996, Singer collapsed on-air and was rushed to hospital. Singer subsequently took leave for a number of months and was replaced on-air by Naomi Robson. Singer returned in late 1996 but was replaced once again by Robson in January 1997.
The Sydney program was presented by a myriad of presenters from 1995 until 2001. Neil Mercer initially fronted the Sydney edition, later succeeded by Helen Wellings (1996) and Peter Luck (1997–1998) Stan Grant, ex presenter of Today Tonight-predecessor Real Life, returned in 1999 following the departure of Peter Luck. Grant was sacked by the Seven Network in 2000 after it was exposed he was having an affair with another then Seven Network personality, Tracey Holmes, and was subsequently replaced by Melissa Doyle. When Doyle went on maternity leave in 2001, the Melbourne edition of Today Tonight presented by Robson was broadcast into Sydney. This was intended to last only 12 weeks, but the Melbourne-presented version rated higher in Sydney than the local version. This led to Seven Network executives axing the Sydney edition in favour of an East Coast edition. Doyle returned at the end of 2002 to present the summer edition.
The Brisbane edition of Today Tonight was fronted by three different presenters in the course of its 7–8 year run, with Lexy Hamilton-Smith and Michelle Reiken presenting after Tucker. On 9 December 2002, Michelle Reiken went on maternity leave over the summer non-ratings period. During this time, the Melbourne/Sydney edition was broadcast into Brisbane. When the 2003 ratings period commenced, Seven Brisbane continued to air the Melbourne/Sydney edition instead of returning to a local version with an alternate presenter. Although the Seven Network announced that a local edition would return when Reiken returned from maternity leave, this never happened. In May 2003, Seven Brisbane officially axed its local version.
Until late 2006, the East Coast edition of Today Tonight continued to be presented by Naomi Robson. In November 2006, Robson announced she would be leaving Today Tonight to pursue other projects. She presented her last show on 1 December. 2006. According to news reports on 27 and 28 January 2007, Anna Coren was appointed Robson's permanent replacement after six weeks of filling in as the show's summer presenter. With Coren taking the chair, production of Today Tonight shifted from Seven's Melbourne studios to the Martin Place studio in Sydney. Earlier reports suggested the network had been seeking A Current Affair presenter Tracy Grimshaw for the role.
On 28 September 2008, Anna Coren resigned as presenter of Today Tonight to pursue a career at CNN in Hong Kong. Her replacement was announced on 30 September 2008 to be Matt White. Anna Coren signed off from the Seven Network on 10 October 2008. Coren was initially to remain presenter of Today Tonight until December 2008, but was sacked from the role in October with Matt White taking the seat on a permanent basis from 13 October 2008.
In November 2012, Matt White resigned as presenter of Today Tonight after four years to pursue other roles at the Seven Network.
On 11 February 2013, Helen Kapalos commenced as host of the New South Wales and Victorian editions of Today Tonight. Production of the programme was moved from Sydney to Melbourne where Kapalos is based. After an absence of a local edition for many years, a Queensland edition of Today Tonight was launched with Sharyn Ghidella as host. Ghidella also co-hosts Brisbane's Seven News service from Sunday to Thursday. The program is delayed on 7Two at 7:00pm in other areas of Queensland.
Today Tonight East Coast edition does not air in Albury, Wagga Wagga, Orange, Coffs Harbour, Lismore, Tamworth or Taree.
Since the program's inception in South Australia in 1995, Leigh McClusky fronted the South Australian edition of the program, only taking leave over summer and to give birth to her son in 2002 (John Riddell filled-in) and to have a daughter in 2006 (Rosanna Mangiarelli filled in), until 2007. When the program first started it rated 100,000 behind its competitor, A Current Affair, although ratings steadily increased under McClusky. In 2001, Today Tonight began outrating A Current Affair in what would become a 4 year winning streak.
Leigh announced on 6 February 2007 that she would be leaving Today Tonight Adelaide to have twins, but unlike on previous occasions, would not be returning. She presented her last show on 17 August 2007. Rosanna Mangiarelli began as presenter on Monday 20 August 2007 after several years as substitute presenter.
Rosanna Mangiarelli was away on maternity leave from January 2009 till March 2009 while she and husband Andrew welcomed baby Emma Marie Oborn into the world on 3 February 2009 Paul Makin presented during this period.
The main fill-in presenter for Today Tonight is Paul Makin
Today Tonight South Australia edition does not air in Spencer Gulf and Broken Hill.
The Western Australian edition of Today Tonight was originally presented by Yvette Mooney. In 1997, Mooney resigned from her presenting role, and was replaced by Monika Kos. The current fill-ins for Today Tonight are Tina Alteri or Andrea Burns.
