Today Tonight: journalistic slop that can’t even sit on the fence

today tonightWith questionable story choices, a lack of balance and constant wars on fatty foods Maxus boss David Gaines, is no fan of Today Tonight and says it could do so much more with the timeslot. 

To be fair, this loathing could arguably be aimed at A Current Affair or 60 Minutes. But Today Tonight has a special something that really wins the race to the bottom of the pan.

I hate Today Tonight. It makes me curse aloud if I am unfortunate enough to see the logo arrive on the screen. It’s not new news that this is a sensationalistic toilet that uses terms like ‘journalism’ and ‘agenda’ to suggest credibility. But what I can’t stand is that it simply wastes an opportunity to do something more meaningful.

Creating friction between the brands that fund the show and the producers

I don’t really care what that is. It could be taking the higher ground and genuinely educating or bringing society up to speed on issues that the masses could/should care about; really own some credible perspectives. Alternatively go completely overboard and be TV’s National Enquirer.

Give us extreme sensationalism that we know is utter rubbish but is entertaining and has a clever slant. There could be some underlying innuendo that alludes to an important truth among the more obvious piss- taking. But no. Today Tonight’s theme can be summarized as unsubstantiated blame. It pretty much works as follows: pick a topic – any topic.

During lunch, everyone votes on an easy option as to why that topic is a problem. The problem has to have been loosely associated with the topic, though that can be as broad as is necessary.

Then present topic and problem in a pathetically authoritarian manner that suggests to the viewer that Today Tonight must surely be right.

My whining could justifiably be categorized as naive as this is actually just about getting ratings. But so many topic areas that are chosen are not even smart commercial choices for the network.

How often does Today Tonight take any evil sweet or fatty food for its focus? They roll out some poor overweight kid whose parents are a great ad for license application when having children. They too look like they could do with the odd brisk walk around the block. But what is the real cause of all this unhealthy trauma? That’s right – the evil sweet/fatty food they hold up in their chubby fingers.

And the Today Tonight reporter stares into the camera and says something like ‘…and they are allowed to sell this to Australian children?’ Not once does he suggest that the parents should stop feeding their kid with a shovel.

So why is this commercially a little daft? Well, chances are, the evil product is one of the advertisers helping fund the production of this drivel. I am not for one second suggesting that Today Tonight should produce favourable content for those who advertise.

But at least have the smarts to provide a balanced perspective so that the segment provides some objectivity. Instead they create a huge amount of friction between those who fund the production of the content and have the front to use ‘journalistic integrity’ as the rationale. Today Tonight, striving to make us all dumber.

David Gaines is the outgoing CEO of media agency Maxus. 


  1. Really?
    19 Sep 12
    1:00 pm

  2. Victims don’t want to hear that anything could be their fault. Victims like to hear it’s all someone else’s fault. And of course, commercial TV networks never, ever let commercial interests dictate the editorial agenda. Like that recent story about the deodorant from the P&G factory, or the new paddle pop from the cutting edge Unilever factory. Advertorial alternates with victim baiting. Champagne TV!

  3. Golum
    19 Sep 12
    1:01 pm

  4. I take it some of David’s clients or prospective clients at his new gig are those very junk food companies he’s feeling sorry for in this piece?

  5. talkingboonie
    19 Sep 12
    1:32 pm

  6. the shit between the ads…

  7. Dan
    19 Sep 12
    1:37 pm

  8. Just look at the ratings, David. ‘Nuff said.

  9. Finntastic
    19 Sep 12
    3:35 pm

  10. I think you’re not being entirely fair, David.

    I mean “pick a topic – any topic” – really? Today Tonight is a revolving sluice that deposits its effluent with stunning monotony into the living rooms of Australia every night.

    Vitamin pills. Squabbling Neighbours. Shifty foreigners. People on benefits. Food price comparisons. Energy prices. Aaaand back to the vitamin pills.

    The show is like a reoccuring Stepford Wife nightmare in which everyone in the country has been turned into a dribbling idiot.

