GRATTAN, MICHELLE (1944– )
Michelle Grattan is a highly regarded and distinguished political reporter with a career spanning more than four decades. She has worked as a reporter and editor for four significant Fairfax Media newspapers since 1970. In 2013, she left the Melbourne Age to take up a professorial fellowship at the University of Canberra while also holding the position of associate editor (politics) and chief political correspondent for the independent online news website The Conversation. She also continues to commentate on the ABC’s Radio National Breakfast program and other television news programs.
After studying politics at the University of Melbourne, Grattan joined the Age in 1970. A year later, she joined the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery. She was the Age chief political correspondent from 1976 to 1993. Grattan became the first female editor of a metropolitan daily newspaper in Australia when she was appointed editor of the Canberra Times in 1993, before returning to the Age in 1995 as political editor. She then joined the Australian Financial Review as a columnist and senior writer in 1996. In 1999, she was appointed chief political correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald, then returned to the Age again in 2002 as political editor.
The industry has long recognised the quality of Grattan’s political journalism. She was awarded the prestigious Graham Perkin Award for Australian Journalist of the Year in 1988 and noted as ‘a pre-eminent political reporter’. In 2004, she was appointed AO for her distinguished service to Australian journalism, and in 2006 she received the Walkley Award for Journalism Leadership. In 2008, Grattan shared the Melbourne Press Club Lifetime Achievement Award with Laurie Oakes for outstanding political correspondence over the past 40 years.
Grattan has been outspoken about what she has perceived as a decline in journalistic standards, and the problems of media concentration. In a public lecture in 1995, she lamented that newspapers often failed to produce ‘first-rate’ journalism, ‘the kind that tells people what they would not otherwise know, tweaks the tails of the power wielders, turns over rocks to stir the dark life beneath’, and that they ‘don’t quite know how to handle a future they can’t quite envisage’. In her book Editorial Independence: An Outdated Concept? (1998), she criticised the ascendancy of commercialisation in Australian newspapers. In a public lecture on the same topic, she argued that the country’s newspapers were under the control of two major operations—News Limited and John Fairfax Holdings—and that Rupert Murdoch’s company, News Corporation, had such vast global interests that ‘no day can pass when one bit of the empire is not faced with the task of reporting on another section of the empire’.
Grattan wrote Back on the Wool Track (2004) and has co-authored a number of books, including Can Ministers Cope? with Patrick Weller (1981); 31 Days to Power with Robert Haupt (1983); Reformers with Margaret Bowman (1989) and Managing Government with Fred Gruen (1993), as well as two edited collections, Reconciliation and Australian Prime Ministers (both 2000).