Making a difference!

Channel 9 host Ally Langdon

While television reporter and A Current Affair (ACA) host Allison Langdon attracts plenty of headlines in the Australian tabloids about what she wears, her flawless face and perfect complexion, she says that kind of coverage doesn’t bother her.

She is far more concerned about covering stories that make a difference to ordinary families than worrying about what people are saying about her.

Allison took over the ACA hosting role in late January from long-time host Tracy Grimshaw and stepped into the shoes her late father-in-law Mike Willesee filled in the 1970s.

She will also be hosting Channel 9’s new Parental Guidance series which looks at the parenting styles adopted in different families. It first aired in 2021 and is now back with the new series.

Allison is married to fellow journalist, Michael Willesee Jnr, the son of renowned journalist, the late Mike Willesee. The couple have two children, six-year-old son Mack and four-year-old daughter Scout.

The Willesee family’s reaction to her ACA appointment was really nice, she says.

“It was really lovely to hear from all of them and I probably underestimated what it would mean to my husband, having had his father start this show and now having his wife sit in the chair, but we’ve had some lovely conversations about it.

“There was a little bit of sadness in a way that Mike senior is not here to see it and be part of it.”

It didn’t take Allison long to settle into the role. She knew many of the people on the team from Channel 9 already and it felt a bit like her time working on other news and current affairs programs, like 60 Minutes and the Today Show.

“I love it even more than I thought I would,” she says.

“I think to work on the show you have to love the show and what I realised is you shouldn’t pigeonhole it.”

While it covers its share of dodgy tradespeople stories and neighbourhood disputes Allison believes stories like a 17-minute story on domestic violence which kicked off the first show of the year are really important.

On the day we spoke there had been media coverage of Allison’s tearful reaction to an interview she had done the evening before with the parents of 13-year-old Esra Haynes who died after chroming, the practice of inhaling chemicals from an aerosol deodorant.

Ally Langdon

“Some of the stuff we are doing is heavy, but it’s really important and the audience will watch, they are really engaged and I love a neighbourhood dispute or the dodgy tradie, that’s the bread and butter, but it is so diverse.”

She was untroubled by news outlets reporting on tears during her interview with the Haynes family.

“I understand how it happens. I think for me, particularly a story like last night’s where you have this extraordinary family trusting you to sit down and talk about their daughter’s and their sister’s death – they only turned off life support six weeks ago – you want to raise the issue of chroming, particularly when you get an understanding of how many teenagers are doing it, thinking it’s a bit of harmless fun. You want that to be the focus.

“When you sit down and do a chat with someone with an issue that’s tough like this and they have gone through something that you can’t even imagine, I do get emotional.

“It’s one of those things that over the years you try and suppress, and you try and do the whole tough façade, but I think you just have to be real; you just have to be authentic in those moments.

“And if that gets written about it doesn’t matter so long as the point of the story is front and centre.”

Allison has covered plenty of big stories in her career but says she is most proud of stories like the chroming story.

“Sometimes I find over the years, 10 years with 60 Minutes, the stories that people remember are the stories where I was chased by a grizzly bear, or went diving with great white sharks or got chased by a lion, but the ones that I am most proud of are like the one I did last night where you are meeting normal families like yours and mine who have gone through something and who have decided they want to make the world a better place because of what they have gone through.”

Children’s issues are close to Allison’s heart. She is an ambassador for R U Ok? focused on mental health, the Mirabel Foundation which works with children who have lost parents to drug abuse and Gidget Foundation which provides support for expectant and new parents. 

Her role co-hosting Channel 9’s Parental Guidance series, which looks at the parenting styles adopted in different families, sits comfortably alongside her work with ACA.

Parental Guidance has given Allison and her husband pause to reflect on their own parenting styles.

“I look at these parents in awe and I feel that my husband and I are just fudging it, we’re just clawing our way through, but at the end of the day, the kids are alive, and they have a smile on their face.

“I love all the different parenting styles and I think for me the greatest thing is being a conversation starter.

“My husband and I talk a little bit more about what kind of parents we want to be, because I think for most of us, we just fall into it.”

Growing up on a farm, Allison says she was very free range, a completely different environment than that of her own children living in Sydney.

Prior to getting involved with Parental Guidance Allison says she would have dismissed many of the parental styles the series highlights, but now she can see how the different styles work for different families.

“While there is drama and conflict in the show, everybody in the room loves their kids and would do anything for them and want to be the best parents possible.

“Some of this season is very funny, but you also have some harrowing challenges where you think kids are going to act in a certain way and they surprise you.”

While many of the parents come into the show believing their parenting styles are the best and some don’t waver from that, others look at the different styles and pick up the elements that are relevant to them.

It has certainly worked that way for Allison.

In the first season of the show, it was highlighted how inconsistent she was with the children.

“My husband and I have definitely had some conversations around that.”

While she and Michael are pretty similar in their parenting styles, she says Michael is more of a helicopter parent than she is.

“I think his reasoning for that is that he thinks I’m a little bit too relaxed at times, but I think we work really well together in that regard, but I’d have to say I’m probably the more fun parent, which means obviously that some of the tough stuff gets left to him.”

Ally Langdon hosts Parental Guidance, returns Monday, June 5 at 7.30pm on Channel 9.

She also hosts A Current Affair, weeknights at 7pm on Channel 9.

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Journalist and public relations specialist Allen Newton has worked across major media organisations in Western Australia and PR locally and internationally. He and wife Helen Ganska operate Newton Ganska Communications. Allen started his journalism career at the long defunct Sunday Independent and went on to become the founding editor for news website PerthNow, Managing Editor of The Sunday Times and PerthNow and then Editor-In-Chief of news website WAtoday. As well as news, he has been an editor of food and wine, real estate, TV and travel sections. He’s done everything from co-hosting a local ABC television pop show, to editing a pop music section called Breakout with Big Al, and publishing his own media and marketing magazine.