As a writer, broadcaster and TV host, Gold Logie winner Waleed Aly is a media star—but he shuns all forms of social media. “I’ve just never found it an attractive medium, even before I had a media job,” the co-host of The Project tells WHO for its Most Intriguing People issue. “This is not about trying to stay out of the cross-fire. I prefer genuine social interaction rather than the parody of it I think social media provides.”
Now that his work demands he speak his mind, Aly, 38, is even more reluctant to join the Instagram, Twitter and Facebook ranks: “I don’t think the world needs to hear me banging on more. I don’t think I need to be using platforms when I’m not broadcasting. I’m on air every day—that’s enough for everybody.”
The last 12 months saw the father-of-two clinch the top Logie but he also finished the PhD he started in 2007 (“it’s in politics, specifically global terrorism studies”) and covered the US election. “That was a lifetime highlight,” Aly tells WHO, “but it’s hard to escape the feeling it hasn’t been a great year for the world. A lot of seismic things have happened, there’s been this churn of really dispiriting news, symbolised in a weird way by David Bowie and Prince and Leonard Cohen. It’s just a really strange time.”
While Aly says taking home TV’s top honour was “about the loveliest surprise you can get”, he doesn’t treat his Logie with particular reverence. “It’s just on the top of a bookshelf that’s in our room,” he says. “So every now and again I see it, but unfortunately it’s not in the middle of our dinner table or on the bonnet of our car.”
Another highlight? Aly, who plays guitar in Melbourne band Robot Child performed 'Bohemian Rhapsody' on stage in October with the cast of Queen tribute musical We Will Rock You. “It was really good fun,” he says. “I was so pumped.” Particularly because Queen was the first band he fell in love with, when he was in grade one. “Right from the start, I was like, ‘This is it’”, he says. “My musical tastes are quite bombastic.”
Not all of 2016 was smooth sailing. Aly, who presented the coveted Andrew Olle Lecture, admits to WHO that becoming a newsmaker as well as a newsbreaker “is really unfortunate.” He drew criticism that he was using his professional position to push his personal agenda and is divisive. “These things are very transient, not terribly meaningful and often a bit weird,” he says, “So you just kind of have to do your job first of all. ”
His tactic when caught up in controversy is to not fight back. “It’s futile, so I’m better off, I think, just putting my head down and getting to work,” he says. “I don’t get involved in public spats or anything like that because it’s ultimately boring.”
One public fight Aly does acknowledge to WHO is that in 2001, wearing a tiger outfit as the stand-in mascot for his beloved Richmond Football Club, he had a wrestle with the opposing team’s bulldog mascot—and pulled his costume head off. Is he a secret hard man? “I step up to the plate,” says Aly. “I was warned that the bulldog would want to fight me. I didn’t go looking for the fight, but I was prepared to finish it.”
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