NBN Newsreader Paul Lobb was "let-go" on December 13 after almost 30 years of employment with the station. The decision has generally received poor reception in the viewing area.
I have been surprised at how many people are still wondering out loud: what happened to Lobby? The lobmeister. The rock lobster. Lobby, Lobby, Lobby. Oi, Oi, Oi.
The outpouring of correspondence from viewers of NBN News in The Newcastle Herald and on social media has been littered with feelings of sadness and anger. A change.org petition - somewhat awkwardly titled: To demand that NBN News rescind the decision to axe Paul Lobb from the NBN Evening News pr - has collected almost 4000 signatures. What's with the pr in the petition title? Does it stand for public relations or press release? Both play more than a minor role in commercial, regional "smell of an oily-rag" television news operations?
Some of the comments on the petition demonstrate the connection viewers felt they enjoyed with Lobb. "Paul is a much loved and professional part of the Newcastle family," wrote Maureen Porter. "Lobby is a good bloke who has been part of the Newcastle landscape for over 2 decades...," wrote Craig Morrow. "I love him," was the succinct reasoning of Melanie Steer.
Others were critical of the decision and took a swing at management and the news itself. Alyson Gearing noted that it is "sad we have lost not only a true Novocastrian personality but there doesn't appear to be much local news left either."
Former NBN employee David Threlfo left nothing in the tank: "This, on top of the betrayal and blindside firing by Nine on July 12, 2021 of Head of News Blake Doyle and Chief of Staff Andy Lobb, raises serious questions about the viability and future of the much loved local news service.... NBN News is only a brand name now as Nine Newcastle continues what appears to attack on our local news service. Many would have seen the 'new direction' of NBN News since July. Amplifying the negatives, finding drama where there is none, chasing coffins. This is why I resigned from NBN News recently. I don't do unethical, so left...". Ouch.
There's little doubt that a management decision to cut costs resulted in Lobb's departure ...
Viewers clearly have strong feelings about the decision to axe Lobb. Fair enough. But the lobbing of spite-ridden hand grenades at Gavin Morris or Natasha Beyersdorf is misdirected. These attacks take all the heat off management for the decision to exclude Lobb from our love circle.
There's little doubt that a management decision to cut costs resulted in Lobb's departure from the news desk. But there's also little doubt that the much-trumpeted NBN News HD edition from the Honeysuckle studio has been riddled with disruptive errors. It's regularly dishing out appalling audio. There are ongoing mistimed crosses, so the presenter is left staring into the middle distance. There is a noticeable lack of clear communication between presenters and reporters during field crosses, resulting in awkward transitions. There's regular use of file footage on local stories. There's more Sydney filler and non-relevant theft stories from Tamworth, both of which seem to be included to fill the hour rather than having been selected for their relevance to Newcastle viewers.
There are "live crosses" to a reporter in the studio. Young reporters may be cheap, but some seem as though they have been thrown under the bus before they were even ready to step out from the footpath. And what's with that quick weather check early in the bulletin that sometimes runs for three seconds? And please, no more "News Alert" graphics on the updates. I realise "News Alert" might be a way of getting viewers to turn the sound back up that has been muted during ads, but we're all on to it now. It's lame.
NBN News - and appointment television news in general - finds itself simultaneously experiencing an increasingly older audience (with most viewers being north of 60) and a declining number of overall viewers.
NBN News has long been well regarded in Newcastle as a quality provider of local television news, and this is despite a lack of alternative services. But a lack of competition can also result in monopoly arrogance and a share-price driven management shaving away and away until the news is of little relevance and little use, and that in turn is accompanied by an even smaller audience.
Good luck to Paul Lobb for the future. It'd be a fool's errand to try and find anyone credible in this city with a cross word to say about an old school gentleman.
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