Today Tonight: the scandals, the blunders, the lowlights

Hosts came and went, but stories on 'dole bludgers' were a constant at...

Hosts came and went, but stories on ‘dole bludgers’ were a constant at Today Tonight. Source: News Limited

IT was announced today that Channel Seven has dumped Today Tonight in favour of one-hour news bulletins in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, to begin tonight.

Today Tonight will still screen its local versions in the smaller markets of Perth and Adelaide, but for most of us, one of Australia’s most controversial TV shows is no more. Let’s look back at some of TT’s most questionable, controversial and scandalous moments:

1. Naomi Robson’s gecko

Ah Naomi, arguably Today Tonight‘s most iconic host. There were her frequent off-air outbursts (helpfully posted to YouTube for posterity – be warned, the language she uses is definitely NSFW) but our favourite moment of her time in the hot seat has got to be the evening in 2006 when she reported on Steve Irwin’s death stood outside Australia Zoo clad in khaki, complete with a lizard on her shoulder. So moving.

 

Naomi Robson and friend outside Australia Zoo.

Naomi Robson and friend outside Australia Zoo. Source: News Limited

2. The cyber bully victim who wasn’t

In March last year, Today Tonight ran a special expose on an alleged ‘cyber bully’ named Tristan Barker, dubbing him “the world’s nastiest man.” Reporter David Eccleston interviewed a victim named Jasmine Frost, who accused barker of vicious bullying online. Just hours after the story aired, a YouTube video revealed that the entire thing had been a hoax: ‘Jasmine’ was actually Jasmine Vanmidde, a friend of Barker’s, and had concocted the story to expose TT’s lax research practices.

 

Jasmine (at left) with Lewis Spears, both part of a gang that dubbed itself 'Facebeef' and punked Today Tonight ...

Jasmine (at left) with Lewis Spears, both part of a gang that dubbed itself ‘Facebeef’ and punked Today Tonight with a concocted story about cyber bullying. Source: NewsComAu

3. The leadership spill blunder

Last year’s Labor leadership spill broadcast was plagued by gremlins and technical hiccups.

While over on the ABC, host Leigh Sales and guest Annabel Crabb handled the live, seat-of-your-pants coverage with aplomb, Kapalos struggled when for approximately 90 seconds she was left with no autocue, no script and no one to cross to.

Her broadcast collapsed into mumbo jumbo shortly after she announced Kevin Rudd was “gaining the numbers”.

“The same opinion …,” Kapalos started. “And we’ll have to move on to our next story now … but all very interesting down in Canberra. Of course we’ll continue to bring you continuing coverage throughout the evening on our news but now we’ll also be crossing to our viewer poll shortly.”

But the poll vanished from the screen. “Now to a Muslim who was on his way to becoming a radical …” she started, but it was not to be.

“I’m sorry we’ll have to go to something else there. But it is all happening in Canberra as we can see.”

Today Tonight host Helen Kapalos stumbled on election spill night, particularly for one torturous 90-second segment.

Today Tonight host Helen Kapalos stumbled on election spill night, particularly for one torturous 90-second segment. Source: Supplied

4. Let’s get Skase

In 1996, the show aired a report about disgraced and ailing businessman Christopher Skase. It was a dramatic story, with reporter David Richardson breathlessly explaining to camera that he and his crew were being blocked at every turn by Majorcan authorities, saying they were helping to prevent access to Skase’s Majorca home. “Roadblocks! Let’s get out of here,” he shouted at one point, giving viewers the impression the entire island was in lockdown at Skase’s behest.

One problem: as Media Watch later revealed, the footage was in fact shot in Barcelona, not on Majorca. The police Richardson claimed were blocking his access to Skase in Majorca were in fact the ‘Guardia Urbana de Barcelona’, directing traffic in the Spanish city.

Richardson was a serial offender for TT – in 2005, his story on a ‘serial single mum’ who he alleged was pocketing tens of thousands of dollars in Centrelink benefits was revealed to be a beat-up – Media Watch revealed that the woman in question was actually in full-time employment.

 

It didn't take long for Media Watch to find many inaccuracies in TT's supposed report from Majorca, much of whic...

It didn’t take long for Media Watch to find many inaccuracies in TT’s supposed report from Majorca, much of which was actually filmed in Barcelona. Source: NewsComAu

5. Those behind-the-scenes videos

In an attempt to endear Kapalos to the audience, the Today Tonight team started posting daily behind-the-scenes video blogs to promote the show, but her high-fives and winks were a little too much.

In one clip, Kapalos sashayed across the set and high-fived a member of her production crew. “Another day, another great line-up on TT,” she said.

In another, Kapalos sauntered outside the network’s studios, greeting fans with a “happy Monday” and a wink.

“She not only has bad days at the same time as Julia Gillard, but gets PR advice from the same person too,” media publication Mumbrella said.

 

High fives for Helen!

High fives for Helen! Source: NewsComAu

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