Dedicated to Mark "Mawk" Riccardi, [uploader of Marie-Louise Theile's farewell] 1989-2008.
Brisbane is a unique TV market. We were the first metro TV stations north of Sydney. We still cling to our localism like a raft. But we innovate, like no other. Before we get to the farewells, I will talk about some past female newsreaders, and one who is still going strong.
The original female newsreader- Melody Illife.
Not much video is out there about Australia's first female newsreader. That's right first. In the sixties, QTQ-9 had Don Seccombe and Melody Illife reading Nine's news, which introduced something which has become the staple for Brisbane television, the male-female dual news bulletin. Melody won a Logie in 1965, for this achievement, which opened doors for many other females to get into television news.
Jackie McDonald, Entertainer, Sidekick, Newsreader?
TVQ-0 had a great combo in 1982, in the form of Brisbane TV legend, Brian Cahill, and Kay McGrath (who we will get to later). But in 1983, they took a gamble after Cahill's departure, by unveiling a new newsteam. Des McWilliam, who eventually became the station's news director and childrens personality Jackie McDonald, were brought in to spearhead their bulletin. The only major flaw was, Jackie was also doing Hey Hey it's Saturday (back then still a morning program), in Melbourne, on Channel 9. Eventually, (after the Brisbane press found out about Jackie's weekend job with a ostrich, just as TVQ put up billboards promoting the 6pm bulletin) Jackie left to do Hey Hey full time, just as it was moved from mornings to a national primetime slot in 1984 (in which the controversy was referred to in the opening minutes of the first episode.)
Kay McGrath: a magnificent career.
Kay McGrath... A icon, a newsreaders newsreader. Kay started her career at Brisbane's Channel 0 (a foundery of female talent, which also gave Robin Parkin, Tracey Spicer, Marie-Louise Thiele and Anna McMahon their starts in TV news.) and eventually read the main 6pm bulletin with Brian Cahill in 1982. By 1985, she was reading with Des McWilliam on weekdays, on the now TV0 Eyewitness News, alongside sports reporter (and eventual anchor in 1988) Rob Readings, and former Met Bureau head Ray Wilkie on weather. By 1987, after working for TVQ for many years and seeing the changes at that station (from Channel 0 to TV0, from Qintex to Darling Downs Television ownership), her former boss offered her a move to 7 and Sydney.
1988 was a good year, but she longed for Brisbane, so in 1989 she came home and became Frank Warrick's co-anchor until 2001. For the first half of 2002, she read solo, until Rod Young came from the ABC, and became her co-anchor. Ratings slowly grew, but the real gain was when 7 lured John Schluter after he left 9, and 7 News had reached highs not seen since the 1980's, Kay turned 50 in 2006, and is probably the oldest female newsreader still active on Australian television.
Tracey, was part of the 90's class of female, multitasked newsreaders (i.e learned the newsreading art from Kay McGrath, and to process weather from Frank Warrick), that came up through BTQ-7, that went on to a lot of bigger things, with notable members such as Jillian Whiting (who went to QTQ-9 and anchored with Bruce Paige then went to Extra, before leaving in late 2008), Melissa Downes (who went to QTQ in 2001, and did reporting and the occasional bulletin before she replaced Heather Foord this year) and Kim Watkins (who went to 9 for a long stint, before becoming the co-host with David Reyne of 9am with David and Kim, after Bert Newton left Ten in late 2005). The majority of this group were former news reporters, which led to most of this group doing reporting on weekdays, and newsreading on weekends. Eventually, Challenor was the sole member of this group at BTQ, and settled into a weekend position, which fitted in with her family commitments. By 2007, however, she was asked to leave the weekend position, for new recruit Sharyn Ghidella and the farewell is below.
Marie Louise started at Ten, around the time the network went into recievership, which lost a steady project for one of their female newsreaders, "Brisbane with Anna McMahon" due to cost cutting. Eventually TVQ relaunched, at first with TVQ stalwart Des McWilliam at the desk, but time changed and newsreader Glenn Taylor (who had spent three years reading Seven Nightly News with a young Jennifer Keyte in Melbourne) returned to Brisbane, to anchor Ten Eyewitness News with Marie Louise. All went well until 1993, when she moved to ATV-10 in Melbourne, to replace Jo Pearson (a news icon that shaped ATV's news in the 1980's), where she worked with both David Johnston, and Melbourne institution Mal Walden. By the late 1990's, she came home, at first back with Taylor, then after Taylor's departure, TVQ legend Geoff Mullins (which a controversal moment occured), and from 2004 to 2007, Bill McDonald.
Heather started her career, working briefly on Ten's Good Morning Australia (the breakfast program that launched Larry Emdur and Ken Brown aka Brownie, on successful careers), before joining the QTQ-9 newsroom in 1987. Heather filed reports and went on the road to do stories, like most seasoned journalists, before becoming a occasional newsreader, while doing news updates, until 1990, when she took on the role which would define her career. Robin Parkin left QTQ, and Foord stepped up and read the 6pm weekday bulletin with Mike London, which lasted until 1996, when London and a returning Bruce Paige swapped roles, and Foord was anchoring with Paige (much like now). During that first run with Paige, Heather started a family, and for a time went back to weekends (with new recruit, Jillian Whiting reading weekdays with Paige), at first with Mike London again, then after he left after an "incident" in 2003, Foord was reading solo. By 2004, Foord and Whiting swapped, with Whiting reading weekends, and the second Paige/Foord run began. By 2008, however the strain that working five nights per week had on her family, started to show, particulary during her late 2007 stint reading the news on Today (filling in for Georgie Gardner) while still reading with Paige at 6pm, and she announced at the end of a Friday night bulletin, that she was giving reading news up for her family. The farewell is below, but we will still see Heather, as she is moving to Extra, and being part of the station's upcoming 50th birthday celebrations.
Youtube-Mawk3, dragons4ever2007, kuttsywood*
(*Disclosure, the kuttsywood Youtube channel is operated by the same person who wrote this blog. You know, me... so check it out!)