A Love Letter to ‘The Drum’: The Series That Helped Me Through COVID

In 2023, the ABC has cancelled The Drum

During the heights of 2021’s lockdown, one could not sustain themselves on M&Ms and lethargic despair alone. We all need routines, things to look forward to. It’s why I got excited each and every weekday at 6.00pm — I knew that The Drum was about to begin.

The Drum was an ABC talk show where the host of the day, Ellen Fanning, Julia Baird, John Barron, or Dan Bourchier, would talk to a panel of Aussies. Some would be everyday Joes, some would be academics, and some would be politicians. They’d discuss things like COVID, inflation, the cost of living, and everything in between. 

Ellen Fanning

To a layman, it might sound rather dull. But it wasn’t. Fanning’s blunt questions and rapier wit would cut federal corruption apologists into quarters. Meanwhile, Baird was able to make foreign policy feel tangible and life-size. 

In 2010, The Drum premiered in unison with the launch of the ABC’s 24-hour news channel. In 2021, it was my ship, a galleon in the middle of a sea of RAT tests. A place I could get all my COVID news, but also be reminded that there’s more to life than diseases. 

However, on December 12, 2023, The Drum was cancelled. According to the ABC, COVID audience trends have waned away, forcing the network to rethink its strategy. Moving into 2024, the ABC will be having a more digital-minded approach. 

Fortunately, the ABC is still keeping Fanning, Baird, and Bourchier employed, and will slot them into other programmes. Still, The Drum is over.

Julia Baird

In a farewell piece authored by both Fanning and Bair, the co-hosts reflected on their many years on The Drum.

“No one knows more about poverty than someone struggling to eat every week,” Fanning wrote. “An older woman in her 60s or 70s who is couch surfing can tell you a great deal about the causes and solutions for homelessness.”

“Make no mistake, The Drum has been a radical departure from journalism as usual. It’s usurping those who usually have a voice in our national conversations.” 

Likewise, Bair said, “At the end of this long stretch, it seems clear to me now that The Drum has primarily been about hope.

“The hope that by ensuring conversations are respectful, we might allow others the decency of difference. The hope that, by valuing lived experience alongside expertise, that we might deepen public debate and sharpen public policy.”

Thank you, Fanning. Thank you, Baird. Many thanks, to both Barron and to Bourchier. Your insights into how Australia operates have made me a better journalist. If your show never aired, 2021 would’ve been legitimately more tough to survive.

The Drum might be cancelled, but the lessons it taught will live on. If you want to catch the final episode, it’s airing on ABC and ABC iView at 6.00PM, December 15. It’ll most certainly be one for the books.

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