World News – AU – 60-minute pioneer and legendary TV producer Gerald Stone is dead


« I don’t care what it costs » It’s been a long time since those words echoed in the halls of power on television, and in the age of fractured and limited modern television by the budget, we might never hear again

But these were the words Nine’s former owner Kerry Packer used to commission journalist-turned-news producer Gerald Stone to bring 60 Minutes news magazine to Australia. « It was a wonderful record for any producer, » Stone later said of Packer’s order.

Stone, whose colorful career in television news and current affairs is second to none, has passed away at 87

Journalist Ray Martin, who along with George Negus, Ian Leslie and later Jana Wendt was part of the original 60 Minutes programming, praised his former boss as a journalist with « a touch of tabloid but a class heap « 

“It sounds like, be specific, but not worth it,” said Martin “What made 60 Minutes the perfect vehicle for Gerald Stone was television as a means of entertainment, but at the same time time was about storytelling, breaking news and people « 

Martin said that Stone « made you believe you could do better It’s a huge skill to inspire people, and in his own style, he almost reveled in Jana’s emergence, and about my emergence, and the emergence of Negus, and other people [he worked with], like Stan Grant

« Gerald regaled these [careers] like, I’ll say trophies, but I mean that in a kind sense He would take a step back and watch Jana shine and realize that he had played a big part in her development. « Said Martin

Wendt remembered his mentor, former boss and friend as an « imposing presence; tenacious in finding stories, demanding and fierce in competition »

« In the early ’80s, for me, a rookie journalist he tried his luck on, he was dazzling, » said Wendt

« Over the past 20 years, long after our working relationship ended, Gerald has become a dear friend, overflowing with warmth, kindness and charm

Born in 1933 in the United States and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Stone graduated from Cornell University with a degree in political science and, in 1957, landed his first job in journalism, as a copyist in the room. writing of « Gray Lady », American newspaper of reference, The New York Times

In 1962, Stone emigrated to Australia with his wife Beth and their two children Klay and Jennifer, landing in Sydney on a Bristol Britannic, a 139-seat turboprop aircraft operated by the Canadian Pacific airline.

In the same year he was hired by the Daily Mirror in Sydney, and in 1965 spent three months in Vietnam as a special correspondent for The Australian and the Daily Mirror, and the following year published an account of his experiences, War Without Honor

All that glitters is not gold Gerald Stone and the failed experiment of a joint Sydney / Melbourne newscast on NineCredit: Fairfax Media

The book, which explores controversial topics such as how the Australian public was informed about events in the theater of the Vietnam war and whether Australian leaders were themselves « objectively informed » of the facts, is a revealing glimpse into the interrogative nature of Stone, his passion for journalism but also his daring in the face of questioning industry processes

In 1967 Stone moved to television, first as a reporter on ABC’s This Day Tonight and in 1974 he was hired by Sir Frank Packer for a new news program on the Nine Network, Federal File

A year later, Stone rose to the position of CIO at Nine and, perhaps proving that not everything he touched in the golden age of television really shone, he chaired the failure of News Center Nine, a nightly news show in two cities hosted by Brian Henderson in Sydney and Peter Hitchener in Melbourne

In 1978 there was a conversation with Sir Frank’s son Kerry Packer, who ran Channel Nine after his father’s death in 1974, which will propel him into the most colorful and defining chapter of his career.

The younger Packer asked Stone to start an Australian edition of the American news show 60 Minutes « I don’t care what it costs, do it and do it right, » Packer told him. , according to Stone Depending on the circumstances in which Stone was rehearsing the story, there was sometimes a curse somewhere in there

And on February 11 of the following year, Australia 60 Minutes saw the light of day, making its debut with three « star » reporters – Martin, Negus and Leslie – every Sunday evening at 7:30 am, filing reports from various locations around the world In 1982 Wendt joined the program

“It was a time in Australia that was filled with hypocrisy, with sacred cows that had lived too long with people who were content with lip service,” Stone said years later. “And he didn’t there is nothing like hypocrisy to bring out good journalism « 

And despite the many names that have graced the show’s lineup of reporting over the years, from Richard Carleton to Elizabeth Hayes, these first four – Leslie, Martin, Negus and Wendt – still remain inextricably linked with the brand. sustainable emission

Gerald Stone in 1979 with his original 60 Minutes reporting team: Ray Martin, Ian Leslie and George Negus

Later, asked which reporter was his favorite among those who stood in front of the show’s iconic stopwatch, Stone declined, « That’s a very good question; it doesn’t always have to be answered. to questions « , he declared

As a 60 Minutes puppet master in his early days, Stone made the series the greatest show in the world

