Mark Colvin's 'journalistic credo' is wonderful advice for life in general

Mark Colvin as a young journalist. Source: ABC

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has led tributes to ABC broadcasting legend Mark Colvin, who died today in Sydney.

Media industry leaders, journalists, business people and politicians joined in an outpouring of grief for the journalist, who recently developed inoperable lung cancer following decades of health problems that began when he contracted an extremely rare and dangerous auto-immune disease while working in Africa in 1994.

We’ve looked back on his life here.

Colvin published a memoir , Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy’s Son, last year. In the introduction, he offered this summary of his journalistic values.

If I have a journalistic credo, it’s this: don’t make up your mind before you’ve gathered the facts. Never start with a conclusion. Test your theories against the evidence. If the facts contradict you, change your thesis: don’t try and crush the reality into your pre-planned script.

Be one pair of eyes. Gather your facts, listen to others’ opinions, cast your net wide. Then — and only then — draw your conclusions.

Though written as an exhortation for media practitioners, it is great advice for life in general.

In the same passage, Colvin expressed gratitude for the life experiences that he shares in the book.

I’ve not often been told what to write, and when I have, my counterarguments have usually been listened to. I know that there are many in journalism who have had far worse experiences with their bosses, and I feel no complacency about that. I’m aware, in other words, that what integrity I have has seldom been challenged. I’d like to hope that I’d have stood up to an overbearing editor with a one-sided political view who wanted me to change a story, or to a proprietor with vested commercial interests, but I’ve seldom been tested, so I have no intention of being self-righteous. Professionally, compared to so many others, I’ve mostly had a dream run. So, like the legendary lost dog on the poster—‘Three legs, blind in one eye, missing right ear, tail broken, recently castrated … answers to the name of “Lucky”’ — I feel that despite near-death experiences and chronic illness I have had what AB Facey famously called A Fortunate Life.

Farewell, Mark. We’ve truly lost a good man.

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