Nine’s newly appointed news boss admits culture of power games


A female journalist said his management style involved undermining people, pitting them against each other, and “ghosting” (suddenly refusing to speak to them), which left staff scared, shaken, “belittled and bullied and frozen out and threatened”.

A male journalist described Wick as a “master of the dark arts, and he was brilliant at it”, he told the Herald.

“All of a sudden you’re finding you are getting crap stories, crap shifts, if you did speak out.”

Nine Entertainment chief executive Mike Sneesby returned from leave early.

Nine Entertainment chief executive Mike Sneesby returned from leave early.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Many felt that chief executive Mike Sneesby took too long to address the substance of the claims since they were raised by News Corp last Monday.

“The ghosting continues,” said one.

In Monday’s meeting Sneesby pledged to hold an investigation into the behaviour and concentration of power in the newsroom, to be executed with “external partners” to ensure independence.

But several staff members told the Herald they no longer had any faith that their complaints would be handled efficiently.

“The mood is extremely disheartened,” said one News employee.

One former senior Nine reporter, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said “he [Wick] kept everyone mean and lean and keen, and had everyone facing off against each other”.

“Mostly he’d play off young women in that regard, and kept them hungry and starved for the next on-air presenting role. It was a really gross culture.”

A female former Nine presenter said women in particular felt that they risked their career stalling if they did not stay on his good side.

“If you didn’t play the game and do a bit of light flirting and play up to his power you would go nowhere at Nine,” she said.

Another female journalist said that “the nub of the issue is that they were incapable of handling it”.

At the meeting Sneesby said the “alleged serious failings of leadership in television news clearly tells me more work needs to be done to ensure we have a safe and inclusive workplace throughout Nine”.

Speaking at an extraordinary “All hands” meeting in the Nine newsroom on Monday afternoon, Dear flanked Sneesby in a bid to address growing anger at the company’s handling of a sexual harassment complaint against Wick in 2023, as well as the anonymous complaints of multiple other women made through the media.

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Sneesby told staff that the 2023 complaint had been found by an external legal team to be “unsubstantiated” but did not explain why Wick was asked to leave the company anyway.

Sneesby said he had not signed any non-disclosure agreements regarding any employee’s inappropriate behaviour, including Wick’s, but did not say whether Nine, which is the owner of this masthead, had issued any NDAs signed by others.

Dear admitted the network had played “power games” with employees as besieged company executives scrambled to address growing staff outrage about allegations of lecherous and toxic behaviour by Wick.

“In terms of contract negotiations, leaks to the media, power games over career developments – that stops today,” she said.

“I know it’s going to be hard for some of you to believe that … but I want to say that the power games stop today.”

Former Nine chief executive Hugh Marks, who left in 2020 after five years at the helm, told this masthead he was not aware of Wick’s alleged behaviour.

Marks said he was “shocked and so sorry” and would not have decided to return the powerful news director to work after his drink-driving conviction if he had been aware of the alleged pattern of behaviour.

“I am really sorry that people have had terrible things happen to them. I am sorry that has occurred as a result of that decision,” he said, adding that “this is the Darren Wick I didn’t know”.

“In hindsight we should have asked more questions, rather than wait for information to come to us.”

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