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McDonald was one of Australia's youngest news anchors, first presenting at age 17. Darren went on to read the news on 11am, and then became the first anchor of Sunrise News when it launched to cover the first Gulf War.
McDonald is gay. In early 2002, a number of people were arrested for selling methamphetamine and importing MDMA into New Zealand; McDonald was amongst them. In 2003, he pleaded guilty to offering to supply methamphetamine and conspiracy to supply ecstasy. He admitted having been a drug addict from the age of 21, saying that he would spend around $1000 on drugs each week, and that he had even read the news while high on methamphetamine.
- "Former TV newsreader admits buzz from reading news 'high' - smh.com.au". www.smh.com.au. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
- "Stars' falls from grace embarrassing and public". New Zealand Herald. 19 June 2007. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
- "Newsreader's "story of addiction"". 1 News. 7 September 2003. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
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