It was Stone who sent Ray Martin to interview Lindy Chamberlain and ophthalmologist Fred Hollows, on tour with KISS and in a meeting with the Queen of the country, Dolly Parton, and George Negus on the frontlines of the conflicts in Zimbabwe and in Nicaragua, and in her memorable clash with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Stone also sent Ian Leslie to the Philippines, where he was held at gunpoint, and Jana Wendt to meet with Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi in Imelda Marcos’ shoe cabinet, on the streets of Gaza and at a meeting with rock icon Mick Jagger, who jokingly responded to his sharp pen by calling him a « bossy boots »

“It was tough because everyone would say it’s an American scam and certainly it had the American format,” Stone said later, reflecting on the show’s success. “It was a pretty different program in Australia because Australia didn’t have a lot of good stories to tell It was a small country

“So we had to go overseas and I think that’s how we made our mark,” Stone added. “Showing people what happened overseas People don’t get Maybe they don’t care what happened in Nicaragua, but they maybe care what George Negus did in Nicaragua « 

Stone’s biggest regret in his career, Martin said, was sending cameraman Brian Peters and journalist Malcolm Rennie to East Timor in 1975

Peters and Rennie, along with three members of a Seven Network team, journalist Greg Shackleton, phonograph Tony Stewart and cameraman Gary Cunningham, were murdered by Indonesian troops at Balibo

« Gerald took the loss of the crew to Balibo deep in his heart, » said Martin. « Forever more, yes he wanted to go to a war zone, but there was still a feeling of relief, which was so noticeable, when you walked out of a war zone and signaled that you were safe

« As a tough editor he still had to send you to dangerous places, but you realized that [the events of Balibo] had left an indelible scar on his heart When we spoke about Gerald, he was able to make the tough decisions, but there was a compassionate character that came before them »

Martin notes that of the three most important programs in Australian news history – The Four Corners of ABC and This Day Tonight, and Nine’s 60 Minutes – it’s telling that Stone was heavily involved in two of the three

“That was the benchmark,” Martin said. “He believed you had no right to be worthy on TV, you had to entertain, but you had to be precise in what you did”

Martin quotes an oft-cited line from Stone as a glimpse of his mind: « When we started 60 Minutes, he said, look, we’ll let Four Corners tell the story of the great flood We’ll do a colorful profile on Noah « 

After leaving Nine Stone, he held senior positions at Fox Network in the US and Channel Seven in Australia, and between 1995 and 1998 he served as editor of The Bulletin Stone was also a director of the board of directors of SBS between 2000 and 2010

In addition to his work as a journalist and producer, Stone then returned to his writing career.In 2000, he wrote the book Compulsive Viewing: The Inside Story of Packer’s Nine Network and, seven years later, Who Killed Channel 9? The Death of Kerry Packer’s Mighty TV Dream Machine In 2002, he wrote a biography of advertising and radio titan John Singleton, Singo: Mates, Wives, Triumphs, Disasters

Nine Entertainment CEO Hugh Marks paid tribute to Stone’s role in Nine Network’s formative years today, saying he « holds a high pedestal in Nine history and a deep place in our hearts »(Nine is the owner of this Masthead banner)

« With its great storytelling and high production values, 60 Minutes changed the way we watch TV and launched dozens of now famous careers, » Marks said, in a message to staff.

The success of the series « four decades later remains a living testament to Gerald’s ability to produce quality content through his good instincts about the stories, the people he chose to tell them, the his keen eye for angles and detail and his incredible ability to create makes him so relevant to a huge audience, ”said Marks

Marks said Stone was deeply respected and admired by his colleagues « His raw American accent never left him, nor his warmth, humility and charm, » Marks said. « But he was also a character fiery who gave as well as he got, especially in the odd colorful disagreement over programming decisions with Kerry Packer, a feat in itself « 

Marks said a memorial would be held for Stone at Nine’s former Sydney Studios in Willoughby Due to Covid restrictions, attendance would be limited and the event would be available online, Marks said

In 2015, Stone was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for « significant service to print and broadcast media as a journalist, editor, television producer and author » And in 2017, he been inducted into the Australian Media Hall of Fame

The core of his power, Wendt said in 2017, was in his ability as a storyteller. “He had an instinct for a story,” Wendt said. “He knew what a story was It was in his bones And he knew how to tell a story, to a particular audience « 

“At the time Australians weren’t very interested in what was going on in the rest of the world,” Wendt said in 2017 “But ultimately, as we all know, he transformed that idea somewhat junk in, to borrow his own book title, a book he wrote a few years later, compulsive vision And that’s no small feat « 

Gerald is survived by his wife Irene, his two children, Klay and Jennifer, and two grandchildren, Louis and Gina

60 Minutes, Gerald Stone, Nine Network, Ian Leslie, Australia

News from around the world – AU – 60 Minutes pioneer and legendary television producer Gerald Stone is dead


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