A great loss

Last night a helicopter went down at Australia’s Lake Eyre.

On board were three men from our national broadcaster, the ABC, who were – and are –  held in the highest esteem. Not just by fellow journalists but by viewers all over the country.

Paul Lockyer was a regional affairs reporter who time and time again told the human stories of this country. His coverage of the recent floods and horrific tragedy in Grantham was remarkable in that it was so very obvious each and every person was not just a story for him to file, he was always the vehicle for the rest of us to really understand the impact this land has on us.

Gary Ticehurst was the chief helicopter pilot for the ABC. That he is known by the audience is testament to his personality. He was so much more than a chopper pilot. During the tragic Sydney to Hobart yacht race a few years back he went from chopper pilot to hero in a matter of hours, saving lives and being a critical component of search and rescue.

John Bean was, by every account given today, a remarkable cameraman who played a crucial role not only in capturing the images to support the story but to put those people interviewed at ease. His photography that is being showcased on the ABC website of the Australian outback is nothing short of breathtaking.

I know there are more than 12 million people on the brink of dying from starvation in Africa tonight. I know the fighting in Afghanistan at the moment is some of the most brutal. I know these things and the gravity and horror they carry.

But three remarkable men died today too.

I adore the ABC. Its depth and breadth of reporting is unmatched in Australia. While every other news agency goes for the sound bite, the news grab, the sensation, ABC journalists keep their head, finding the human stories of tragedies, not letting politicians get away with avoiding the question and for recognising the news value in the everyday. I am of the firm belief that under the reign of the current managing director, Mark Scott, the broadcaster and its programming has gone from strength to strength. We are fiercely protective of our national broadcaster and the family within it.

And it is a family. You know at commercial networks just how cut-throat, ugly and bitchy it can be. Ruthless even. But if you are an ABC journo, producer, cameraman, sound guy it seems you are always an ABC journo, producer, cameraman and so on. It is irrefutable that if you were an ABC journo you were a real journo. It has always given the impression of being far less bullyboy and far more recognising remarkable talent and mentoring. I know that is ridiculously idealistic and that it must suffer the office politics of any large organisation but there you have it.

 

Leigh Sales, another remarkable journalist at the ABC somehow got through presenting tonight’s 7:30 Report. How she did so is testament to her professionalism. If today was not already tragic enough, it also brought the passing of Ian Carroll, a bastion of quality journalism and husband to the indomitable Geraldine Doogue.

 

For an insight into who these men where click here.