lifestyle

A funny thing has happened to Melissa Doyle.

Broadcast journalists have a special role to play during major news stories. Whether it’s Beaconsfield or Port Arthur, the Bali bombings or 9/11,  Ash Wednesday or the Sydney Siege, the faces and voices who bring us rolling coverage of a tragedy walk an incredibly fine line.

The best of them manage to combine empathy, sensitivity, authority and information. They ask the questions we have in our heads and they relay the emotions we feel in our hearts.

And it’s far, far harder than it looks.

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Sometimes they have just a little bit of information, sometimes they have a deluge; they have people in their ears feeding them updates and camera crews giving them hand signals while they stand often for hours in the middle of chaotic scenes talking to traumatised people.

Not for a moment do I compare this work to the unseen, unsung actions of police and emergency services professionals whose risk their lives on top of all this and for far less money. They are the true heroes of any situation like this. But journalists have the most visible role and often serve as the gatekeepers and transmitters of information; information we the public are hungry for.

Occasionally, there is a standout. Someone who walks that line with the perfect balance of compassion and gravitas.

During the Sydney Siege, that person was Melissa Doyle, whose rolling coverage at the scene in Martin Place over the day of the siege and its aftermath was outstanding.

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Like many, I had the TV remote in one hand and my iPhone in the other as I double-screened coverage on Monday night with my heart in my mouth.

For a timeline of the events of the Sydney siege, read this.

I surfed every channel covering the siege but I kept coming back to Melissa because her coverage was just so compelling.

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A year ago, Melissa Doyle’s career suffered a perceived setback. The acclaimed co-host of Sunrise announced she was leaving the show in circumstances which remain unclear. At the time – and ever since – she insisted she jumped, while others claimed she was pushed from Channel 7’s number one breakfast show.

Whatever.

What can’t be denied is that while Doyle co-hosted Sunrise with David – Kochie – Koch, she was always in his shadow. In the tradition of most male-female hosting duos, Kochie was the alpha male and his big personality (this is not a criticism in any way, in fact it’s a compliment) meant that she could never shine in her own right.

It’s the same with Today host Lisa Wilkinson whose co-host Karl Stefanovic gets all the Logie nominations, the press and the public acclaim for the show’s ratings success while Lisa’s immense talent as a journalist and broadcaster and her exceptional ability to anchor an ecclectic and diverse cast is a big part of what enables her co-host to shine.

What did they say about famed dancer and actress Ginger Rogers? She did everything her dance partner Fred Astaire did except she did it backwards and in heels.
The same could be said for female cohorts.

Leaving Sunrise and striking out on her own has given Mel Doyle an entirely new level of confidence and the chance to remind us why she is such a fantastic journalist.

I only wish in the case of the Sydney siege, that we hadn’t had to see what she’s made of in quite such harrowing circumstances.

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