1944 - | Journalist & Broadcaster
Derryn Hinch had a spectacular and controversial media career of more than 50 years in print, radio and television. He was twice jailed for contempt, claiming the public’s right to know about sex offenders was more important than laws of contempt and sub judice. Hinch was instrumental in the abolition of the 48-hour election material broadcasting blackout law by defying it and demonstrating its farcical nature. In 2016 he was elected Australia’s oldest first-time Senator and within a year had reformed the rules restricting what pictures the media could take in the Senate and persuaded the Government to introduce laws restricting the overseas travel of convicted paedophiles.
Two score and seventeen years ago - to bastardise Abe Lincoln - a bearded cadet was “conceived” amongst the webs of newsprint and buckets of ink at the late lamented broadsheet, The Taranaki Herald, at the time, the oldest daily newspaper in New Zealand.
His long career would be “dedicated to the proposition” that not all Human Headlines are created equal.
A mere decade later, after scarpering across the Tasman on the good ship MS Wanganella, Derryn Nigel Hinch had ascended the halcyon heights, as Fairfax’s North American bureau boss in New York.
It was in that illustrious role that Hinch convinced the newspaper doyens of The Big Apple that he was, in fact, the quintessential Down Under media mogul – a certain role-model for all those who would come later. Viz Rupert Murdoch.
Believe it or not, in the 1970s Hinch was loud and highly opinionated. He flaunted more company credit cards and pulled off more front-page scoops than any other compatriot (or Aussie journo) working the back-alleys of Manhattan and beyond into the American heartland.
Covering the all-too-serious United Nations – which he rarely and reluctantly attended – Mr Hinch was able to transform the tedium of speeches by dour, visiting Australian Foreign Ministers into provocative warnings to our nearest neighbours.
Pleniary Sessions of the General Assembly were never as exciting as when Hinch paid a visit and managed to somehow elicit headline-grabbing quotes from anonymous “diplomatic sources”. My august ABC editors could never understand why I didn’t have such contacts, given that I spent so much time in the UN’s corridors of power.
Whenever I challenged the veracity of some of those diplomatic sources – as I occasionally did – Hinch’s retort would be to ask somewhat rhetorically, “Listen, did your story lead the bulletin? Did it make the front page of the First Edition? No ? Well, end of section, Sunshine.”
In the brutal news game that’s point, set and match. Shame, shame, shame.
In the late 70s Hinchy would graduate from his dizzy daze in New York City to become the somewhat quixotic editor of the Sydney afternoon daily The Sun, the colourful King of Melbourne morning radio and the easily-lampooned prince of evening network current affair shows.
He was a man for every time slot and – over time – a man for almost every television network too.
As hard as it may be to reconcile – given the unrelenting news coverage of his contempt of court trials - Hinch has actually been incarcerated fewer times than he’s been married. (For the record, it’s three against five).
He’s authored thirteen books - including a guide to winning at Scrabble, two novels with the word “death” in the title, not just one but three autobiographies and a best-selling Diet book, who’s secret elixir is a glass of wine or three with most meals.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Hinch – who subsequently ‘fessed up to “a bit of a drinking habit” – has also gone public on his battles with cirrhosis of the liver, inoperable liver cancer and, thankfully, his liver transplant.
Hinch’s surgical flirt with death was observed by Sixty Minutes with five cameras, a brace of quartz lamps and a compelling mix of gravitas and breathless sensation.
After forays into the rampant world of show-biz - which included everything from The Rocky Horror Show to Dancing With The Stars, being filmed with comedian Glen Robbins at the pissoir on Fast Forward, a quiz show contestant in the Millionaire Hotseat and just playing himself in the crime thriller Underbelly - Hinch finally decided to go to ‘the dark side’.
In 2016 he ran for a Victorian Senate seat in the Federal Parliament.
After a non-stop, 12000-km road trip zig-zagging across the state in the back seat of a small van festooned with “Hinch’s Justice Party” decals, Derryn finally triumphed over his political demons. (Not bad for a transplanted Kiwi citizen, who openly admitted he had never, ever filled out a ballot before).
In a former life, he had determined not to encourage The Bastards by voting. Since 2016, in the national capital his mission has been equally determined … to keep the same Bastards honest.
And he has certainly done that. Across a wide range of issues - including the reform of criminal justice, a register of sex offenders and ending the long-standing but absurd embargo on press photographs inside the Senate chamber.
Indeed, back in the 1980s – again in pursuit of greater media freedoms – Hinch launched his own guerrilla-style radio assault on similarly ridiculous Federal laws that banned television and radio stations from broadcasting political material in the final 48 hours of an election. Almost single-handedly and at maximum decibels – as always – Hinch wiped out yet another outdated Australian law.
For almost six decades now, Senator Derryn Hinch has been a colourful, megaphone-campaigning, ground-breaking journalist. He has always pursued the story as ambitiously and doggedly as the headline. He has long been amongst the very best tabloid reporters in Australia, a special skill that should be recognised and rewarded. He has also consistently been on the ‘decent’ side of most public debates.
Derryn Nigel Hinch truly deserves the accolades. He is a legend of Australian journalism.
Ray Martin, like Derryn Hinch, has been a journalist for well over 50 years. As the ABC’s New York Correspondent, Martin competed, fought and laughed with Hinch throughout the decade of the 1970’s, chasing news stories across the United States, Canada and Latin America. They were colourful, traumatic and occasionally tragic times. Apart from launching three of Hinch’s books, Martin also recommended Derryn as his successor to host the popular Midday Show on Channel Nine. By way of explanation, Martin insists that sometimes in life you make mistakes.
Derryn Hinch as a young reporter. Courtesy of Fairfax
Derry Hinch in New York in 1981. Courtesy of Fairfax
At 2GB Radio Station in 1996. Courtesy of Fairfax
Derryn Hinch in 1985
Senator Derryn Hinch, 2017. Courtesy of Fairfax
The Fall and Rise of Derryn Hinch, Derryn Hinch, Hardie Grant, 2004
I Beat the Booze and So Can You, Derryn Hinch, Cocoon Lodge, 2009
Hinch v. Canberra: Behind the Human Headline, Derryn Hinch, Melbourne University Publishing, 2017