Remembering Mark Colvin

Earlier today, I went to the public memorial of Mark Colvin.

Mark Colvin was the voice of my youth. As a former foreign correspondent I watched him on TV; through such dark events as his coverage of the Ayatollah’s ascension in Tehran during 1980, to others, like the absolute horror of the Rwandan genocide. Being a news addicted kid, he brought the world to my home. Often that world was terrifying – but I was fascinated.

I was unaware that he had contracted an infection whilst he was reporting from Rwanda – and also of his subsequent hospitalisation. I just knew him as the voice; the respected journalist that went to foreign lands.

The ABC’s PM was the soundtrack to most evenings; the current affairs program that was the backdrop to family dinners – of so many conversations and of so many memories growing up in poky, suburban Engadine. It became a staple. It became an institution you could rely on.

When Mark Colvin took over hosting PM, it became more so. I listened when I could, and listening changed from being merely ‘passive’ to ‘active’. He had an extraordinary ability to transport the listener, and make you feel like you were a witness. You felt informed, but also like you were a part of something bigger…

I also discovered today, that Mark Colvin was a thoroughly decent, good and just man. He believed in his work, and of journalistic standards. He believed that he had an obligation to report on the facts correctly; but that he also had a greater obligation – to report on why those facts matter. It wasn’t just about ‘education’ – it was that his audience should care, they should know. And it wasn’t just the answers to the basic questions; who, when, where and how – at a much deeper level, it was why; that people matter and that a human story had to be told.

He believed, that he had a hallowed obligation – to his viewers and listeners.

I reflected on this – and its relevance to our work, our clients and our sector.

I believe that we also have an obligation; to tell the stories of pain, of tragedy and loss. But also the stories of love, pity and compassion – the stories of our clients. We tell stories, not just facts – for our supporters to remember, to be moved and know how to respond.

But, above all, we want to be moved. We want to feel the elation and excitement of being inspired by an impossible task, being made possible. We want to be moved to tears over heartbreaking sadness and tragic loss – of feeling someone else’s pain. At our heart we want to feel human – that others matter – and that we can care and be better people.

I sit here writing and wishing that I could do justice to such sentiment, but am at a loss. To merely write that what our clients do is amazing, feels a bit like an empty platitude. We all know the brilliant things our clients, and our sector, does; but do we allow ourselves to tell a truly moving story?

Not nearly often enough…

Thank you, Mr Colvin – your loss is truly without measure.

– Karl