During the 2007 summer holidays I was on the weather desk for Seven News and when covering complicated weather systems, I would call the Bureau of Meteorology to talk about the details, I’d speak to Tony Auden. I discovered Tony was a fellow surfer, and we’d often talk about potential cyclone swells and the chance of perfect winds. 8 years later, fate would have it, that meteorologist Tony Auden would become the weekday weather presenter for Seven News. It was a move unprecedented for a Queensland network, where so often weather stories lead the news bulletins. When you think of drought in the outback, torrential summer downpours, cyclones, swells that destroy our beaches, bushfires and of course the Brisbane floods of 2011, it’s pretty evident that having the knowledge and forecast capabilities of a meteorologist in a news room is a huge asset to informing a network’s viewers. Lunch with Liz caught up with Tony, at Ole Fuego, at Indooroopilly Shopping Centre.
WHERE WE WENT: Ole Fuego, Indooroopilly Shopping Centre.
WHAT WE ATE: Zarzuela de mariscos – Shellfish broth, calamari, clams, mussels, scallops, fresh fish $16 Fideuà con setas – Spanish noodles, roasted mushrooms, chestnut custard $13 Churros – Spanish donuts, chocolate or dulce de leche $10
WHAT WE SIPPED: Sangria
WHAT TONY WORE: Wil Valor
WHAT LIZ WORE: Zimmermann
Tell me about your transition from working at the Bureau, to working in TV?
“It was a convoluted trip I guess, I was happy to do a lot of the media for the Bureau, so I did a lot of radio and TV interviews there, a lot of the other employees were absolute geniuses, but they didn’t like being in front of the camera or communicating with the media as much. So I stepped up and did most of the media. I was talking to a journalist at a different station and he put me in touch with news director Ross Dagan (who was at another station at the time) and I had many, many months of horrible screen tests and rehearsals and DVDs that I’d like to burry deep down, but I finally got to a stage where I could fill in for the weather. I had a good run on and off and then Ross left that network, so it all went quite for a bit. Then it just so happened that he ended up at Channel Seven, so we touched base again, I had further voice coaching and rehearsals and some very average attempts at the start, then I finally got to a stage where he was happy to give me a full time job as the weather presenter. I had ticked off most of the things on my Bureau wish list; I’d named half a dozen cyclones, created thunderstorm warning alerts and so it was the perfect time to move on.”
What was most daunting about live broadcasts?
“First the live bit, then the broadcast bit. Doing live TV yourself you probably know that anything can happen, things can and do go wrong. So I was extremely nervous the first couple of months, but then you settle in. I’m not completely relaxed now, you do need to focus a bit before going on air, but I am more comfortable in the studio than the newsroom. My main concern is trying to plate information and get the graphics just right for the viewers. I custom make graphics everyday and every now and then the computer decides it wants to do something funny and this becomes very stressful when you’re working towards a newsroom deadline of ‘live to air’. Once I get down into the studio I know as long as I have something behind me, I can just talk. Because I know the content, I don’t really need to rely on a script.”
Your advice for overcoming nerves?
“Practice makes perfect. It’s a case of ‘I know what I’m talking about’ and a whole lot of practice and covering worst case scenarios in your head.”
Is there anything that surprised you about working for a television network?
“I’d heard rumors of rifts between TV personalities over the years, so the main surprise at Channel Seven was just how friendly everyone is, yourself included. You were a lovely welcoming personality that greeted me early on before I met plenty of other people, I found this a real treat. When it hits the fan in the Seven News room and we have a big story, it’s amazing to see how everyone works together and even on quiet days, everyone is really supportive of each other. So what I thought would be a highly competitive environment turned out to actually be quite relaxed and supportive.”
Who do you look up to?
“John Schluter, who I took over from, was a great mentor to start with. I know he did a lot with you as well. I did a solid month of training with him and he gave me all kinds of invaluable information. Also David Brown who’s in Melbourne and does a lot of the national stuff, I watch a lot of him and the way he brings an extra layer to his reports being a meteorologist as well. At the Bureau my main idol was Jeff Callaghan. He has a photographic memory, designed half of the cyclone-warning network and he can remember every cyclone and storm to occur in Queensland. I had the absolute privilege of working with him hands on for a couple of years, before he retired during my severe weather stint, and gee I took a lot out of my time working alongside of him.”
