Peter Overton: my lonely life at the top

Much-admired TV news presenter Peter Overton has opened up about the loneliness he feels in an industry increasingly dominated by beautiful young women.

The Channel 9 Sydney 6pm news anchor rang me out of the blue yesterday to try to explain what it’s like to work in cramped spaces with “the pleasant enough but never-relenting scent of oestrogen and progesterone assaulting the nostrils”.

“Mate, at the end of a long day the couple of blokes on the reporting staff and I get together for a group hug just before I go on and a “we can get through this” chant.

“I don’t think I could get through the hour on air without the reprieve of Cameron Williams’ sport report at 6.40 and the usual piece of Mike Dalton silliness at the end.”

Peter ran through Thursday night’s hour-long bulletin to show what he and his male colleagues faced daily, adding wryly: “And that was one of the better days for us blokes!”

“After the usual gravelly voiced introduction by the late and great Peter Harvey, it was straight into a report by crime editor Emma Partridge,” he said.

“Admittedly there were then two reports by Damien Ryan and Chris Uhlmann but in the next 30 minutes we had yarns from chief court reporter Kelly Fedor, Alexia Daish, Airlie Walsh, the early weather tease from Amber Sherlock, Danielle Post and Gabrielle Rogers.

“Eddy Meyers did a late yarn on power prices and sport was all male but some days you’ve got Erin Molan and Danika Mason on duty.

“Thursday was also unusual because state politics reporter Liz Daniels had a day off, as did the likes of Lauren Tomasi, Natalia Cooper and Zara James.

“Look, they’re all great kids but, Jesus, the dribble these young ladies carry on with when they’re all back in the newsroom finishing off their stories with their producers.”

Peter said his despair was only made worse by the realisation that the trend towards a 100 per cent female staff seemed unstoppable.

“The simple fact is that all these women have time on their hands.

“For example, Eddie Meyer, Damian Ryan and Mike Dalton have a combined age that goes back past the First Fleet.

“And when they go, a wealth of experience and knowledge goes with them.

“Take all the fuss this week about the 20th anniversary of the Sydney Olympics and Cathy Freeman’s amazing win in the 400.

“None of our female reporters are old enough to even remember those games yet Eddie attended the Melbourne Olympics as a young boy.”

“And we’ll probably have a female federal politics reporter soon because Chris Uhlmann seems hellbent on auditioning daily for a job at SkyNewsAustralia.”

A Channel 9 spokesperson dismissed Overton’s criticisms.

“We trialed a young male reporter earlier this year and we were sad to see him leave after some months when he asked about the possibility of some paid work.”