There are few people in the news business with the experience, credibility and integrity of Channel Nine’s Peter Hitchener.
Hitch, as he is affectionately known, has been bringing Melburnians their news for more than 30 years and is undoubtedly Australia's most trusted and respected news presenter.
In 2010, Hitchener celebrates 45 years as a newsmaker - the past 37 of them with the Nine Network – a remarkable feat in any industry, let alone the highly competitive field of broadcast journalism.
Born and raised in remote rural Queensland, his parents ran a sheep and cattle property 30km outside Texas, a small town near the New South Wales border.
Their only links to the outside world were ABC radio, on shortwave reception, and The Courier Mail newspaper which arrived the day after publication.
"Everyone in our family eagerly devoured the paper and listened to the radio news," Hitchener said.
"I am sure that is where my interest for news first developed."
In 1965, after completing his secondary education at a Gold Coast boarding school, Hitchener juggled an arts degree with part-time work, writing, editing and presenting news at Brisbane's 4BH radio station.
A year later, he deferred his degree to take up a full-time position in radio and television at ABC Brisbane. On radio, he presented breakfast music programs, read the news and covered special events including the Queen's royal tour of Australia. On television, he presented the main weeknight news bulletin.
Hitchener moved to the ABC in Sydney in 1973 and again worked in radio and television. On television, he read the evening news when main presenter James Dibble was on leave. While on radio, he wrote and read news bulletins.
At the end of 1973, he joined TCN-9 in Sydney to present National Nine News and a year later he went to GTV-9 Melbourne as the main weeknight presenter.
In 1976, he teamed up with Sir Eric Pearce to present the evening edition of National Nine News in Melbourne. The partnership lasted three years and Hitchener describes the late Sir Eric as "a very funny person and a great mentor – we became good friends".
While presenting news for GTV-9, Hitchener also established himself as a popular radio personality. In 1977, he began hosting the breakfast slot on 3AW and switched to 3AK in 1979. He stayed with the station until 1985.
In 1979, he became GTV-9's chief weekend news presenter and read the main National Nine News bulletin when Brian Naylor was on leave. He took over as chief newsreader for GTV-9 in December 1998 when Naylor retired after 45 years in the business.
When the big stories break, more people turn to Peter Hitchener on Nine News than any other news outlet. In an ever-changing media landscape, Hitchener and the team at Nine News can be relied upon as Melbourne’s most credible, accurate and trusted source of news.
The tragic Black Saturday bushfires that ravaged Victoria in 2009 touched us all. In total, 173 people lost their lives, including former Nine News presenter and close friend of Hitchener, Brian Naylor. Despite the personal sorrow that he was experiencing, Hitchener was there, on the frontline, bringing Melburnians the tales and images of devastation that will forever be etched in our hearts and minds.
"Personally, it was the most terrible event that I’ve ever reported on," Hitchener said.
"I can only imagine how it must have been for the people of the fire affected towns when the flames came through."
Among the other big stories that Hitchener has presented, he ranks the death of Princess Diana, together with the Hoddle Street and Port Arthur massacres among the most memorable.
"Our news team always strives to reflect the changing interests of our audience," he said.
"News is far more immediate now. It’s so much more personal and not nearly as formal as it used to be. We can cover stories anywhere in the world quickly and much more accurately with the new technologies that are available."
In 2009, Hitchener made international headlines when a massively magnified seagull walked across a real-time projection of the Melbourne skyline behind his head while he was reading the news.
"I knew it was there but chose not to allude to it because I was reporting on a cold case murder enquiry," he said.
"It wasn’t an appropriate time to share a laugh with the audience, but that seagull has now gone on to become a star of the internet."
Hitchener loves nothing more than meeting the everyday Melburnians who make up the vibrant city to which he reads the news each weeknight at 6pm. A great deal of his time away from work is spent on community service activities. He is a patron for the Deaf Blind Society of Victoria, a position formerly occupied by Sir Eric Pearce, and a guest speaker for many charity, community and school events in Melbourne.
A keen animal lover, Hitchener lives in inner suburban Melbourne. He enjoys the occasional hit of tennis or round of golf and is a lifelong supporter of the Australian Rules St Kilda Football Club.