KELLY, PAUL (1947– )
For more than 20 years, Paul Kelly has been one of the most formidable and respected analysts of politics, foreign policy and domestic policy in the Australian media. He completed a BA at the University of Sydney before joining the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery for the Australian in 1971. By 1975, he had risen to chief political correspondent, then moved to John Fairfax & Sons, where he worked first for the National Times and later for the Sydney Morning Herald as chief political correspondent. In 1985, he returned to the Australian as its national affairs editor, and in 1991 was made editor-in-chief, a post he held until 1996 when he became editor-at-large (or international editor). For many years, he has been a regular radio and television commentator on Australian politics.
As a crusading editor-in-chief, Kelly introduced new features designed to strengthen the intellectual credentials of the Australian, and to marshal a national readership behind a program of economic and social reforms that were broadly in line with the policy directions of the Hawke and Keating Labor governments. During the Howard years (1996–2007), he continued to champion the values of individual freedom and national economic prosperity while developing a more measured style of analytical commentary on international and domestic policy issues.
Kelly is one of the few editors of an Australian metropolitan daily to have established a parallel reputation for serious scholarship. Along with several shorter publications and a popular history of Australia’s last hundred years, he has published five heavily researched and highly regarded books on the inner workings of successive Australian governments: The Unmaking of Gough (1976), The Hawke Ascendancy (1984), The End of Certainty (1992), Howard’s Decade (2006) and The March of Patriots (2009). His book on the Rudd–Gillard Labor governments, Triumph and Demise, appeared in 2014.
Despite his own stature, Kelly is uncomfortable with the label ‘intellectual’, seeing it as alien to the traditions of Australian egalitarianism and journalistic realism. This view was demonstrated in 2011, in a vigorous public debate with Professor Robert Manne over journalistic ethics. Unlike some of the other great editor-intellectuals of the past (such as Cyril Pearl, J.D. Pringle and Graham Perkin), Kelly has enjoyed harmonious relations with his long-time proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, and believes that ‘the editor does not own the newspaper. He runs the paper in trust on behalf of the proprietor’.
Kelly’s work has been recognised by several awards, including the Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year Award (1990) and a Walkley Award for Journalism Leadership (2001).
REF: P. Buckridge, ‘Editors as Intellectuals: Three Case Studies’, in A. Curthoys and J. Schultz (eds), Journalism (1999).