- Gavin Alder
- Laura Sparkes
- Clare Brady
- Paul Makin
- Frank Pangallo
- Tineka Everaardt
- Francesca Belperio
- Jackie Quist
- Lynda Kinkade
- David Richardson
- Bryan Seymour
- Mitchell Gray
- Rodney Lohse
- Georgia Main
- Helen Wellings
- Graeme Butler
- Damien Hansen
- Samuel Boric
Today Tonight nationally was the last program to win the Logie for Most Popular Public Affairs Program before that award was discontinued.
Today Tonight is notorious for its sensationalist reporting, and is an example of tabloid television where stories rotate around community issues i.e. diet fads, miracle cures, welfare cheats, shonky builders, negligent doctors, poorly run businesses and corrupt government officials. For this reason the program is constantly under criticism and ridicule, especially by satirical groups such as The Chaser.
The show has also been found multiple times to be in breach of The Australian Communications and Media Authority's policies in regards to invasion of privacy and not Presenting factual material accurately.
Christopher Skase controversy
ABC TV's Media Watch program revealed that Today Tonight, on their 12 November 1996 broadcast, had fabricated much of a report about disgraced Australian businessman Christopher Skase. Today Tonight sent producer Chris Adams and reporter David "Sluggo" Richardson, along with a camera crew, to pursue Skase who was claiming that his health prevented him from being tried. Richardson alleged that because the Today Tonight crew's videos showed that Skase was in good health, Skase used his connections to the Majorcan authorities in order to establish police roadblocks to seize the Today Tonight crew's videotapes. The only support for these claims was a video of Dave Richardson driving past police, exclaiming "Roadblocks! Let's get out of here". Media Watch proved, through examining the broadcast report, that this footage was in fact shot in Barcelona, not on the island of Majorca. The "police" that Richardson was passing were in fact the Guàrdia Urbana de Barcelona, who use roadblocks to control traffic flow in the centre of the city.
Dole Army hoax
On 4 February 2002, both Today Tonight and their main rival A Current Affair broadcast stories about a so-called "Dole Army" operating from Melbourne's subterranean stormwater drains, and recruiting for an organised effort to defraud the Australian government of unemployment benefits. The next day, an anarchist group claimed they had sold the programmes a hoax story, and due to lack of research and a desire to vilify the unemployed, both networks had fallen for the elaborate prank.
In October 2004, just as a McDonald's Happy Meal promotion related to virtual pet site Neopets began, the show ran a story about a boy that explained that Neopets ordered players to play games of chance in order to avoid sending the titular pets to the Pound. A factual error is that, chance games are optional and pets can only be sent to the pound if users want to leave them. However this sparked a massive controversy about Neopets and McDonald's themselves blocked Australian users access to games of chance.
Contempt of court allegations
In 2004, Today Tonight picked up on a story published in Melbourne's Sunday Herald Sun about a boy allegedly "divorcing" his mother. Today Tonight's story was subsequently discussed on Seven's breakfast television program Sunrise program. In 2005, journalists, editors and producers from all three media outlets were taken to the Sydney Magistrates' Court for breaching the Children and Young Persons Act 1989 for naming the child in question. Presenter Naomi Robson was found not guilty of contempt of court, as the magistrate found she did not have editorial control over the story, but producers of the show were fined.
The "Serial Single Mum" controversy
On 18 July 2005, Today Tonight screened a report by David Richardson about "Australia's Serial Single Mum". The report was about a single mother named "Mary-Anne", a private citizen who lives in suburban Sydney. The program asserted that Mary-Anne "had five children to five different men and pocketed tens of thousands in welfare" from Centrelink. It was later revealed by Media Watch that Mary-Anne was working full-time and had the children to four fathers not five. Media Watch described the exchange between Richardson and Mary-Anne as an "appalling attack", and "Another offensive beat up from Dave 'Sluggo' Richardson".
The "Wa-Wa" controversy
The Seven Network claimed that its team was sent to the region to do a story on Wa-Wa, a young boy who was apparently in danger of being ritually killed by his tribe, the Korowai (according to a 60 Minutes story on the Nine Network some months earlier). Seven also claimed that their rivals at Nine had sabotaged their story and their mission to "rescue" Wa-Wa from his tribe (who are believed to practise cannibalism), by informing the Indonesian authorities of their visa arrangements. Nine refuted Seven's claims and threatened legal action. Seven alleges that a Nine reporter offered about $100,000 to a guide not to help Seven with their story. Seven's director of news and current affairs, Peter Meakin said "There is evidence to support the claims that, in particular, this man Cornelius was offered $100,000 not to rescue the boy." "I think the phrase was 'name your own price'", he said.
Defamation of Mark McGaw
On 2 November 2006 the Supreme Court of New South Wales awarded former Gladiator and rugby league star Mark McGaw $385,000 for a defamatory story Today Tonight broadcast in June 2003. The Supreme Court jury found that the story made two defamatory imputations: that McGaw was "a man of dangerous domestic violence", and that he "bashed his lover so severely that she was hospitalised with horrific injuries".