    TT is a misanthropic, shallow, dishonest, moronic parade of the trivial and the inconsequential, forever picking on and demonising the easy, weak targets while the real tough issues (homelessness, say, or Aboriginal inequality or children in detention or Australia’s wider place in the world) are passed over because they are complex and can’t be summed up with an simplistic, patronising platitute delivered by someone with perfectly white teeth to a spoon-fed audience.

    TT and ACA represent much of why Australia is seen as a backward country. They treat us like we are fools who need opinions poured into us, rather than be presented with facts. These shows debase us all. We’re better than this.

  11. Chris
    19 Sep 12
    3:43 pm

  12. Umm. It’s called entertainment.

  13. Sharon
    20 Sep 12
    1:35 pm

  14. Who’s this guy making these comments? Is he a journalist? Oh, he has a “media agency” aka works in advertising. So he’s qualified to say this stuff then. Can you say “truth in advertising”?. Didn’t think so.

  15. Millie
    20 Sep 12
    2:41 pm

  16. Completely agree @Finntastic. Today Tonight is a small minded show for small minded people.

  17. Cri
    20 Sep 12
    3:04 pm

  18. Anyone who watched TT, ACA or 60 Minutes seriously as a source of news (and ratings indicate they do) should get the serious Frontline on dvd. Then they should take a good long hard look at themselves.

  19. EmF85
    21 Sep 12
    3:02 pm

  20. Your chosen angle aside David, it always makes me laugh to watch a ‘cutting-edge-you-won’t-believe-what-we’ve-uncovered’ segment on TT, only to turn over the ACA 3 nights later and watch the same thing, or vice versa!!
    I think I have seen a report on what those pesky discount nail salons are doing to the toes of the country, about 5 times this year so far!

  21. awesome
    24 Sep 12
    2:52 pm

  22. I like TT and ACA. I can happily sit there on my couch thinking ‘what morons buy into this sh*t’ and feel better about myself, knowing that I must be smarter that the suburb dwelling bogans that seem to make up the majority of the country.

  23. Tad
    24 Sep 12
    6:37 pm

  24. None of you guys watch TT, so you can’t really make an informed judgement. I actually think it’s pretty basic journalism that does what it’s supposed to.

    Pick a topic, find experts and sources to push an argument, find others who disagree and give them a say (you wouldn’t know about this part, because you don’t watch the show, but every story includes this) then conclude. What is so wrong with that?

  25. tedfthis
    25 Sep 12
    6:04 pm

  26. I am hearing impaired and need captions on TV, to enjoy it. The most pathetic thing about both Today Tonight and ACA is that they are “live” captioned. “Live” captioning is a PITA for deaf people and are sometimes way out in their interpretation of whats spoken and in the timing.

    Seeing as most of the stories seem to be either cross promotion, plugging their own channels programmes, weight loss stories, electricity prices, Choice reports, arthritis cures etc, none of these need to be shown at any particular time on any particular day, as they arent ground breaking new science. It beggars belief if anyone believes that someone actually needs to be sitting in Ch 7 & 9 studios at 6 30 p.m. just to put this crap to air. Most stories are nothing more than advertorials and the government is letting the TV channels get away with it. That, plus the usual bagging of Centrelink cheats and the best values in real estate are what passes for local content entertainment today.

    Letting the channels regulate themselves, as regards advertising was a big mistake. All programmes in prime time are suppose to be captioned for the deaf. I have complained to both Ch 7 and Ch9 about the “live” captioning and their relevance or importance to have to be shown THAT night. Its just laziness and cost cutting on behalf of the TV channels. They both reckoned that their stories are relevant to THAT DAY and need to be shown when they are. I reckon its bullshit and laziness. Why do both channels seem to have 75% of the same stories on the same day too?

  27. Jeff
    26 Sep 12
    4:21 pm

  28. Could not agree more David.

    Watching TT and ACA makes people:

    – 10% more sceptical of landlords/estate agents/tradies
    – 10% angrier
    – 10% more racist
    – 10% more likely to wallow in self-pity…”poor me”
    – 10% lower scoring in an IQ test

    I miss The Chaser’s weekly piss-take of TT and ACA.