Nearly nine months after she sensationally quit the Today show and defected from Nine to Ten, Lisa Wilkinson has finally revealed what prompted her shock move.
“I wanted change, I wanted to keep growing, to keep learning, to keep challenging myself,” Wilkinson, 58, told a B&T magazine conference in Sydney on May 28.
“Even at my age.”
The Sunday Project host was keynote speaker at the event, and laid her cards out on why she used Twitter to break the news she was quitting Today and had a new job.
After nearly 40 years in the media, the former Dolly editor said her personal brand was strong enough that she could outwit her “mighty” bosses and beat them to the punch with the announcement.
“Where once I would have waited for the mighty Nine Network to announce my resignation through their huge and powerful reach, I now realised I had my own instantly available social media network to reach out to that night,” Wilkinson said.
“I took ownership of what had happened and half-a-million of my followers on social media were the very first to find out that I was leaving – something that clearly annoyed the bejesus out of Channel Nine.”
While the abrupt end to her Nine career “did generate a headline or two,” Wilkinson said, “I was so pleased that it also generated such a huge conversation about issues that truly matter in the workplace in this country.”
“Issues that are almost exclusively placed in old-school thinking,” said the star, who described herself as a “women’s advocate” in promotional spots for The Project ahead of her January debut.
“And I’m never at my best around old-school thinking”.
Her new job has already taken her to Las Vegas to interview Celine Dion, to New York to sit down with Amy Schumer and to London for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding.
On May 27, the mother-of-three shared her delight at being back in Sydney with daughter Billie.
A post shared by Lisa Wilkinson (@lisa_wilkinson) on
Before Wilkinson’s “wanting change” explanation about why she walked out on Today, multiple reports and sources said it was over a pay battle.
At the time, it was claimed she wanted pay parity with co-host Karl Stefanovic, whose contract reportedly sees him earning $2 million a year.
But Nine’s chief executive officer Hugh Marks hit out at Wilkinson, saying she was offered a $1.8 million package but wanted $2.3 million.
Her stance and departure was hailed as highlighting gender pay discrepancies, particularly in media.
Her industry was given a rap over the knuckles by Wilkinson, who called out the magazine industry’s “dumb management” and said too much of what we read online is a “cesspit of toxic, unmoderated, factually incorrect, libellous bile.”
Wilkinson’s start on The Project saw strong ratings but within three months they had dipped to 254,000 metropolitan viewers.
Ten has fought rumours the show’s co-host Carrie Bickmore had her nose put out of joint by Wilkinson’s arrival or that there are concerns Wilkinson’s performance hasn’t drawn more fans.
“In the end, I just want to do good work and the rest will follow,” she told Who magazine in April about the numbers.
“There was always going to be a lot of scrutiny. I expected that.”
She said the “best mix” for the show was still being worked out, but:
“One of the wonderful things about going to The Project is the trust that people have in the journalism.”