Gaven Morris on making the news new again.

Gaven Morris is the outgoing Director of News at the ABC, and he recently spoke to Kelly Rioadan for her podcast series Curveball about his career in journalism and his six years as ABC news boss.

Gaven says coverage of the 2008 election of Barak Obama was the inspiration behind setting up a 24-hour rolling news service on the ABC despite running into an attitude of “can’t do” from within the organisation, calling the moment in time “The yes we can election, and the no we can’t moment at the ABC”.

 His push for a live rolling coverage of big historical events led to him being given to go ahead to establish a news channel, funded from internal savings, with new technology and methodology and new editorial treatment of stories.

This was further compounded when it had to be launched four months before it was ready to go because of an early Federal Election, and he says, “Lack of preparation time, new technology, new work flows and an internal climate where it wasn’t exactly welcomed by everybody…it was a pretty rough ride in the beginning. I remember one of those almost farcical moments where we were trying to cover live events and we had live-trucks, but we had no live-truck drivers because we had never needed them before.”

Despite these hurdles, and Gaven says perhaps because of them, the team began to band together with a determination to make the new channel work, with the coverage of the Brisbane floods marking a change to the public’s perception as the audience grew exponentially.

When the ABC Managing Director at the time, Mark Scott, asked him to consider becoming the ABC’s Director of News, Gaven says he didn’t think his long career in journalism had prepared him for the role saying, “There’s a lot of things you learn as a journalist that are exactly the wrong skills and talents you need as a leader. 

 “Journalism is quite a self-centered business in some ways, it’s quite a lot of ego involved in it. You’re very assumptions-based in the way you think.

 “Leadership is exactly the opposite. You don’t jump to the conclusion before you’ve properly assessed the issue or before you’ve devised a strategy. All of these things are a totally different skillset.” 

 He told staff in October that he will not renew his contract when it comes around again.


This is part one of a two part series on Curveball.

Tags: | | |