Channel 9 news presenter Michael Thomson turned 60 in August, but he still cuts a sprightly figure on our TV screens each evening and hopes there’ll still be a role for him on Perth television screens for years to come.
Thomson has always liked to keep in shape, but health was brought sharply into focus when his brother, who is 18 months older, had a major heart attack at the age of 51.
Thankfully, his brother has fully recovered.
“We don’t have a family history of heart problems and that was a massive shakeup to my family and friends,” Thomson says.
“Everyone went and got their heart checked.”
Thomson swims in the ocean almost every day and runs on the beach two or three times a week, often with his old mate and Channel 9 colleague Liam Bartlett.
He says he has no intention of retiring. Staying fit and well will hopefully keep Thomson going in the cutthroat television industry.
Growing respect for older news reporters, particularly in the United States, gives Thomson incentive to keep going.
“I feel I have a lot to offer.
“I think even in my mid-60s I’d like to get back on the road doing some really nice feature pieces.
“American TV has gone through a phase of looking more to reporters, particularly female reporters, because it was very heavily slanted towards males with a lot of credibility and seasoned years behind them.
“They really have lot of clout so it’s not unusual to see feature pieces being done by people in their 50s, 60s, or even in their 70s, because they’ve been around and they tell a story in a really nice way.”
At the same time, he says it is crucial to get younger people involved in the industry to get fresh minds and enthusiasm into the game.
“When people say I don’t want to turn 50 or 60 or 70, I always say if you can get there with reasonable health it’s something to celebrate.”
Thomson is one of six children who grew up in Como, right next to the Collier Pine Plantation, near where Penrhos College is now.
He says it was a wonderful childhood.
His dad was a keen fisherman and camper and would take the children around the State.
Thomson played for the Collier junior football team, played a lot of cricket and learned to swim in the Swan River.
“We would go prawning at night with the family, light a fire and cook the prawns.
“I was lucky, I had a fantastic upbringing.”
Thomson says he was a pretty adventurous youngster and was very much into his sport and loved the outdoors.
“I was probably pretty cocky, and I certainly liked talking, which helped me in media.”
Looking back at the way he has changed, Thomson says when he got married and had children it changed his perspective on what was important.
“With me, in the media, there would be a story I would be covering, and I would think something was very sad, but move on.
“I think as you get older you become warmly emotional about things, which I enjoy, you want to really appreciate things and can quite happily go along for that emotional ride.”
At a professional level Thomson has also seen remarkable change in the way the media works.
“When I started at the Daily News, then Perth’s afternoon newspaper, there were six newspapers in Perth – the West, the Daily News, Western Mail, Sunday Independent, The Sunday Times, the Weekend News and even the Sports Review.
“I remember vividly, hearing the telex machine go off. A bell would ring if something big was on. Betty, who used to run the telex room at WA Newspapers, and I went in to have a look.
“She said this must be a big story because the machine was going flash, flash, flash. John Lennon is dead. I’ll never forget that. I found out about it on the telex machine.”
It was an era when newspapers were printed using hot metal.
“There was no such thing as a mobile phone, laptops and computers, or social media.
“It was a very different time, but a really nice time, I loved working in newspapers and then getting into TV when the six o’clock news was really starting to move at a very fast rate.
“I feel like I’ve been really lucky. I’ve been through a good time with the media, but it has changed dramatically now with social media.
“Everyone’s a reporter, they see something happen and get their phone out and take some video, put it on their Facebook page, it gets seen by someone else and before you know it our social media team has found it and you’re off.”
Anything happening can generally be found on social media whereas in the past camera operators had to go out and get the pictures.
While Thomson says he’s always been able to adapt well to new technology, these days he’s not as quick to adapt as he was.
“Our children and the young people at work are brilliant at adapting and understanding those things and moving very quickly.
“I certainly appreciate it and try to keep up with it to a reasonable degree, but I could be better.”
Something else he is keen to do is to share his knowledge with younger members of the Nine News team.
That includes encouraging people to talk with others face to face.
“Some things now require less face to face contact which can often be a very good way of getting a story, but in some ways we don’t get as much of a chance to see someone or talk to them.”