Why veteran newsreader Jana Wendt vanished from the spotlight: Popular 60 Minutes presenter speaks out after being sacked by Channel Nine in 2006
Jana Wendt was one of the most recognisable faces on Australian TV in the 1980s and ’90s.
The 66-year-old hosted 60 Minutes, A Current Affair and Sunday for Channel Nine, but vanished from the spotlight following her departure from the network.
Wendt previously revealed how ending her television career allowed her to pursue her passion for writing.
Jana Wendt (pictured in February 2020) used to be one of the most recognisable faces on Australian television, but vanished from the spotlight after her departure from Channel Nine
‘I’m ensconced in what is for me the new, and deeply personal, occupation of fiction writing. From where I sit, it is hard to imagine doing anything else,’ she said after being inducted into the Australian Media Hall of Fame in 2014.
Wendt was infamously ‘sacked’ by Nine’s then-CEO Eddie McGuire in 2006.
The network was forced to pay her more than $2million for the remaining two and a half years of her contract.
‘The only thing I’d say I was unhappy with is that I didn’t leave earlier,’ she previously told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Wendt explained the job had made her feel ‘uncomfortable at times’.
The 66-year-old hosted 60 Minutes, A Current Affair and Sunday for Channel Nine
She had joined 60 Minutes in 1982 – handpicked by executive producer Gerald Stone to join George Negus, Ray Martin and Ian Leslie – and soon became one of its biggest stars.
Wendt was just 24 and largely unknown to the public when she traded her Melbourne newsreader’s chair for travelling the world with the current affairs juggernaut.
In her early days Wendt was not immediately welcomed by the established male reporters but Leslie believed Stone played his ‘ace card’ when he brought her to the program.
‘In doing so he created an icon,’ Leslie said at Stone’s memorial service in November 2020.
Wendt (right) joined 60 Minutes in 1982 – handpicked by executive producer Gerald Stone (left) to join George Negus, Ray Martin and Ian Leslie – and soon became one of its biggest stars
Along with Negus and Martin he had initially been sceptical about Wendt’s hiring, asking Stone ‘Why are you putting on this beginner?’
‘We were pretty puffed up and boy did she show us we were wrong,’ Leslie said.
Wendt told Daily Mail Australia about those times when it was revealed in February that Negus had been diagnosed with dementia.
‘There was some quite well-documented initial combat between us at the time as Negus tried to sort out what this interloper was doing on the show,’ she said.
‘There was a bit of combat but we sure worked things out and it ended up in many occasions for laughter and good feelings so that’s the way it’s remained.’
Wendt’s forensic interviewing technique and cool/steely on-camera demeanour led to Negus dubbing her the ‘perfumed steamroller’.
Wendt previously revealed how ending her television career allowed her to pursue her passion for writing. (Pictured: Wendt and Sam Chisolm at the Logie Awards in Melbourne in 2004)
She left 60 Minutes in 1986 after four years and went on to host A Current Affair, Dateline on SBS, Witness on Seven and returned to Nine to helm Sunday from 2003 to 2006.
Wendt co-hosted Seven’s 50 Years of Television event just 10 days after leaving Nine.
She also presented the Logies Hall of Fame award to 60 Minutes at the 2018 Logies.
Wendt won the Gold Logie for Most Popular Personality on Australian Television In 1992 for her role as host of A Current Affair.
When she wasn’t working, Wendt and her husband Brendan Ward spent most of their time at their home in Whale Beach.
When she wasn’t working, Wendt and her husband Brendan Ward (right) spent most of their time at their home in Whale Beach