Growing up as a kid Ben Fordham wanted to be Prime Minister of Australia. But his mum slapped that out of him by high school.
“She convinced me that politics is way to personal and people say nasty things,” he said.
When Ben turned 15 he did work experience for a week at 2UE in Sydney on the Alan Jones Breakfast Show.
“Within hours of looking around this crazy place they call a radio station I thought I could get a lot of entertainment and enjoyment out of hanging around here longer and that’s when I thought, I’d set my mind on working in radio.”
After doing work experience, Ben worked at 2UE part time every Sunday in his final two years of high school. During that time he worked for Ray Hadley who was calling the Rugby League, with his job being to make coffees, answer phone calls and fetch lunches.
“Before I finished high school they said do you want a cadetship in the newsroom, so I started the day I got my HSC results,” he said.
After working for 2UE as a reporter for several years, Ben got a call from Mike Munro who just took over hosting ‘A Current Affair’ from Ray Martin, offering him a job as a producer before he could become a reporter at the Nine Network.
“I thought it was a mate taking the piss out of me so I didn’t take it seriously at first, I eventually realised it was him; so I called him back and went in for a meeting and have been at channel 9 ever since.”
Instead of an idol, Ben prefers to admire lots of people with the individual traits they show on the air. One person he sees on TV at the moment and thinks ‘wow your good’ is fellow host on the Today Show Karl Stefanovic.
“I remember thinking to myself when his voice over started, whose this, his really good. Then he popped up doing his stand up saying Karl Stefanovic, National Nine News and I wrote his name down in my diary. When I bumped into him for the first time about 10 years ago, I told him – mate you’re going to think I’m gay, but the first time I saw you on TV I wrote your name down in my diary. Karl said, ‘mate that is so gay’ and we’ve been great mates ever since.”
Ben said that he admired Karl Stefanovic because he is a bloke who can handle breaking news and he is also a funny guy.
“Karl is someone who can handle the heavy, when stories break particularly when it’s evolving live he is very good at being in control. Also being the comic relief as well, not taking life too seriously, after all that’s what most people want in the morning, someone who is not serious but fun and entertaining.”
Ben Fordham won a Wakeley Award for his coverage of the 1997 Thredbo landslide disaster. Being 21 years-old this was the first time he saw dead bodies in this kind of situation he said.
“I was looking at the screen of one of camera crews there and it was a day or so after, but it was a body being pulled out frozen and I remember looking at that, then looking away thinking I wish I didn’t see that.”
During the 2007 Federal Election while working for A Current Affair he was fortunate enough to spend a day in a life of John Howard and Kevin Rudd.
“I remember John Howard gets up early for the early morning walk, but Kevin kept pushing back time; for the time we’d start the morning until around 8am.”
One of the major challenges he faced during this was Federal Police wouldn’t allow them to film inside the plane.
Ben said that in situations like that he finds himself asking questions like why can’t you do this and what’s go with that and just trying to negotiate a deal.
“They said oh you can only film in the cockpit, because the cockpit was the same as any other cockpit.”
While filming in the cockpit he managed to strike a deal to interview captain of the plane.
“I thought let’s get K-Rudd up in the cockpit, so we went to get K-Rudd. As you can imagine the negotiating took for ages.”
“A lesson I learnt from that, is always go asking for the next little bit and try to find pulling off the impossible.”
Some advice Ben would give for someone who is looking to crack into Journalism is to be punctual, be polite, ask questions, get in people’s faces and don’t shy away.
“The worst thing you can do is annoy them so much that they don’t want to give you a job.”
Ben said when he was working at 2UE he had a work experience kid called Tom Malone, who now is the Executive Producer and his boss on Today Show.
Since 2011 Ben Fordham has been working as the sports presenter on Today which requires him to get up at 4.30am to be on air by 5.30am.Ben said that he usually will call the producer around 4.50am in the car to discuss the layout and running of the sports news. Although he doesn’t have a lot of involvement in the Sports new he will make minor changes to wording of the script while Georige Gardner is reading the first news bulletin in the morning.
His afternoon job is the host of Sydney live on 2GB, which planning of the show begins at 5.30am when he is reading the papers finding subjects that interest him before his 9.05am conference with his producers at 2GB.
Ben said that he is a little anal about the show because he likes to make it flow and run smoothly across the three hours.
In 10 years from now Ben hopes to still be working at Channel 9, having his own radio show and living in the same house that Jodie his wife from Seven News have just moved into.