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TV legend feels at home in Broken Hill

Wednesday, 30th January, 2013

Dr Gerard McLaren and television journalist Ray Martin in Argent Street during their stay last weekend. Dr Gerard McLaren and television journalist Ray Martin in Argent Street during their stay last weekend.

By Kurtis J Eichler

His work in front of the camera is legendary, but few know of veteran newsman Ray Martin's skills behind it.

"I'm more passionate about photographs than I am about writing, and I've written all my life," the 69-yearold Nine Network journalist said.

"I don't pretend I'm a professional, but I'm a very good amateur."

Mr Martin is hoping to release his third book - one on photography - in the near future and he was happy to show us his Lumix GXI camera during his overnight stay at the Exchange Hotel in Broken Hill at the weekend.

He and Dr Gerard McLaren, the whistleblower who exposed cases of malpractice at Canberra Hospital a decade ago, were on their way from Sydney to Alice Springs where Dr McLaren will set up the hospital's rehabilitation unit.

It was only six months ago that Martin was in Broken Hill as patron of the Humpty Dumpty Foundation, delivering medical equipment to the BH hospital.

Growing up in the country town of Richmond, NSW, Martin feels the outback is where he belongs.

The five-time Gold Logie winner says he "loves" Broken Hill and when he dies he wants his ashes scattered along the Darling River.

"I feel most at home somewhere along the Darling. I feel like that is like coming home.

"I spent all my formative years in the bush. I feel comfortable in pubs and clubs and talking to people.

"Once I get beyond the mountains, I breathe freely."

As youngster, he had dreams of pursuing a life in either teaching or architecture.

But his ideas changed in 1965 when he started his journalism career as a cadet reporter in Sydney.

He went on to work in Perth and Canberra before being posted to New York as the ABC's USA Correspondent.

There he covered the Watergate scandal and grilled the likes of Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

In 1978 he, along with George Negus and Ian Leslie, were the founding reporters on the TV news magazine 60 Minutes.

He spent five years with the show before fronting other Channel Nine news programs and shows including 'Midday' and 'A Current Affair'

Mr Martin hosted countless televised election nights as well as other network specials including Carols by Candlelight.

Being granted the first and last interview with closely-guarded cricket legend Sir Don Bradman, his tale of eye surgeon Fred Hollows and his month-long
trip across Australia with naturalist David Attenborough, he says, were his best work.

"(Bradman) never really spoke of his family and his life, ever. For a cricket nut like me it was like going to heaven."

After four years away from TV, Mr Martin returns this year in a part-time stint at '60 Minutes', the show that made him a household name.

His first story of the 12 he hopes to file this year is an interview with legendary Australian folk group The Seekers.

Mr Martin has been critical of news coverage during his stint off air, hitting out at stations for "dropping the ball" on serious coverage for the benefit of ratings.

But he didn't realise how much he missed it until he was back in front of the camera.

"I can't imagine retiring as a journalist. I still can't believe after almost 45 years now that people pay me to go out to amazing places and meet amazing people," he says.

"I find it easy to talk to people. And probably one of the reasons I love being a journalist is I'm as curious as buggery so I tend to ask people questions."

He said the secret to his longevity was "loving what you do."

"Don't do something your parents want you to do - do something you want to do."

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