Michael Gordon (centre) with former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke.
Michael on assignment at Uluru in 2017. Pic: Alex Ellinghausen
John Howard was interviewed by Michael in January.
5 February 18
Ex Australian prime ministers Keating, Howard, Hawke, Gillard and Abbott all add tributes here, so this might seem an unusual post to be appearing on PLB. But Michael Gordon was a fan of this magazine and that was certainly reciprocated in regard to his quality journalism and body of work. Awarded “Australia’s most outstanding journalist” among many honours, he was also a dedicated surfer - and he happily wrote for PLB a few years back while busy with his "proper" work.
The following was posted on the Brisbane Times, by Debbie Cuthbertson, Feb 3:
Michael Gordon, a giant of Australian journalism and one of The Age's most loved, respected and lauded writers, has died at the age of 62. He is believed to have suffered a heart attack while taking part in an ocean swim at Cowes, on Phillip Island, on Saturday morning.
He was pulled from the water and brought to shore shortly before 10.30am. Despite the best efforts of emergency services, who spent more than an hour trying to revive him, he died at the scene.
Michael won the Walkley Award for most outstanding contribution to journalism – one of the most prestigious honours in Australian media – in 2017.
He was also a past recipient of the Graham Perkin award for Australia's most outstanding journalist, along with many other honours.
Last year he left his long-time role as political editor at The Age, where he had worked for 37 of his 44 years in journalism, but was still writing for the newspaper as recently as last week.
His interview with former prime minister Julia Gillard was a prominent story in The Saturday Age and on the cover of the Insight section.
“Micky was the most beautiful person you could hope to meet," The Age's editor Alex Lavelle said on Saturday.
"A great friend and colleague, he was genuine, warm, kind and an incredibly talented journalist. He deserved all the accolades that came his way. I can't think of anyone in The Age newsroom who has been a more positive influence over the past few decades. We are all devastated he is gone and will miss him greatly. We send all our love and best wishes to his family and many friends."
Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood described him as "not merely one of the great journalists of his generation" but also "one of the most loved".
"His passing is a tragedy for all who knew him and respected his enormous contribution to the national debate. His 40-plus year body of work on politics, Indigenous affairs and refugees reflected his basic values of care, fairness and scrupulous honesty.
"But beyond that ... he was a wonderful man. Our deepest sympathy goes to his wife Robyn and children, Scott and Sarah, and his broader family."
Writing last year to mark his Walkley win, his colleagues in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald Canberra bureau described him as a man who "led by example with his courageous, fair and meticulously accurate reporting".
"While extremely modest, Michael was always happy to share the lessons he had learnt from his decades in journalism, to give constructive feedback on stories and to give you a hug if you were having a rough time," they said.
"Softly spoken and without a shred of self-importance, he was never too busy to help out and offer support."
Former Labor prime minister Paul Keating remembered him as a "very ethical journalist" who had "left a mountain behind" in the form of his life's work. "Michael was a substantial man who cared about the right things," he said.
Long-serving Coalition prime minister John Howard said he had great respect for Michael. "He was a man who wrote what he believed and always checked his facts." Mr Howard said he had recently been interviewed by him and it was a "most pleasant meeting" with a man he considered to be "a gentleman".
Former prime minister and current Liberal MP Tony Abbott described him as a "warm and engaging human being" and one of Australia's "finest political journalists, It's so typical of his vitality and desire to live life to the full that he should have been out and about when tragedy struck ... for me at least, tomorrow's Cole Classic will be swum in his honour."
Journalism was in Michael's blood, and he entered what he called "the family business" at the age of 17. His father, Harry Gordon, was editor of The Sun (which later merged with The Herald to become The Herald Sun), so Michael applied for a cadetship at rival newspaper The Age.
As a young reporter he covered rounds including police, industrial relations and sport, but politics became his specialty.
He had stints at other newspapers during his career – at The Herald in the late 1980s as New York correspondent and The Australian as national political editor in the '90s.
His peerless reporting turned an unflinching spotlight on the treatment of asylum seekers, particularly those shipped offshore by successive Australian governments, and the injustices faced by many Indigenous Australians.
Amid the stories he broke was a 2016 piece on the impact of government offshore detention policies on the babies of asylum seeker families. The story caused a national outcry and led to a softening in policy for families impacted.
His departure from The Age in June was noted by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten among many other politicians who praised his contribution to the national conversation.
Michael was also an avid surfer, music lover and Hawthorn supporter. A history of the AFL club, written with his father, was one of seven books he had published.
Hawthorn president and former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett described him as "a journalist of distinction".
"We thank Michael for the lasting legacy and record he has left the Hawthorn Football Club and future generations of our members and supporters," he said. "We miss him already."
Seven-time world champion surfer Layne Beachley was the subject of another of his books.
"I loved his demeanour – how respectful, how passionate he was," she said.
"He was a great author, because he did not let you get away with shit. It's nice talking to someone who takes the time to understand the people he was writing about."
Long-time friend and Age colleague Tony Wright said he last spoke to Michael on Friday.
"I hadn't heard Michael so happy with his life since he had left The Age," he said. "He was involved in a new project with Melbourne University interviewing and writing on leaders and had been told that the project would be expanded and continued for the foreseeable future.
"He'd spent part of the week with his new grandson, Harry, named after his legendary father, and his daughter Sarah. Last year he spent several months with his son, Scott, in Sierra Leone, where Scott is working on an aid project.
"He had his surfboards on top of the car and he was heading to the retreat he shared with his partner Robyn Carter in the hills not far from Phillip Island. The world was a happy place for him. He was looking forward to the next chapter."
He is survived by his wife Robyn, children Scott and Sarah, son in law James Carruthers and grandson Harry.
- with Liam Mannix and Jon Pierik