MARTIN, RAY (1944– )
A television journalist who became so popular he could entitle his 2009 autobiography simply Ray, Martin has had a long and successful career, working for both the national broadcaster and commercial television. He obtained a BA, majoring in history, from the University of Sydney, and in 1965 gained a cadetship with the ABC in Sydney. Just four years later, he was appointed New York correspondent, a position he held for a decade.
Martin was enticed back to Australia to be one of three journalists/presenters for the launch of the Australian edition of the pioneering American television current affairs program 60 Minutes. The Nine Network’s program became highly successful; on it, Martin broke a story about systematic abuse of patients at Sydney’s Chelmsford psychiatric hospital, which led to a Royal Commission.
After gaining national credibility on 60 Minutes, Martin spent eight years hosting the daily variety show Midday, where his journalistic credentials, coupled with his bloke-next-door good looks and personal warmth (he is known to television crews as ‘Captain Have-a-Chat’ because of his willingness to talk to anyone, anywhere), made him a household name and led to an extraordinary five Gold Logies for the most popular personality on Australian television.
Martin presented (and sometimes reported for) A Current Affair between 1994–98 and 2003–05, moderated federal election debates (1996, 1998 and 2001), hosted Carols by Candlelight (1990–2007) and was frequently at hand for special events. Until his departure from Nine in 2008, Martin was one of the network’s stable of stars that enabled it to be the nation’s leading commercial television network.
Martin’s career has straddled—not always comfortably—credibility and fame. His undoubted journalistic skills contrast starkly with some gleaming television presenters who would be lost without an autocue but his love of being famous has prevailed: as he told an interviewer, ‘I’m driven by what I want to do. I’m an absolute hedonist.’ He was awarded a Centenary Medal in 2001 and was appointed OAM in 2010 for his services to society, especially Indigenous communities, as well as for his journalism.
Martin presented the Andrew Olle Media Lecture in 2008. In addition to Ray, he is the author of Ray Martin’s Favourites: The Stories Behind the Legends (2011).
REF: M. Ricketson, ‘The Dog Days of Ray’, Monthly, December 2005–January 2006.