Sandra Sully: “You need to be on platforms where people are”
An early adopter of digital platfoms, 10 News anchor has always looked to where audiences are headed.
While most journalists and news presenters have embraced social media platforms both as a news source and as a direct voice to their audience, there are some who were ahead of the pack.
Sandra Sully, who joined Twitter in 2010, has 128,000 followers plus Instagram & Facebook accounts. For around 15 years she has also edited her own digital newsletter, Short Black, full of news items and reposts that she emails to subscribers.
“I don’t make any money out of it, but my initial concept and passion in doing it was that I knew that was where we would end up. You need to be on platforms where people are, and they are not always sitting at home in front of a television,” she tells TV Tonight.
“I haven’t really thought about whether I should stop it, but I don’t see the point. The reach is really good, I get lots of positive feedback, and it’s free. It’s good for someone like me whose brand is News.”
Indeed. Sully is now a Consulting News Editor for 10 Daily, the network’s online platform of short-form content in news, entertainment, video & lifestyle. Under news boss Ross Dagan, 10 Daily sits within a bigger vision to connect news with audiences 24 / 7. Against the might of Seven News and Nine News, 10 is aiming for Under 50s wherever they are.
“It is about capturing those lost tribes and building a brand”
“It’s about being on buses and trains, and being where people are… which is not to say eyeballs in front of TV sets aren’t significant. They are. But it is about capturing those lost tribes and building a brand for audiences who may not have children yet, but at some point they will be at home,” she explains.
“We just don’t appeal to mums and dads and an older demographic. We have lots of shift workers, teachers, hospitality workers …a broad range that the 5:00 suits. But they’re not necessarily at home.”
Sully, who was famously on air when planes crashed the World Trade Centre in 2001, knows all about being visible when big news breaks and what it means for the brand.
Last month she was at 10’s Pyrmont base when a terrorist shot 50 people in a Mosque in Christchurch.
“It was a massive story on two fronts”
“I was in a board meeting in the building,” she recalls. “Fortunately these days it doesn’t really matter where you are. You can be connected wherever you are. I could see what the 10 Daily team were doing, I knew what Broadcast was doing.
“It’s about understanding how we as a network are covering it on the day and our plans for the next few days.
“It was a massive story on two fronts because you’re covering it from a broadcast perspective as well as a digital perspective.”
Sully fronted an extended 5pm news bulletin, another at 10:45pm and was across 10 Daily content. But the day proved to be contentious in media circles too, when vision from the gunman became part of the story. Debates have raged over how much footage should have been broadcast in news reports and laws have been drawn up to ensure social media platforms respond.
“I think 10 made the right call and a lot of the other broadcasters did,” Sully reflects. “In the initial frenzy of telegraphing the breaking story, it is a bit of a blur, to be honest. But we made the call fairly early.
“Everyone is pretty comfortable that we pulled the pin at the right time.
“We had classification officers with us before the 5:00 bulletin and we knew we were safe. We’re very mindful of the timeslot we’re in. I don’t believe we showed that vision on 10 Daily at all.”
“For too long it felt like we were walking on quicksand. “
Next year Sully marks 30 years with 10 (“I have to pinch myself that I’ve been there that long!”) surviving under multiple managements alongside colleagues Angela Bishop & Tim Bailey. The News division had faced frequent cuts, but Sully believes CBS is reinvesting in its department.
“For too long it felt like we were walking on quicksand. After CBS took over I feel like we’re on solid ground. There is a deliberate investment and rebuild which is slow and methodical,” she explains.
“It’s a really nice place to be. It’s been a long time, but lovely to feel like we’re in a strong growth phase.
“CBS are very proud of their news heritage and they are a global media player with a strong news credential. So that’s music to my ears.”
“I don’t think the viewer really cares about the bells and whistles”
The Sydney studio recently introduced a 36m set with a 9m screen, the largest in the country. More significantly, the dedicated space is fixed, unlike the previous set which was versatile but subject to other demands on the space.
“It’s not about the size, it’s about what it’s capable of. I think we’re yet to extend it’s full capability.
“But I don’t think the viewer really cares about the bells and whistles, so I’m mindful that we shouldn’t really go on about it.”
Yet while Sully’s enduring popularity with viewers drives the 5pm Sydney bulletin, viewers around the rest of the country are missing out on her experience and a sense of humour that was a late night treat over the 18 years of TEN Late News and Sports Tonight.
Sully says there are no plans to resume a national presence, but is grateful for the sentiments.
“I hear that a lot which is very sweet,” she admits. “Perhaps people just say it because they think that’s what I want to hear. I’m not fooled easily!
“But I appreciate people being very polite.”
10 News First airs 5pm daily on 10.