Today Tonight presenter quits
Helen Kapalos has resigned as host of Channel 7's Today Tonight and will join the network's flagship current affairs program, Sunday Night.PT1M36S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-31435 620 349 January 20, 2014
Helen Kapalos has resigned as host of Channel Seven's Today Tonight to become a senior correspondent with the network's flagship current affairs program, Sunday Night.
Kapalos begins her new role this week, with Today Tonight summer host Nick Etchells continuing for at least the next fortnight.
A permanent presenter for the nightly tabloid program is yet to be found, though Derryn Hinch – who hosts a segment on the show – is rumoured to be vying for the role.
Today Tonight Helen Kapalos quits hosting duties to join Sunday Night. Photo: Damian Bennett
"As much as I've enjoyed presenting, I want to immerse myself in longer-form storytelling," Kapalos told Fairfax Media. "Sunday Night is a dream gig and it's a privilege to be involved in this show."
But the future of Today Tonight remains under a cloud, with Channel Nine recently launching a national one-hour news bulletin and shifting A Current Affair to 7pm. The move has paid off, with Nine increasing its ratings across the 6pm to 7.30pm slot.
Seven has responded by extending its Sydney and Melbourne bulletins to 40 minutes and cutting Today Tonight to 20 minutes. (It has kept the local Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth versions of Today Tonight at 30 minutes.)
Senior sources inside Seven say the network is contemplating a one-hour news service to claw back ground from Nine, which could see Today Tonight axed or somehow "incorporated" into the extended bulletin. Seven's news chiefs are also considering retaining Today Tonight in Adelaide and Perth – where it comfortably beats Nine's news – while launching a one-hour bulletin across the east coast.
A Seven spokeswoman said only that the network's "news and public affairs hour will remain flexible, as has been the case all through 2013".
Nick Chan, Seven West Media's group chief operating officer, said: "Helen has put in a good year on Today Tonight and we thank her for that. We understand her decision to go back to her first love: reporting.
"We congratulate her on that appointment."
In addition to her Sunday Night role, Kapalos will serve as a senior correspondent on major news stories.
She said hosting Today Tonight left little time to present and produce her own stories.
"I did a big piece on Sophie Delezio last year and I had to work nights and weekends to get it done," she said. "If you look at my quotes from the start of last year, being [a storyteller] was always a real passion of mine; it's not something that's suddenly emerged.
"I guess I was feeling frustrated [about] what I could contribute ... [there were some] frustrated attempts to get stories on air.
"There was an honest discussion with Seven about how we could implement that and we both arrived at the same destination," she said.
"It was a real privilege to be involved in Today Tonight. It was a milestone in my career and I'm immensely proud and grateful to have been a part of it."
Kapalos – who spoke to Fairfax Media in November about losing her mother to cancer and her own recent illness – joined Seven last year after she was sacked by Ten in a cost-cutting drive.
She has also worked for ABC, SBS and Nine and wrote, directed and produced an award-winning documentary about the closure of Newcastle's BHP steelworks while at regional TV station NBN.
This morning, Seven also announced that former Channel Nine chief-of-staff Denham Hitchcock has been hired as a Sunday Night reporter.
Hitchcock began his journalism career with Channel Seven 20 years ago as an assistant researcher on Today Tonight. He has also worked in London for various media outlets and in the US for Nine.
The intense battle between Seven and Nine for supremacy in news and current affairs reflects the broader struggle for dominance between the two arch-rivals.
Last year, Nine finished first in the advertiser-friendly demographics of viewers aged 25-54, 18-49, and 16-39. Seven, however, claimed first place overall.