OAKES, LAURIE (1943– )
Laurie Oakes is one of the longest-serving and most powerful political reporters and commentators in Australian history. According to an Australian Public Essential Research survey in 2012, his ‘public recognition’ and ‘trust’ surpass those of all his colleagues.
Oakes obtained a BA from the University of Sydney, where he also edited Honi Soit. He joined the Sydney Daily Mirror in 1964, becoming state political roundsman the following year. At 25, Oakes was appointed chief of the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial’s Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery bureau; he also provided political commentaries for the Seven Network’s Willesee at Seven. He joined Network Ten in 1979, famously obtaining a copy of the 1980 budget before it was tabled in federal parliament. From 1978–80, he published his own political journal, The Laurie Oakes Report.
In 1984, Oakes moved to the Nine Network. His forensic questioning of politicians on Sunday mornings (1984–2011), principally for Sunday, frequently set an agenda for the week to come. This power was reinforced by his weekly column in the Packer-owned Bulletin (1985– 2008). Oakes remains Nine’s political editor, and he also contributes to weekly columns in the Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph as well as to blogs, and has embraced Twitter.
Oakes has received several Walkley Awards, including the Walkley for Journalistic Leadership in 1998 and the Gold Walkley for his reporting of Labor leaks during the 2010 election campaign. In 2011, he was named Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year and inducted into the Logie Hall of Fame for, as he put it, ‘maintaining my drug of choice for 47 years and doing it for more than 30 years in full view of the television camera’. He delivered the Andrew Olle Media Lecture in 2011, followed by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance Centenary Lecture in 2012, and is the author of numerous books, including two about Gough Whitlam.
Oakes became a political reporter because ‘it mattered. It served a public good’. He is feared and revered by politicians, and his domination of political reporting rests on his willingness to both use politicians and allow himself to be used by them where the story warrants. Oakes’ doyen status, which has persisted through radical technological changes in political journalism, is built on the veracity and impact of ‘scoops’ over 40 years. The epitome of the insider, Oakes has delicately balanced his role as political player and reporter.
REF: L. Oakes, On The Record (2010).