There was a fresh brief to provide current affairs and discussion, rather than a news digest. We were told to be brave, different, innovative. So, despite budget cuts and reduced staffing, the good people of Lateline did just that.
We changed the way we told stories, experimented with studio interviews, increased our online reach. Our TV ratings improved compared to previous years.
We were a “good news” story of 2015 for the division.
By the time we entered 2016, we were all pumped and ready to tackle our biggest challenge yet: to reform men’s fashion in the studio.
‘How about we drop the tie?’, the female producers boldly suggested one morning to Lateline’s male hosts. “Relaxed and comfortable”, “clever and elegant” were some of the phrases thrown into the mix.
They struck a chord, or so we thought, because by the time the show returned that year, the men on-air were tie-less — or should we say, tie-free?
Victory? Not so fast. A week later, the tie was back.
Within days, our political correspondent David Lipson had come up with his own rule: the “no tie in the studio rule” should not apply when I’m in Canberra, he said.
An interview with a high-ranking Syrian government spokesperson brought the tie back around Tony Jones’s neck, and justifiably so. But then, it stayed. The tie was back.
When the women of Lateline casually brought up the topic during a daily conference call, the uneasiness on the line was palpable. The men felt neither comfortable nor elegant without a tie on air.
But our hosts weren’t so concerned about that. After some probing, we found out what had really sealed the deal: phone calls from their mothers, who were not impressed. They didn’t like seeing their sons on air without a tie, the men admitted.
Their mums thought the look lacked authority, that it was too informal.
So the women of Lateline gave up that battle and moved on.
The no-tie policy made a comeback when Jeremy Fernandez joined the team as host for a few months at the start of 2017.
He managed to make it work.
And a special mention to Lateline presenter and political correspondent Matt Wordsworth, who embraced the tie-less look with his usual enthusiasm.