On 20 February 2007, the East Coast edition of Today Tonight led with a story about Shirley Frey, an 84-year-old resident of a nursing home in Willoughbywho was fighting attempts to evict her. The story featured footage of her chained up in her room, and the reporter, Nicolas Boot, said she was "refusing to budge, chaining herself to her room". In response to the airing of that story, the following day officials with the Department of Health and Ageing visited the nursing home. According to a spokesman for Minister for Ageing Santo Santoro, the resident told them the chains had been brought along by the crew, and the process of chaining her up had been instigated by the program. 
In response to this incident, presenter Anna Coren was forced to read an apology to viewers on the next night's broadcast, and announced that Seven had launched an internal investigation. Earlier that day, Boot was suspended. On 23 February, Seven released a statement indicating Boot had left his employment with the Seven Network. However, no announcement was made as to any actions taken against off-camera staff, such as producers, over this incident, which Seven Head of News and Current Affairs Peter Meakin described as "one of the more embarrassing" incidents which he has had to deal with.
Vietnamese flag controversy
On 8 May 2007, Today Tonight reported about a Vietnamese Australian welfare cheat Dat Van Vu; though using the generalised title "Vietnamese Sting" and using the flag of Vietnam. Both resulted in anger amongst the Australian Vietnamese community, the first because of the association of ethnicity to criminality, and the second of using the communist flag. Most Vietnamese Australians fled the anti-communist South Vietnam after the fall of Saigon to the one-party state ruled over by the Vietnamese Communist Party, and choose to identify with the flag of the Republic of Vietnam.
In 2007 Today Tonight ran a story on Mercedes Corby, sister of convicted drug trafficker Schapelle Corby. Mercedes' friend, Jodi Power, claimed that Mercedes was a drug trafficker as well. Mercedes sued Seven for defamation, and in May 2008 a NSW Supreme Court jury found that the story had defamed her, resulting in a settlement the next day of an undisclosed sum. Earlier, on 14 March 2007, Coren admitted in an interview with The Daily Telegraph that a private investigator hired by Seven had lied about being an official to set up Mercedes.
The Chaser's War on Everything
ABC show The Chaser's War on Everything frequently ridiculed Today Tonight and its former presenters Naomi Robson and Anna Coren in a segment called "What Have We Learned From Current Affairs This Week?". They especially ridiculed Anna Coren in two mini-segments. They were known as "Anna Coren's Segue of the Week" and "Anna Coren's Meaningless Gibberish of the Week". In late 2007, Today Tonight went straight to the supreme court to stop the Chaser's footage from airing on their show. Today Tonight alleged that the Chaser team illegally entered the Seven Network studios without permission. The Chaser's War on Everything has been featured on Today Tonight a few times, often criticising the comedians about their show and pranks that they execute. In one interview, reporter James Thomas was planning to follow the Chaser around as a publicity stunt, but this failed, as Chaser members Andrew Hansen and Chas Licciardello arrived at the Seven Network's studios with a van marked as Peter Meakin Booze Bus, ridiculing the Seven Network's chief executive, Peter Meakin.
"When he got to the ABC, we did the very thing Today Tonight always does to their subjects...we double crossed him."
Karl Stefanovic's alleged drinking controversy
On 7 May 2009, Today Tonight broadcast a segment on Today co-host Karl Stefanovic, alleging that Stefanovic was drunk on air during the post-Logies edition of the Today show. It reported the rumor that Stefanovic was taken off air for more than two days following the incident. The claims were slammed by Channel Nine, stating that the claims were "desperate nonsense" and "wilfully false". Channel Nine spokesman David Hurley said that Stefanovic was tired not drunk, that the reason he did not appear on the Today show was due to a prior engagement to appear on 60 Minutes, and that claims of Stefanovic being taken off air were a "pure invention of Channel Seven".
The Facebeef Group's Cyberbully Troll
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (March 2013)|
On 11 March 2013 Today Tonight aired a longer than usual 8 minute exposé on supposed "cyber bully" Tristan Barker, labelling him "the worlds nastiest man". The story featured "victim" Jasmine Frost, who accused Tristan of cyberbullying and told reporter David Eccleston that she had received "pictures of penises in the mail" from Tristan and his followers. Approximately four hours after the story aired, a video was posted on YouTube by Facebeef member "Nebz Adlay", revealing that Facebeef had constructed the entire story in order to purposefully trick Today Tonight. Jasmine Frost then appears and reveals herself to be a longstanding member of Facebeef and the pair taunt Today Tonight for not conducting thorough research.
The following day, Today Tonight released a statement admitting they were incorrect and called Jasmine an "attention seeker". The stunt received nationwide news coverage.
- YouTube – QTQ 9 Today Tonight Opener 1983
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- Byrnes, Holly (6 May 2009). "Karl Stefanovic "wasn't drunk, he was tired".". Dailytelegraph.com.au (News Limited).
- Official network websites
- Today Tonight at the Internet Movie Database
- Today Tonight at TV.com
- Today Tonight at the National Film and Sound Archive