Talk me through a typical day at work?
“First thing I’ll look at the charts and do a couple of social media posts on Facebook and Twitter. If it’s a busy day, I can be looking at charts at home all morning. If it’s quiet I can switch off for a little bit and walk the dogs. I get into studio early afternoon. Make up. Suit on. Straight into updates for the afternoon. A couple of days I have national commitments for The Daily Edition and calls from Sunrise, or The Morning Show, or Morning News. Then I’m in and out of studio, preparing, writing, looking at the latest information, presenting 4pm news, then 6pm news. After 7pm, I just have a few evening updates, then on a good day, I’m free to go home. If a weather event is happening, I stay in the office. Cyclone Marcia, was the biggest event I’ve covered at Channel Seven so far. Basically a cyclone that was supposed to be category 1 got up to category 5 in the space of a day and it was hitting straight on to the populated part of the coast. So people needed a lot of information and I found that I was actually able to keep in front of the Bureau warnings, just because I was able to spit out the information and what I knew through rolling coverage straight away. It was intensifying quickly and I was able to let people know. Between Sunrise, The Morning Show, Morning News, Afternoon News, Evening News and the evening updates to 11pm, I did an eighteen hour day, had 1 hour sleep at home, came straight back in for live rolling coverage and Sunrise at 3am the next morning. Again rolling coverage right through the next day, I think there may have been a couple of stutters that day as my brain got tired, but touch wood I like to think we got some really good content out there and kept people instantly as informed as possible.”
What is the most memorable Queensland weather event for you?
“From the perspective of being at Channel Seven, definitely Cyclone Marcia. At the Bureau, I did warnings for The Gap storm back in 2008. Over one hundred million dollars worth of damage and that was one of my first storm warning shifts. It was a successful day of warnings, we got them out early and I put the very dangerous tag on. Another one was Cyclone Yasi, I was on my first shift in charge of the cyclone warning center, that night it was a day and a half away from landfall. Just as we upgraded it from category 4 to category 5, for perspective we hadn’t had a proper 5 (Larry was borderline 5) hit the coast since 1918. Here was me in charge of the warnings going ‘ok what can we do’. We got through it and the proof’s in the pudding, no direct deaths as a result of those warnings. A great result.”
Have you always been interested in weather?
“As a kid, we lived out on a farm in semi-country Victoria and we had big storms coming in and cold fronts come through and I’d be outside playing and I’d just get walloped. So I thought ‘ok, that’s interesting’. In year 10 at school I had the career councilor come up and she said ‘you’re ok at math, you’re a good talker, you could do something like accounting or journalism, or I could follow my interest in weather’. So I went and did some work experience at the Weather Bureau in Melbourne, in the research section. I was putting together all these satellite images, like a primitive version of Google Earth! I loved it, so I stuck with the bureau job for almost a decade.”
If you weren’t working in weather what would you be doing?
“I don’t think I’d be doing as well whatever it was. I don’t have too many other skills. I could possibly be a teacher. I love the school visits I do with Channel Seven and chatting to the kids. So I’d probably be an ok teacher. I’d be a terrible tradie, I’m not good with my hands.”
What do you get up to outside of work?
“I have my lovely wife Alicia and we’ve been married for two and a half years now. She’s a lawyer and works 60 hour weeks, but we spend weekends together as best we can. Otherwise walking our black pugs Percy and Pav usually in the morning before work. I also like to get out for a surf when I can or a bit of golf.”
How did you meet your wife Alicia?
“Through a convoluted link of friends in Brisbane. I met her at a party, but at the time I had a girlfriend so I didn’t think much of it. Then it turned out I was single a few months later, met up with that same group of friends for a trip in the Barossa while Alicia was living in Adelaide and then she came up to see me in Cairns while I was working up there and love blossomed! We’ve been a perfect fit ever since.”