MASTERS, CHRISTOPHER WAYNE (1948– )
Chris Masters is a pioneering investigative journalist, who was the longest serving reporter on Australia’s longest running current affairs television program, Four Corners. A former colleague, Mike Carlton, described him as the antithesis of a television star: ‘He looks a bit like an accountant who has lost his way in the corridors.’ Masters joined the ABC in 1966, gaining what he later recalled as a solid grounding in reporting and storytelling in various rural postings.
In 1983, Masters joined Four Corners; his first program, about corruption in Rugby League and in the NSW judiciary (produced by Peter Manning), prompted a Royal Commission and eventually saw chief stipendiary magistrate Murray Farquhar imprisoned. A report by Masters in 1985 on the French government’s involvement in the sinking of the Greenpeace boat Rainbow Warrior (produced by Bruce Belsham) won the Gold Walkley.
Two years later, Masters’ ‘The Moonlight State’ report (produced by Shaun Hoyt) prompted a Royal Commission that found endemic corruption in Queensland and recommended the setting up of an anti-corruption body and, in 1992, a Queensland Freedom of Information Act. The chief commissioner of police, Terry Lewis, was convicted of corruption and sent to prison. Masters was not the first to expose corruption in Queensland, but his beautifully crafted program had an impact that underscored the potential power of television as a medium for investigative journalism. The report tied up Masters in legal action that lasted 12 years and cost the ABC about $1 million to successfully defend.
Masters joined Network Ten’s short-lived Page One in 1988, returning to Four Corners 18 months later. He was to win further Walkley Awards, as well as a Logie Award in 1995 for his story on the Rwanda refugee crisis. He presented the Arthur Norman Smith Memorial Lecture in Journalism in 1996. Masters was awarded a Public Service Medal in 1999 and a Centenary Medal in 2001 for his services to journalism. He received honorary doctorates from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 2005 and the University of Queensland in 2009. Retiring from Four Corners in 2008, he made a documentary on Afghanistan for Ten (2011) and The Years that Made Us for the ABC (2013).
The author of two books reflecting on his journalism, Inside Story (1992) and Not for Publication (2002), Masters also wrote Jonestown, an investigative biography of Sydney talkback radio host Alan Jones that was controversial because ABC Books rejected it, reportedly under pressure from the ABC board.
Masters’ mother, Olga (1919–86), became a successful journalist and novelist after raising seven children, most of whom have had careers in the media: Roy, a former Rugby League coach, is a sports columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald; Sue is a leading television and film producer; Deb is an ABC producer; Quentin is a film director; and Ian is a journalist, broadcaster and filmmaker based in the United States.