Both Sunrise and Today had to resort to Live crosses to Queensland and New South Wales towns devastated by Cyclone Debbie this morning, from their bases in Hawaii and Bowral.
Last week both announced tours -of the US and Australian East Coast- before Debbie had hit landfall and unleashed her fury.
Now more than 11,000 people are homeless in NSW, with Lismore struggling from its worst flood in 43 years and Rockhampton bracing for more.
Meanwhile Today was celebrating the wedding of Sylvia Jeffreys and Peter Stefanovic in the Southern NSW highlands whilst Sunrise was greeted by hula dancers at a hotel in Waikiki.
Both shows covered the floods with reporters in Live crosses, but it marks a stark contrast to the devastation of Cyclone Yasi in 2011 when presenters were literally knee-deep in flood waters.
Broadcasting from elsewhere has seen both shows come under fire in social media comments. Striking the right balance is a constant challenge. In the past others have labelled such coverage “disaster porn.” Damned if you do / don’t…?
With Seven on the ground in the US, Nine show could have also seized the moment by broadcasting from Debbie’s trail, but its Bowral broadcast was piggybacking off the back of its colleagues wedding.
Today looking back on the wedding of its presenters, including with on-air promos, also raises the question of whether private lives are now part of the wider narrative.
Previously Nine has declined comments on the marriage of Karl Stefanovic yet that of Peter Stefanovic is promoted for ratings and to plug the various companies involved in the wedding dress, suits, jewellery and venue, raising questions about contra deals.
“Sylvia’s incredibly stunning dress, custom designed by the very talented Rebecca Vallance. That’s one of Sylvia’s far and away favourite designers, and the bridesmaids’ dresses were also by Rebecca. Meanwhile Pete looked dashing in an Armani suit. The rings were designed by the fabulous Nader Jewellers and it all took place on an incredible property, right here in the NSW Southern Highlands at Kangaroo Valley. We were lucky enough to stay with them,” the show told its viewers.
A Nine spokesperson said, “There were no deals done for the location, services provided for the wedding or anything else, for inclusion in the coverage on the Today show.
“That coverage was in response to media coverage of the events and then feedback from our viewers who wanted to know more.
“Sylvia and Peter consciously chose to do no commercial deals around their wedding.”
The homeless 11,000 probably missed the names of the gown designers or the finer points of hula dancing. And for shows that pride themselves on grassroots dialogue and reacting to breaking news, this week probably isn’t their finest moment. At least, not according to some angry viewers.
Tomorrow Today is at Burleigh Heads while Sunrise is in San Francisco.