The Observer Effect: A TV show with time to reflect

The judges of The Australian/Vogel Literary Award have decided not to declare a winner this year in the nation’s most prestigious prize for young writers.
They said none of the entries had the “special quality” of previous winners, and it would damage the award to “pick a winner just because a winner had to be picked.”
I understand the judges’ decision, but my heart goes out to the writers, under the age of 35, who sweated blood and tears over their manuscripts, hoping to win the $20,000 prize and have it published by Allen & Unwin. It’s not something they will put in their CV: “I participated in The Australian/Vogel award in a year there was no winner.”
I can sympathise with them as I took part in the Best Australian Blogs Competition this year when there were multiple winners, and I received nothing. Okay, it was deserved, but I did put my heart and soul into this blog, as regular readers would know, and I was disappointed, not just for me, but for those of you who read and voted for me.
But I did have some compensation. I got a job last week. Yes, a real paying job, unlike this blog, which is a labour of love, but not of recompense!
I am now the series producer of The Observer Effect, a current affairs program, which will be shown on the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), the multicultural and multilingual broadcaster on Sunday nights, starting in June, and produced by Shine Australia. You may have read about it in the Sydney Morning Herald TV Guide this morning or online in the TV Blog, TV Tonight, in a post by David Knox.
We aim to bring you one guest, the observer, a well-known Australian, talking about the issues and stories of the week, and hopefully, the act of observation will change or affect what’s being observed. Our host is Ellen Fanning (photo above), an award-winning journalist, whose experience includes stints as the host of the equally award-winning AM program on the ABC, the Channel Nine Sunday Program and Sixty Minutes, and more recently, a senior reporter on The Global Mail. Ellen has a way of getting a guest to make observations in the most interesting ways. She had this to say about The Observer Effect: “A show like this is so critical in an age dominated by 140 character messages and a dizzying 24 hour news cycle. We will give leading Australians time to reflect on the state of the nation and to vigorously debate the critical issues in this election year. It’s a rare treat for an interviewer to have the best part of an hour on prime time TV. I’m honoured that SBS has given me the role.”
I look forward to producing it with the help of some really lovely and talented people, including the Executive Producer, Paul Steindl, a colleague of mine on Sunday and the Seven Network 30 years ago, and the production manager, Claire Worlidge, to name a few. And we won’t just be interviewing politicians: there will be Australians from many walks of life, including sport, literature, business and the arts. Stay tuned.
Now, this is going to take a lot of work, and means I may not be able to do my blog every week, but I will continue it because I love writing it. But I have managed a weekly post for the past two years, even with two hip replacement revisions, so I am not going to give up easily.
And working behind the scenes in television again, Gonzo will be meeting the press, and writing stories about the media, sport, politics, books and other things that have always interested him. In other words, The Observer Effect will affect me.
I also hope that the more than a thousand bloggers like me who did not win anything in the Best Australian Blogs competition continue to write and post their thoughts on their websites and blogs.
And that those young people in this year’s The Australian/Vogel Literary Award competition keep writing as well – that they rewrite that novel or non-fiction work and try to attain that “special quality” the judges were looking for.
But I warn you: it’s hard work so if it gets you down, just create another word document and write a post. It will keep your hand in.
And why did I take this job, which is likely to be 24/7, at an age when many journalists are putting their feet up? I will let the famous 19th Century American newspaper editor Horace Greeley provide the answer: “Journalism will kill you, but it will keep you alive while you’re at it.”

20 thoughts on “The Observer Effect: A TV show with time to reflect

  1. Fantastic news, Tom. I saw the story in the Guide today. Congratulations. I am sure they will benefit from your experience and guidance in producing a top notch show.

  2. Sincere congratulations – I love your blog, SBS and current affairs programmes. Win, win all the way. And don’t you have a stellar crew!! I know that is grammatically incorrect but it felt right to me.

  3. Great news Tommy, you and Ellen are a great double act. Looking forward to some intelligent discussion. Best Larry

  4. Congratulations Tom, it sounds like a refreshing show with a great format. With your writing skills and Ellen’s interviewing style, it should be a great show. Looking forward to watching it.

    • Thanks, Moshe. And don’t forget Paul Steindl’s production skills. He was the executive producer of Sunday for nearly two years during the days of Ellen and Ray Martin. He’s great as an EP.

  5. Tom, Tom, Oh Tom.What about the grand kids, What about the footy. What about the book? No to mention your wife. Seriously though, I am sure you have thought all these things through, and you are back doing, what is no more and no less, a passion. What makes you feel young and involved keeps you young and involved. I am proud for you my friend. And I do hope you get a few more viewers than in your last adventure. With the team you are working with that just might happen. As for the blog awards, don’t worry mate, you got your award every week you wrote. You know that. But it would be nice to see it occasionally, if for no other reason than to give me the opportunity to have a go. As they say in the classics, “break a leg”. On second thoughts please do not.

    • Hi Slam, thanks for your best wishes and kind words. The first person I consulted was my wife, and she said: “Go ahead. I won’t see much of you but you’ll be happy.” She’s a saint. It’s only a short-term contract so it will be over in October and then we’ll see if SBS and Shine want to continue. It is my passion. And, as you say, it’s a great team and we aim to produce a quality program. I will continue the blog so you can have a go as much as you like, though I may miss a week or two! I hope not to break a leg or a hip! Take care, Tom

      • You have a team, inside and outside the Media arena. Your wife, your love is the leader. of course I knew who you consulted with first. And the second, yourself. Who else do you have to deal with. The teams are there to back you up, but in the end your lovely wife and your good self make the call. SHINE On YOU Crazy………

  6. Great stuff Tom. I’m sure you’ll love every minute of it…. it’s just what the public need…time to reflect and observe in today’s crazy world. Hope I might be able to see it from HK. And I’m sure being as passionate as you are about writing Gonzo Meets the Press will still get his fair share of blogging done. Nicole x
    Ps thanks for your most recent comment on my blog too.

  7. Pingback: On not watching “Paper Giants” and other matters… | Neil's Commonplace Book

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