WENDT, JANA (1956– )
Jana Wendt has spent her adult life in the public eye, primarily as a television journalist and news program host. She is a popular figure, who is known for controversial relations with her employers, stemming from differing ideologies of ‘news’.
After completing a BA at the University of Melbourne, Wendt began working at ATV10 in 1978, debuting as a reporter on Eyewitness News. In 1980, she became co-anchor with David Johnson. At this time, executives had just started to realise that audiences wanted women delivering the news, and female anchors quickly became the new trend.
In 1982, Wendt became a reporter on the Nine Network’s high-rating weekly current affairs program 60 Minutes. She held this position for six years before moving to Nine’s nightly A Current Affair, this time as anchor. Nicknamed the ‘Perfumed Steamroller’, she developed a reputation for conducting revealing and often dramatic interviews with high-profile national and international figures. Wendt won the Gold Logie in 1992 before returning to 60 Minutes in 1994, also contributing to the American CBS version of the program. With high cheekbones, a mane of brown hair and an enigmatic quality, she was described by producer Gerald Stone as ‘closer to the archetypal movie star than anyone to come out of Australian television’ and reportedly earned $1 million a year at her peak.
Wendt presented several major current affairs programs, including Witness (Seven, 1996–97), Uncensored (ABC, 1998), Dateline (SBS, 1999–2003) and Sunday (Nine, 2003–06), which won the 2003 Logie Award for Most Outstanding Public Affairs Program on Australian Television. Her contracts with both Witness and Sunday ended prematurely with disagreements and court action over what Wendt saw as failure of the networks to uphold the journalistic standards they had promised. In her Andrew Olle Media Lecture in 1997, she alienated some fellow journalists by saying that objectivity in journalism had been replaced by ‘cheap opinion and popular prejudices’.
Since leaving the television networks in 2006, Wendt has largely devoted her time to writing, producing two books of interviews, A Matter of Principle: New Meetings with the Good, the Great and the Formidable (2007) and Nice Work (2010).
REF: Sun Herald Sunday Life magazine, 29 March 2010.