He found the abuse “pretty isolating”. And not even leaving the platform could stop it, “because it had the ability to jump from social media into the real world and real life so frequently”.
He never felt physically threatened, “but it was certainly not uncommon for people to come up to me in the street and want to get stuck in about decisions made by people, by program makers, about the people on the show, things that people on the show said. Sometimes even on your front doorstep, not in a threatening way, not in a deliberate way, but in a way that really made it difficult to feel confident going on air, and confident in your own ability to do the job.”
It really made it difficult to feel confident going on air, and confident in your ability to do the job
Macdonald takes no delight in talking about any of this. He doesn’t want to play the victim card, and he has lots of good memories of his time on Q+A – he cites the increased diversity of guests and questioners as a major achievement, and counts getting panels of premiers, doctors and Chinese government officials to answer questions live at the height of the pandemic’s first wave as major wins.
Tonight, he’s back in friendlier territory, taking his seat on the desk as co-host, with Lisa Wilkinson and Tommy Little, of The Sunday Project. He’ll also co-host on Fridays (the show is filmed in Melbourne Monday to Thursday, and in Sydney, where Macdonald lives, on Friday and Sunday). He’ll do some field reporting, and will still be filling in on Friday mornings on Radio National – he has a six-week stint starting from next month – but he has bigger ambitions within the expanding 10 ViacomCBS universe too.
“The addition of Paramount+ and streaming made this a really easy decision for me,” he says. “There is a very big world of opportunity for doing all sorts of things.”
Like standalone projects that might turn up on the streaming platform, including internationally?
“Yeah. There’s nothing I want to say specifically at this point to that, but the conversations have been pretty good and this is very much the right offer at the right time.”
When Macdonald’s shift to the ABC was announced in November 2019, it looked very much like a coup for both of them. But not all marriages work out. And if Macdonald is more intent on looking forward with positivity than looking back in anger, who can blame him.
“Sometimes you just need to make a decision to do the thing that is going to make you happiest,” he says. “And for me, for my loved ones, and for the people around me, it was obvious, this choice. I really could not be happier.”
Find out the next TV, streaming series and movies to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered every Thursday.
Email the author at email@example.com, or follow him on Facebook at karlquinnjournalist and on Twitter @karlkwin