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Joined the team in 1987
Richard Carleton was a reporter not so much interested in winning friends but influencing people.
And doing it with stories others might reject as too difficult, too dangerous or too upsetting. It made him one of the most feared and admired reporters in television history and made his reports for 60 Minutes always so hard-hittingly watchable.
The man who liked to potter in his workshop, play with his young son and baffle friends with magic tricks, left that side of his nature at the gate when he arrived for work at 60 Minutes. He went to work to ask the hard questions, dig for the unpalatable facts and make life difficult for producers who didn't meet his exacting standards.
You got a true understanding of Richard Carleton by looking at his passport. There were stamps from such places as Nicaragua, Lebanon, Yemen and Belize -- and these were just his holiday destinations.
He was a man fascinated with the world's trouble spots and off-the-beaten-track locations. When you saw Richard Carleton reporting from Zaire or Bosnia or on the front line with rebel soldiers in Sierra Leone, understand that these were not assignments. He insisted on going. He was as fearless with his selection of stories as he was in interviews.
When Bob Hawke deposed his friend Bill Hayden as leader of the Australian Labor Party in 1983, it was Richard Carleton who famously asked Hawke whether he had "blood on his hands". The ensuing televised tantrum is one of the most celebrated moments of television history -- partly because it exposed the knife-edged emotions of the future prime minister, also for the absolute gall of someone posing the question all Australia wanted asked.
It was totally in character for Richard Carleton. When in the field or in the studio, he feared not for personal safety or popularity. It is the role of the journalist to seek truth. But with Richard it was an obsession. Time after time you would hear in his stories and interviews: "So you lied" or "are you telling the truth". For him it was at the heart of every story, every interview -- and pity the person he catches out.
Richard Carleton joined 60 Minutes in 1987 after a quarter of a century with the ABC as one of its most respected interviewers and major figures in news and current affairs. He was born at Bowral in New South Wales in 1943, was educated at Sydney Grammar School and then the University of New South Wales. Like many of television's leading lights, he is an alumnus of the ABC's ground-breaking This Day Tonight. At 22 he was the program's Canberra political correspondent and presented State of the Nation, the first television series to deal exclusively with Australian politics. He left the ABC in 1976 and, after a brief stint with Radio 2GB in Sydney, he produced two films, one on Indonesia, the other the Middle East.
He left Australia in 1977 and joined the BBC in London, working for two years as an on-the-road reporter with the prestigious Tonight program. In 1979 he returned to Canberra and the ABC's Nationwide and in 1985 fronted the Carleton/Walsh Report, an innovative political/business program that featured his unique commentaries of the day's events in politics.
But it was with 60 Minutes that Richard Carleton became a national identity. From the fall of communism in Europe, to the rise of Thatcherism in Britain, to the end of apartheid in South Africa and implosions of democracies elsewhere on that Continent, Richard Carleton was Australia's man-on-the-spot. The Gulf War, the Bosnian War, the sectarian war in Northern Ireland, the internecine wars of the Middle East, the guerilla wars of Central America -- he reported all of them and always with great distinction. And with his unique understanding of Australian politics it was Richard Carleton who brought meaning and insight to many of the great affairs and issues of Australia.
60 Minutes is a demanding program, and with more than 100 original stories put to air each year, the demands on reporters are greatest. A 60 Minutes reporter cannot be a specialist. Though, clearly, Richard Carleton was happiest and at his best with the "big" stories, he could also turn his hand to celebrity interviews and profiles and to "colour" stories where the reporter can be incidental to pictures. Five Penguin Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Current Affairs and three Reporter of the Year Logie Awards, are but one testimony to a great career.
Tragically on Sunday May 7th while covering one of Australia's biggest
stories of the two trapped miners in Beaconsfield Richard collapsed and died. Aged 62, Richard Carleton had spent the last nineteen years of his extraordinary career reporting for the Nine Network’s flagship current affairs programme 60 Minutes. From downtown Baghdad to the back roads of Australia, Richard was a fearless journalist who was dogged in pursuit of what he saw as the truth. Richard is sadly missed by his friends and colleagues at the Nine Network and is survived by his wife Sharon and three children James, Jennifer and Oliver.