Helen Kapalos was let down by her team

Reporting news is a team effort, but when it goes wrong everybody is quick to blame the anchor.

2013-06-28_0008It’s fair to say that of all the Live TV coverage of Wednesday’s political spill none was more awkward than the moment things went wrong for Helen Kapalos on Today Tonight.

For 90 excruciating seconds she struggled to link from one story to the next, as something clearly went wrong in studio. It’s the kind of disaster that makes for YouTube, Media Watch and Christmas drinks reels.

But reportage of the moment has been extreme with everything from unfair headlines about an “on-screen death” (seriously?) to claims her live skills were less than exemplary.

It should be said that under the conditions she was working, most presenters would struggle.

News reporting is a team effort. While Kapalos may be the face of Today Tonight, the simple fact is she was let down by her team.

While she was on air talking to viewers, there were conflicting directives in her ear, the autocue stopped, and with Seven’s automated news production she had no floor manager to give her direction.

All networks faced live breaking news from multiple locations in Canberra, but Seven had a breakdown which impacted on its anchor at the worst possible time. There was a breakdown in communications between remote locations, control room and desk.

Should she have used ad-lib skills to peddle with a recap until the autocue was back on track? Yes. Breakfast TV and the SKY News teams are proficient at this, but often have a second talking head to bounce off. But she also doesn’t deserve some of the reportage that seemingly blames her for a team failure.

A Seven spokesperson told TV Tonight the show had breakdowns in the control room under a fill-in producer, but conceded the network got it wrong.

“Under very difficult circumstances, Helen has done a fine job. The story was breaking in several places at the one time and the co-ordination of those sites made the job in the control room very tough,” they said.

The reality is there will be consequences when networks cut back on staff and automation has become prevalent in our industry.

Seven could also not confirm rumours that a production resignation was offered following the incident.

Trying to see the lighter side, Kapalos later tweeted there had been “MASSIVE” gremlins.

“I think Julia Gillard had a worse night than me last night. #alive #kicking #NewDay”

Kapalos was not on air last night while the network broadcast an extended News from Canberra, but returns tonight.

32 Responses

  1. I think a lot of people have overlooked the true professionalism and credentials Helen Kapalos possesses. She has not only anchored many major network programs but also impressively reported from major events – the Christchurch Earthquakes, Black Saturday Bushfires and the Athens Olympics are just some that come to mind instantly – and all without auto cue and scripts.

    A program like Today Tonight is a team effort in a highly produced environment and Helen has certainly been the one left out to dry to take the full blame for a major let down by the team.

    All the heat she’s been copping in the media since this unfortunate event and then the slagging off about her social media videos (which were obviously her talking to her fans on a more real person level) is simply ridiculous. Are people that petty and vindictive? Since when did Australians lose their sense of humour? Looks like a case of other networks fearing that she may actually be onto something here!

    Helen Kapalos is someone I choose to watch because she is professional yet she does not come across as condescending or someone who is too uptight to show their real human side.

    Thank you Helen! You are a breath of fresh air to Australian current affairs!

  2. I always think this kind if thing is a bit if a test of the mettle of live tv presenters, and I’m afraid Helen came up short. In the same situation, I think it’s fair to say that a Leigh Sales, Tracey Grimshaw or Melissa Doyle would have handled it much better.

  3. Does anyone one else smell the faint smell of professionals undermining a professional, in the lead up to possible major prime time changes, eg. a possibly inexperienced fill-in producer assigned to covering multiple remote locations that have been developing all day?, combined with the knowledge that there was going to be hyperactivity up to, and well after the 7pm leadership vote and also having the benefit of several hours advance notice of this possible momentous event, because not only was there the possibility of a change of PM, but regardless of the outcome, either Ms Gillard or Mr Rudd would be leaving politics, and something they had been pushing for in the final weeks before this final term of parliament.

    And especially so, because after nearly 3 years of hard work and biased reporting by virtually all networks, and when they had finally achieved their disruptive goal of yet another K Rudd challenge, the expertise required to cover such events, was suddenly missing in action?

  4. ABC News24 also struggled apart from Leigh who did an excellent job. It was an effort to see the afternoon presenters struggling to think of what to say and repeating the same phrases over and over. At 11pm Lateline cut halfway through Bob Carr’s interview then to a bemused Tony Jones then to Tony Abbott then to a prerecorded story then back to Abbott after a few seconds; it was an absolute mess and a terrible job by the producer.

  5. Why feel sorry for her? She gets the gig because of her looks (same as Anna and Naomi) and knows what the show is all about. Considering she left NBN and TEN for TT shows she has ambition to climb a ladder no matter what the crap is delivered along the way.

    Most quality journos would have a standby to talk about but that takes effort and preparation and not fobbing off the problem to the production crew.

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