Kumi Taguchi reboots ABC's Compass

Geraldine Doogue, one of Australia’s most respected broadcasters, passes on the baton of religion and ethics show

Compass, ABC Television’s weekly ethics and religion programme, will showcase the life and personality of its new presenter, Kumi Taguchi, when it returns at 6pm on March 4 in a new Saturday timeslot.

As the much-loved and respected broadcaster Geraldine Doogue passes on the baton after 20 years in the role, the ABC has decided to capitalise on the vibrant personality of her replacement as host. A news anchor on ABC News 24, Kumi is a half-Australian, half-Japanese former violinist who loves nothing better than a physical challenge.

Taguchi says this emphasis on her complex life and personality is one of several new directions for the programme that aim to broaden its appeal, especially to a younger audience.

“Who am I? I’m not just someone presenting a programme” – Kumi Taguchi

She told Eternity that audience feedback shows personality drives a lot of viewer loyalty, not only in drama but also in the news and entertainment space.

“At the ABC, we’re really keen to make sure that we capture personality and build personality, so quite a bit of Compass this year will be – which is slightly uncomfortable for me – but be sort of around my personality,” she says.

“So we’ll be doing quite a bit more behind-the-scenes stuff – who am I? I’m not just someone presenting a programme but I’m someone who has a complex life with various facets of which the camera is just one small part.”

Other initiatives aim to shift audience perceptions of Compass and reach people for whom the word religion is “tainted” by controversies such as the child sex abuse scandal in the church.

“We’re all open to where this journey might take us” – Kumi Taguchi

These will include smaller new segments, primarily built for a social media audience; programmes produced in partnership with vehicles such as the youth radio network, Triple J, providing a safe space for young people to ask life’s big questions; and a focus on the ideas generated by the programme’s title.

“I’m very keen on exploring this word ‘compass’, which to me means direction,” says Kumi. “You think of a compass and there’s north, south, east and west. If you extrapolate from that, what does that actually mean? What direction are you going in? Those are the kinds of broader bases that we’re very keen on exploring.

“So it’s really exciting, actually. We’re all open to where this journey might take us as a programme and shifting it slightly to what I think people need at the moment.”

“That faith journey is one that I’m still constantly travelling on.” – Kumi Taguchi

Kumi, who was born in Melbourne to a Japanese father and Australian mother, had a very mixed cultural upbringing, growing up on a mini farm but kneeling and eating miso soup for breakfast. She says coming to faith as a Christian was for her a “very slow process.”

“I was a big atheist at first and have been for most of my life,” she says. “That faith journey is one that I’m still constantly travelling on, so it was just a process for me of opening my mind up to bigger questions … and I still am exploring those questions quite deeply.

“So I would say very strongly that I’m a person of faith and discovery and that journey is something that is still very much unfolding for me.”

She is relishing the prospect of mixing the fast pace of the newsroom with the opportunity to have time to think about the big issues of meaning, faith, spirituality and purpose.

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