Chain stunt truth unlocked
A Today Tonight reporter will learn his fate today after a stunt, involving an 84-year-old grandmother chaining herself up in a nursing home, forced the show to apologise for misleading viewers.
On Tuesday night, the current affairs show's host Anna Coren had told viewers about an "extraordinary situation that's reached boiling point".
"As we go to air tonight, this 84-year-old grandmother remains locked up in her nursing home room chained to a cupboard. So what has she done to deserve this?"
As Coren introduced reporter Nicolas Boot's story, viewers were shown footage of the chained-up woman standing in her room with the aid of two walking sticks.
The only catch was that Boot himself had brought the chains along to the woman's aged-care facility, something he failed to mention in his report.
But such was the shocking nature of the story that the following morning the federal Department of Health and Ageing sent officers to her Willoughby retirement facility to investigate.
"Once pictures were aired with a resident chained up, naturally the department sent officials to the home to ensure that the resident was safe and well and that her rights weren't being infringed," Malcolm Cole, a spokesman for the Minister for Ageing, Santo Santoro, told theage.com.au.
It was only then that Today Tonight's story started to unravel.
"When they arrived there, the lady wasn't chained up," Mr Cole said.
"As I understand it, the department officers asked her where the chains were and she advised that the television crew had brought them and then taken them away again."
Last night Coren was forced to make an on-air apology, blaming the stuff-up on Boot's unfortunate creative initiative.
"Now we need to set the record straight," she said.
"Last night we featured a report on 84-year-old Shirley Frey, a nursing home resident locked in a battle with the operators of the home. That battle continues.
"We reported that Shirley was living chained to her room. In fact, this is not the case.
"Today Tonight reporter Nicolas Boot took the chain with him to illustrate the fact Shirley felt like a prisoner in her room.
"We regret the actions of this journalist and are investigating the matter internally.
"We apologise to our viewers if you felt misled."
A profile about Boot on Today Tonight's website says: "Nicolas has spent much of his reporting career exposing scams and making people accountable for their actions."
But it might be Boot himself who is held accountable for his latest story.
Channel Seven's head of news and current affairs, Peter Meakin, said Boot had made a "bad call" and the network did not tolerate such conduct.
He said the reporter would be given a chance to explain himself today and a decision on his future employment with Today Tonight would be known soon.
"When we found out what had happened, we decided to come clean with our audience because they're the people we have our first responsibility to," Mr Meakin said.