The Australian '60 Minutes' program first went on air in 1979. Ten years later, then producer Peter Meakin told Deirdre Macken of 'The Sydney Morning Herald' (first published in 1831), "'60 Minutes' grew up largely on word-of-mouth pub talk. It became a conversation point, but in recent times (back in 1989) it hasn't been quite so much of a conversation point so we have to get the conversations started again." 

Peter maintained, "If you get stuck in a formula that is no longer making an impression, then you've got problems. But we've lessened the formula this year (back in 1989). Our format is not as strict – we've run 4 stories a week, or one show over 2 slots. Sometimes I would agree the format has been a bit rigid and there was a danger that all the reporters would start to sound the same, but that's already changing. 

"We're encouraging the reporters to be more themselves rather than be ... well, Gerald Stone had a very rigid style. He once told me that all reporters should be capable of doing every story. That’s not my perception. I think they have individual strengths which they should capitalize on. There's no point in putting people into a journalistic straitjacket." Back in 1986, Gerald Stone told Anthony Dennis, "Speaking as a newsman, the Chamberlain story is one of the biggest since the Dismissal." 

In 1988, Meryl Streep played Lindy Chamberlain in the movie, 'A Cry in the Dark', about the disappearance of a 9-week-old baby in the Australian outback in 1982. The Dismissal, in 1975, was said to be "the most dramatic political event in the history of Australia’s Federation." The Museum of Australian Democracy website explained, "The first act in the drama saw the Senate, controlled by the Opposition, block Supply of the Government’s budget bills. This was done in an effort to force Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to call an election. When Whitlam refused, a deadlock ensued."

The National Archives of Australia website reported, "The Governor-General (Sir John Kerr) had been considering how he might use the powers granted to him under the Constitution to end the crippling deadlock. Legal advice from the Chief Justice of the High Court helped him decide his course. He had to act. If the Prime Minister remained unwilling to call a general election, he felt he had no choice but to dismiss him."

Gerald continued, "All the elements of a top human interest story are present by anyone's standards. We'll be sniped at again for attempting to lift our ratings by paying for the Chamberlain story. That is bull. '60 Minutes' is the No. 1 program in Australia. I could get away with not running a Lindy Chamberlain story in ratings terms, quite happily. But I feel that we'd be cheating our audience of one of the most talked-about stories in Australia’s history."

Gerald made the point, "Just as there are problems in the journalistic technique of seeming to become friends with someone you're not really friends with, or wooing people with lunches, or even the traditional journalist's ploy of winning someone's confidence, then there are problems associated with check-book journalism. It's a matter of cost economics. What can seem like big money can be made insignificant in the face of advertising revenue, world rights and production costs.

"But paying someone is not only more honest, it's more direct. Everybody tries to make general rules. Good journalists can fight ethical problems every day. Are we taking too much on ourselves as crusaders? Do we walk in on this man and surprise him in his office? In '60 Minutes' we confront many more ethical concerns than check-book journalism. When you do a 2-hour interview and cut it down to 7 minutes are you getting the truth of what the person said?"

Peter Meakin reasoned, "We've got to get people to watch, bums on seats, we have to grab the audience. The fact is we are a populist program, and that naturally provokes criticism from 'serious' journalists because they are far more comfortable with 'Four Corners' and 'Sunday'. I get the word 'sensationalist' thrown at me all the time. Sensationalist, in my book, means appealing to people's emotions, but when most journalists use it they mean 'beat up'. We don't do beat-ups, but I happen to think that the best stories have an emotional factor.

"Despite my tabloid reputation, I do like to do things that are important occasionally. I'm not particularly irked to be known as tabloid. I could be called worse … like failure. If we're not in a dominant position by the end of the year (back in 1989), I'll regard myself as a failure. As Ian Gow found out, you don't get years to fix things in television. You have to deliver on a fast order and if I don't then I'd expect to get the flick."

In 1989, Peter believed, "Overall, the program is quite different this year. More work goes into pre-production so we can make sure that it's working before we proceed, rather than cover up problems later on; we've got more ideas this year (in 1989) and I'm very keen to do topical stuff, like Namibia, but only if the subject has been tackled elsewhere during the week."

Was '60 Minutes' on a decline in 1989? Peter offered, "We're nowhere near terminal. There are just no signs of it being a terminal case. Our ratings are about 6 points up on last year (in 1988) and that doesn't spell terminal to me – if 'Page One' was rating mid-20s they'd be having a party every day of the week. Sure, it had a bad year last year (in 1988), it had the perception of being shaky and it's still not out of the woods but terminal? No way." Gerald told Anthony Dennis in 1986, "I think you'll be back in 1990 for the sequel to this interview, because the show will still be around."

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