Here Today, gone Tonight

All good things come to an end. And so has Naomi Robson’s tenure at the helm of Today Tonight. After ten sterling years at the desk in Melbourne, and five in Sydney – and then, just like that, she’s snatched away from us. So suddenly. So cruelly. As Naomi herself might read flatly off the autocue, it’s “outrageous”.

Even by her ankle-high journalistic standards, she has had a tough year. The Beaconsfield make-up truck incident was problematic. She was in Tasmania to cynically milk cheap pathos out of a life-threatening situation, not become the story herself. And although it’s always been denied by Channel Seven, the damage was done – the mere fact that so many people thought she could have had one spoke volumes.

The fact that she flew up from Tasmania to attend the Logies in the middle of the drama showed just how magnificently oblivious she was. And allowed the Chaser team to make our grand entrance from a van marked “Naomi’s Makeup Truck” – if she’d stayed in Beaconsfield like the ever-classier Kochie and Mel, the joke mightn’t have worked.

The last straw, surely, was Wa-Wa. Naomi should never have been allowed to leave the desk, let alone travel to Indonesia on a misguided effort to save a boy from being eaten by faux cannibals. If only the Indonesian authorities who locked her up had planted some marijuana in her luggage and given her twenty years. Naomi’s something of a style icon, and being locked up in an Indonesian jail is ever-so fashionable at the moment.

But she has left us with so many memories. My favourite is when she presented the show from Ground Zero on the first anniversary of 9/11. The atmosphere was electric. It was simply the centre of the world that night, and her being there was a real coup. And then, after a poignant intro that would have brought a tear to any other presenter’s eye (Naomi’s tear ducts, of course, dried up years ago), Naomi threw, as ever, to a diet story. Yes, from “sacred ground”. It was true professionalism.

It was the precursor of the infamous Irwin lizard incident. Really, if she’d wanted to tackily cash in on the Crocodile Hunter’s death – and she did, let’s face it – she should have gone the whole hog and gotten into the ring to take on a full-sized saltie. Although unfortunately, you’d have to tip Naomi to win – not even Irwin’s beloved “apex predator” could penetrate that smug, narcissistic bubble. She’d probably just use that top-rating self-righteous indignation of hers to just shame it into submission.

Perhaps Naomi’s finest quality was her obliviousness. Where Ray Martin has always wrung every drop of poignance out of every situation, desperately trying to be Australia’s Friend, as his brilliantly insulting nickname went, Naomi clearly doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. I’m not sure she’s even aware of it.

Amanda Meade’s article on Robson in The Australian touches on this, in what was a prodigious exercise in character assassination:

A former Seven publicist tells Media Robson is “totally self-obsessed”, even while she is working, and he couldn’t send her out to talk to the media because she “talks about her Gucci sunglasses, her personal trainer and her BMW” without a thought for how she may be perceived. She will sit in the studio and tell people how many stomach crunches she did that morning. Unlike your Ray Martins or Jana Wendts, Robson has little interest in the stories she presents and isn’t even professional enough to fake it.

As Meade and others have noted, Robson was more Frontline than Mike Moore himself. Today Tonight is like someone watched that series, missed the satire and used it as the template for successful current affairs. And it’s consistently led the ratings as a result.

But given this, what I can’t understand is why TT would want to dump Robson. Yes, she’s horrible and awful. But doesn’t that make her the perfect host for a horrible and awful show? Yes, she’s gotten a lot of adverse publicity this year. But hasn’t that just gotten TT more headlines?

Seven has evidently judged that Naomi’s image was so bad that it brought the show into disrepute. And given how bad the show is, that’s a far more damning indictment on her character than anything I can write.

Vale, Naomi. I would write “farewell”, but I don’t particularly want you to, and I have every confidence you won’t.

Dominic Knight

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