ABC journalist Mark Colvin dead at 65

In death, ABC journalist Mark Colvin gave thanks for his remarkable life.


“It’s all been bloody marvellous,” read the final message on his popular Twitter account hours after the news the veteran reporter and prolific social media user had died of lung cancer aged 65.

Colvin, who suffered a long battle with a rare auto immune illness, leaves behind a legacy of unflinching reportage from some major world events, covering genocide, hostage crises and the end of the Cold War.

“Today we lost our beloved Mark,” his family said in a statement on ABC Television.

They thanked his medical staff at Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital and friends and colleagues who stood by him.

“At this moment of grief, we request the family be left to mourn in private,” they said.

Colvin began his career at the ABC as a cadet in 1974 after graduating from Oxford University. It was a career that brought him all over the world, first as the ABC’s London correspondent and then as European correspondent in Brussels in the 1980s.

During that time he covered the American hostage crisis in Tehran and reported on the negotiations between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan that led to the end of the Cold War.

He returned to Australia to work on current affairs show Four Corners, but went back to London in the 1990s reporting for Foreign Correspondent, The 7.30 Report and Lateline.

While covering the Rwandan genocide in 1994 he contracted a rare auto immune illness which led to kidney failure.

In a strange turn of events, he received a kidney transplant in 2012 from Mary-Ellen Field, an Australian business consultant who worked for model Elle Macpherson. Colvin interviewed Field while investigating the News of the World phone-hacking scandal and the pair struck up a friendship.

The transplant story was later made into a stage play written by Tommy Murphy, Mark Colvin’s Kidney, which recently ran at Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre.

Field tweeted “My heart is broken” on Thursday when news of Colvin’s death broke, alongside a picture of the pair together.

Fairfax journalist Kate McClymont was one of many who tweeted that a worthwhile way to honour Colvin was to register as an organ donor.

Colvin presented ABC Radio’s flagship program PM for 20 years, interviewing Australia’s politicians including the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who praised Colvin on news of his death.

“Mark Colvin’s journalism was elegant and erudite. In a world of superficiality, he was always informed and honest. We’ve lost a good man,” Mr Turnbull tweeted.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten described Colvin as a “gentleman of journalism”, while ABC News head Gavin Morris said Colvin was one of Australia’s finest journalists.

“For so many Australians, hearing his measured authoritative voice on our air waves each evening was a great pleasure and inspired confidence and trust,” Mr Morris said.

Colvin also mastered the art of social media with insightful and witty comments, collecting more than 100,000 followers on Twitter.

Fittingly, many ABC journalists used Twitter to post tribute messages to their late colleague.

“Devestated by the news of my dear friend @Colvinius the greatest mentor. Such a giant of our profession. Suffered too much. Was so stoic RIP,” Lateline presenter Emma Alberici tweeted.

The Drum host Julia Baird praised his dignity and love of his craft, while political commentator Annabel Crabb noted his death was “a horrible, tearing loss for Australian journalism”.

Mr Colvin leaves behind wife Michele McKenzie and two sons, Nicolas and William.