Richard Carleton: the hard hitting journalist

Crikey has a write up of Carlton by Stephen Feneley which says this. “At his best, Carleton was THE best, and any journalism student wanting tips on asking hard questions need only dip into Carleton’s archive for wisdom. For that we owe him an enormous debt.” I beg to differ. Carleton was the archetypcal interviewer trying to get a rise out of his victim, rather than someone putting hard questions.

He’s lionised in Feneley’s write up for his question to Bob Hawke “So, Bob Hawke, how do you feel with blood on your hands?” True enough it did get a rise out of Hawkie. Silly of Hawke to rise to the bait and his minders no doubt had kittens when Hawke lost his cool. Now I don’t suppose there’s anything terribly wrong with the question, but it doesn’t strike me as great journalism.

I think it’s a pity that its regarded as the epitome of journalism (and I suspect that there is something peculiarly Australian about thinking that this is great journalism). Kerry O’Brien is actually much more hard hitting on questions which go to the political issue of the day. Laurie Oaks too in his unremittingly ungenerous way. Then if you want to be generous Geraldine Doogue is great for getting the best out of interviewees. Without gratuitously trying to upset them she tries to get the best out of them but will nevertheless be quite forensic if necessary to get from them what she’s asking.

None of these things can be said of the late lamented Richard Carleton.

(It occurs to me that where being a conductor or an artist often seems conducive to old age we have Paul Lyneham, Andrew Olley and Richard Carelton to tell us that being a journo doesn’t stretch out your life expectancy too well.)

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17 years ago

I’m not a Carleton fan. Nor a Kerry fan – I honestly think he’s not very probing, but a tad predictable.

What has surprised me about Carleton’s passing is the level of venom directed against him by RWDBs. I hadn’t realised that the right had a beef against him.

The thread at tim blair’s really is over the top:

17 years ago

I’d like to see more of the policy implications explored – as in the impact of policy on people, and I think Kerry doesn’t really go there. Maxine McHugh tends to. Kerry seems to me to stick very close to the political line of attack. That’s fine and necessary too, but I think he’s become a bit stale.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
17 years ago

Richard was at his peak when co=host of Carwash the best ever show on politics/economics that will ever front Australian TV.
Interested in nick’s comments here.
Kezza was at his peak on Lateline. Howard apologists ALWAYS forget his magnificent interview with Keating which is the only time Keating was done.

david tiley
17 years ago

I never warmed to Richard Carleton. He seemed like a David Frost wannabee, arrogant and full of himself, determined to create a style which focused on him rather than the interviewee.

For that reason he seemed to be perfect for 60 minutes, although he never seemed to fit the scale and triviality of that format.

There is a story that he only left the ABC because they kept forgetting to renew his contract.

The blood on his hands remark was just silly grandstanding, provoking someone who was awash with the adrenalin of a huge political battle, and facing the challenge to lead the party.

Ironically – since he had nothing to do with it really – stealing the drama of a big moment with his own death is a neat metaphor for his working life.

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
17 years ago

I agree that Richard Carleton’s main asset was, as cited here, an ability to take a rise out of someone. And with a lot of pollies, that wasn’t all that hard.

At a slight tangent, it’d be interesting to get Don Watson’s take on the “blood on your hands” incident, and Hawkie’s over-the-top reaction to it.

Despite the horrified response of Hawke’s minders (who practically never allowed him to let fly again), my intuitive feeling is that it probably went down well with the punters, seeing someone sticking it up an intrusive journo. Ditto with Keating in one interview with Carleton when he accused Carleton of ‘selling out’ to the big money of Packer.