DEVINE, FRANK (1931–2009)
An editor and columnist, Devine was born in Blenheim, New Zealand. Aged 17, Frank began his career as a sports reporter on the Marlborough Express. In 1953 he moved to Perth to join the West Australian, where he met his future wife, Jacqueline Magee. Devine variously served as foreign correspondent for the West Australian and the Melbourne Herald in New York, London and Tokyo.
In 1970, Reader’s Digest founder DeWitt Wallace invited Devine to New York to be interviewed for the position of editor-in-chief of the Australian and New Zealand editions of Reader’s Digest. Wallace asked Devine whether he thought the Digest should use the word ‘fuck’ in one of its condensations of a novel. Devine said that if such a word could not be deleted, it was not a very good novel. He got the job and moved to Sydney. As editor, he published the first major report on the growing use of drugs in sport and an exposure of how a New Zealander convicted of murder had been ‘fitted up’ by an Auckland detective. In 1981, he was appointed editor of the American edition of Reader’s Digest and returned to the United States.
Rupert Murdoch made him editor first of the Chicago Sun-Times in 1986, then of the New York Post; one of his prized possessions was a first edition of Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop (1938) given to him by staff. Appointed editor of the Australian in 1988, Devine suffered the first setback of his career: after just 15 months, he was sacked. He wrote ironically that his dismissal was ‘one of the enduring mysteries of Australian journalism’, since under his editorship circulation had risen. He doubted that his Reaganite conservatism was too strong for Australian readers, although he believed that his American ideas of the independence of editors had irritated Australian management. Murdoch said later, without explanation, ‘Frank was one of my mistakes. But I love him.’ Devine remained a columnist on the Australian for 20 years. Devine was a conviction journalist whose Catholic faith was central to his life and work. He was a stylish writer, jovial bon vivant, sports fanatic and family man. His last essay in Older and Wiser (2009), a collection of his best pieces from Quadrant since joining the magazine in 2002, honoured his three daughters (including the journalist Miranda Devine) and his 50 years of marriage.