Ray Martin has been welcomed into our homes for over 50 years. But what kicked off this legendary broadcaster’s half-century career? Martin sat down with Marc Fennell for our Hey, Guess What? podcast to find out what makes the newsman tick.
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On how he sees himself…
I fill out the form on my passport saying “journalist” as my occupation. I tell people ‘call me a journalist’. I call myself a journalist. And I always enjoyed telling stories rather than breaking news, as much as I love breaking news. But I tell stories. And that’s what journalists do.
On getting his first journalism job…
I was sat down in an office, and I did an interview with two of the senior men at ABC at the time and I had to go up the road and read news bulletins just for them [so they could] put it down on tape and do a quick interview with someone up there.
I read the news bulletin. I stuffed it up and I stumbled a couple of times. I said, ‘can I do that again?’ and he had a goodness, a generosity. It probably saved my life.
I did it a second time. I don’t think it was very good the second time either. But for some reason, they used to select two cadets a year in the ABC. And I was subsequently told that there are about 480 applicants that year. But that changed my life totally.
Otherwise, today, I would have been a retired history lecturer probably, I would have loved it, I would have been pretty good at it. Because I love history, but I wouldn’t have seen the world and other things I’ve done.
On humanising issues with 60 Minutes…
One [story] in particular [stands out]. I remember doing a story about the Middle East and we were in Israel. And it must have been early 1980’s in Lebanon…and Israel was basically in you know, under constant threat at that stage. And we went to do a really simple story with an Israeli family and a Palestinian family in in Jerusalem. And the Palestinian family had owned property there for centuries. And when the Jews came in, when Israel was established as a nation, that land was taken.
Suddenly, I found that we had an audience of several million people, you know, families telling their story of what they had gained and what they lost and how and why the war was happening in Israel. We got a number of letters from people are seeing it for the first time [and] I thought the fantastic thing that commercial television can do and does and certainly 60 Minutes did in those early days.
You know, this war had been going on at that stage for 30 years. But people were seeing it for the first time through the eyes of human beings rather than politicians and military men, etc. We were talking to people who listened to what was being said. It was a revelation.