Gerald Stone dies at the age of 87

In 1962 Stone emigrated to Australia with his wife, Beth and their two children, Klay and Jennifer, and landed in Sydney on a Bristol Britannic, a 139-seat turboprop airliner operated by the Canadian Pacific airline.

In the same year he was hired by the Daily mirror in Sydney and spent three months in Vietnam in 1965 as a special correspondent for The Australian and the Daily mirrorand published a report the following year on his experience, War without honor.

Gerald Stone and the 60-minute reporter Jana Wendt in 1981.Recognition:Nine network

The book, which examined controversial topics such as informing the Australian public about events in the Vietnamese theater of war and whether the Australian leadership themselves were “objectively” informed of the facts, is an illuminating glimpse into Stone’s questioning character, his passion for journalism, but also his fearlessness when asked to question the industry’s processes.

In 1967 Stone switched to television, initially as a reporter on ABC That day tonight Program. And in 1974 he was hired by Sir Frank Packer for a new current affairs program on the Nine Network. Federal Act.

A year later, Stone rose to the position of news director at Nine, presiding, perhaps as evidence that not everything touched during the golden age of television really glittered, the failure of News Center Nine, a nightly two-city newscast co-hosted by Brian Henderson in Sydney and Peter Hitchener in Melbourne.
Gerald Stone (front) with George Negus, Ian Leslie, Jeff McMullen and Jana Wendt.Recognition:Nine network

In 1978 I had a conversation with Sir Frank’s son Kerry Packer, who headed the network after the death of his father in 1974 and brought him the most colorful and formative chapter of his career.

The younger packer asked Stone to start an Australian edition of the American Current Affairs Program 60 minutes. “I don’t care what it costs, just do it and do it right,” Packer said, according to Stone. The occasional explosion would occur somewhere, depending on the circumstances in which Stone retold the story.

And on February 11 of the following year Australia 60 minutes was born and made his debut with three “Star” reporters – Ian Leslie, Ray Martin and George Negus – who would submit reports from various locations around the world every Sunday evening at 7:30 pm.

“This was an era in Australia full of hypocrisy and sacred cows who had lived lip service for too long,” remarked Stone years later. “And there is nothing better than hypocrisy to produce good journalism.”

In 1982 a fourth reporter, Melbourne-born journalist Jana Wendt, joined their ranks.

And despite the many names that have shaped the show’s coverage over the years, from Richard Carleton to Elizabeth Hayes, those first four – Leslie, Martin, Negus, and Wendt – remain inextricably linked to the show’s enduring brand.

“At the time… the Australians weren’t very interested in what was happening in the rest of the world,” said Wendt in 2017. “But as we all know, he finally implemented this somewhat undesirable idea to borrow his own book title . ”A book he wrote a few years later, obsessive gaze. And that’s not an easy task. ”

As a puppeteer of 60 minutes In its infancy, Stone made the series the greatest show in the world.

It was Stone who sent Ray Martin to interview Lindy Chamberlain and the ophthalmologist Fred Hollows, on a tour with KISS and in an encounter with the Queen of the Country, Dolly Parton and George Negus, on the front lines of the conflicts in Zimbabwe and Nicaragua and in his unforgettable encounter with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Gerald Stone in 1979 with his original 60 minute reporting team: Ray Martin, Ian Leslie, and George Negus.
Gerald Stone in 1979 with his original 60 minute reporting team: Ray Martin, Ian Leslie, and George Negus.

Stone also sent Ian Leslie to the Philippines, where he was held at gunpoint, and Jana Wendt to meet Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Imelda Marcos’ shoe closet, on the streets of Gaza, and to meet rock icon Mick Jagger who was joking responded to her sharp pen by calling her “bossy boots”.

“It was a challenge because anyone would say it was an American rip off. And certainly it was in the American format, ”Stone said later, reflecting on the show’s success. “It was a very different program in Australia because Australia didn’t have that many good stories to tell. It was a small country.

“So we had to go overseas and I think that’s how we made a name for ourselves,” added Stone. “People show what happened overseas. People may not care what happened in Nicaragua, but they may care what George Negus did in Nicaragua. ”

Stone later asked which reporter was his favorite among the many who had stood in front of the show’s iconic ticking stopwatch. “This is a very good question. Questions don’t always have to be answered, ”he said.

Gerald Stone as a young reporter for the ABC in Australia.
Gerald Stone as a young reporter for the ABC in Australia.Recognition:ABC TV

After leaving Nine Stone, he took on senior positions at Fox Network in the US and Channel Seven in Australia. Between 1995 and 1998 he was editor-in-chief of Das Bulletin. Stone also served on the SBS board of directors from 2000 to 2010.

In addition to his work as a reporter and producer, Stone later returned to his writing career. He wrote the book in 2000 Obsessive-Compulsive Viewing: The Inside Story of Packers Nine Network and only seven years later Who Killed Channel 9? The death of Kerry Packer’s mighty TV dream machine. In 2002 he wrote a biography of the advertising and radio titan John Singleton, Singo: pals, women, triumphs, disasters.

Hugh Marks, chief executive officer of Nine Entertainment, today recognized Stone’s role in the founding years of the Nine Network, saying he has “a high pedestal in the history of Nine and a deep place in our hearts.” (Nine is the owner of this imprint.)

“With great storytelling and high production values 60 minutes We’ve changed the way we watched television and launched numerous now-acclaimed careers, “Marks said in a message to employees.

The show’s success “Four decades later remains ongoing evidence of Gerald’s ability to produce great content through his instincts for stories, the people he told them, his eye for nooks and crannies, and his uncanny ability to to make them so reliable. ”In front of a large audience,“ said Marks.

Marks said Stone was deeply respected and admired by his colleagues. “His raw American accent never left him, nor his warmth, humility and charm,” said Marks. “But he was also a lively character who gave as well as he could, especially in the weird, colorful disagreement over program decisions with Kerry Packer, an achievement in itself.”

Marks said a memorial to Stone would be held at Nine’s former Sydney studios in Willoughby. Due to Covid restrictions, attendance would be limited and the event would be made available online, Marks said.

In 2015 Stone was named a member of the Order of Australia (AM) for “having provided a significant service to the print and broadcast media as a journalist, editor, television producer and author.” And in 2017 he was inducted into the Australian Media Hall of Fame.

The heart of his power, Wendt said in 2017, lay in his ability as a storyteller. “He had an instinct for a story,” said Wendt. “He knew what a story was. It was in his bones. And he knew how to tell a story to a specific audience. ”

Gerald is survived by his wife Irene, his two children Klay and Jennifer, and their two grandchildren Louis and Gina.

Michael Idato is the editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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