Lateline hosts and staff reflect on the program's 28-year history

Lateline hosts and staff reflect on the program's 28-year history

Lateline hosts and staff reflect on the program's 28-year history

Updated 8 December 2017, 20:10 AEDT

As Lateline draws to a close after 28 years on air, hosts and staff reflect on the program's most memorable moments, stories and interviews.

As Lateline draws to a close after 28 years on air, staff from throughout the program's history reflect on their most memorable moments, stories and interviews.

Kerry O'Brien

"The second program in Lateline's history was a cross to Moscow and Washington where we brought two old Cold War warriors together.

"Gennady Gerasimov, who was Mikhail Gorbachev's international mouth piece for a long time, and in Washington we had Richard Perle, who was known as the Prince of Darkness, he was a Cold War warrior in the Reagan era who coined the term 'evil empire' that Ronald Reagan used to such great effect.

"These two people had never spoken before and we were heading towards a real detente and that's what we had on the program, we had something in the end that was close to detente between these two men."

Kerry O'Brien was the first host of Lateline, from 1990-95.

Peter Manning

"I think The Intervention and the story that was done about Aboriginal child sexual abuse and domestic violence by Sue Smith was an incredibly controversial one.

"On one side a lot of people didn't want to believe that that was happening in Aboriginal communities so Lateline was reporting something that people, maybe the ABC audience, didn't want to acknowledge, so I thought that was brave.

"But on the other hand it was followed by the Howard government with The Intervention which took away many human rights of Aboriginal people.

"It raised the question of does the program go down the line to produce something that is true, that has these bad effects, and that was a typical journalism ethical dilemma that a good program speaking truth to power has to face."

As the Head of TV News and Current Affairs from 1989-1993, Peter Manning was responsible for commissioning Lateline.

Maxine McKew

"The program had a set of expectations that if you came on this show at 10.30 at night to talk for 20 minutes then you had something to say, you had something to say of substance and it could withstand a bit of interrogation.

"I had those expectations of Pauline Hanson so it was a genuine shock to me that she fell so far below that bar, so there was an edge in my voice that probably wouldn't have been there with other political players.

"Something fundamentally shifted and you might say it was 2001 when political players and a lot of people [were] grappling with 'what is the nature of this world?'

"I think that or a whole lot of other things have meant the political players are actually no longer in the advocacy business for the most part.

"I think the attitude among many is 'how do I sit here for 7 minutes and make as few mistakes as possible and few headlines and get out of it?'"

Maxine McKew presented Lateline from 1995-99.

John Bruce

"The night that the union boss Paul Howes decided to come onto the program and attempt to explain exactly why a sitting prime minister was being dethroned by his own party — it was an extraordinary night, it was extraordinary to have somebody of his insights and calibre on the program.

"We also had Peter Garrett whom we had previously lined up in his capacity as the environment minister from Morocco and Mr Garrett unfortunately was all at sea in terms of the events that were happening back in Australia.

"Between the two we had a killer of a program that night and set the agenda very much so politically and journalistically for the next day."

John Bruce was the executive producer of Lateline from 2009-2014, and the supervising producer for eight years before that.

Leigh Sales

"I could not believe when I was asked, 'Did I want to do it [present Lateline]?', given the history of the program and just the great pleasure of coming in every night to do it.

"Some of the people you could speak to, great minds like Christopher Hitchens or I used to love John Micklethwait, who was the editor of The Economist — just these erudite, articulate, witty, interesting people.

"You just had to give the most gentle steer as an interviewer and it was such a pleasure to have those conversations about the most interesting issues in the world."

Leigh Sales hosted Lateline from 2007 until 2010.

Chris Schembri

"Everybody had left except for me and a couple of other editors and I had walked to the [news] exchange area and I was standing around looking at the monitors and I thought 'what's going on?'

"They were looking at a big plume of smoke over New York and they said, 'A plane has just flown into one of these buildings' — the second plane, as I was watching, flew into the second tower.

"Somebody said, 'We're going to have to call back everyone from Lateline', people were already on their way home so we had to call everybody back and Lateline had to go to air again.

"It was a long, long [night], I don't know how long that program went, but Lateline must have been the first program to start broadcasting what was happening on September 11 on the ABC."

Chris Schembri has been Lateline's senior editor since 1998.

Tony Jones

"In the time I worked there, under five EPs, I would particularly cite our coverage of the post 9/11 world; the Tampa affair; the revelation of the horrors perpetrated against asylum seekers in the Curtin detention centre; the investigation and search for the deported Australian Vivian Solon; the Iraq War and its consequences; our groundbreaking coverage of the abuse of Aboriginal women and children; and the equally groundbreaking coverage of child sexual abuse and church cover ups which resulted in the ongoing royal commission.

"We didn't set out to change the world. But we did consciously look to protect the rights of the most vulnerable people in our society and to be fearless about that.

"In so far as we had a mission it was to protect the weak. That's what I'm most proud of from my time at Lateline."

Tony Jones was the host of Lateline from 1999-2016.

Emma Alberici

"Malcolm Turnbull as opposition communications [spokesman] walked in with this massive file, which we all know is a little bit absurd, because no-one ever has time to ever look through their files during an interview.

"This was in 2013 and he went on to say the average Australian household would probably never need one gigabit of upload and download speeds on the NBN, which was why he was saying they wouldn't need fibre to their homes.

"At the end of that debate between Anthony Albanese and Malcolm Turnbull that had already gone on for 27 minutes, Malcolm Turnbull ushered us all out of the studio to a whiteboard that is outside this studio and continued to explain why the coalition's NBN, by way of diagrams on the whiteboard, was the optimum policy and this went on for quite some time."

Emma Alberici has hosted Lateline since 2012.

Watch the final one hour episode of Lateline, featuring Emma Alberici with former hosts Kerry O'Brien, Maxine McKew and Leigh Sales, at 9.30pm AEDT on ABC News or 10.20pm on ABC TV.