Foreign correspondent, roving reporter, news anchor, author and podcast co-host
Born in Sri Lanka to British parents, Hugh moved as a young boy with his family to New Zealand. Aged 17, he was hired by a local radio station in a case of mistaken identity, but soon realized that he had fallen into his ideal career.
At the age of 22, he moved to Australia, first to Perth and then on to Melbourne, where he made the transition from radio to television, and in 1991 was given the plum posting by his then employer, the Nine Network, of European correspondent, based in London.
Over the 30 years since then, his career has taken him all over the world. He’s covered coups and genocides, civil wars and natural disasters. He’s broken scandals, reported on political dramas and interviewed major figures on every continent.
From 2004 to 2009 he co-anchored CNN’s international flagship program, CNN Today. He’s currently National Affairs Editor at the TEN Network.
Hugh has won numerous awards, including two Walkley awards – one in 2000 for his interview with Fiji coup leader George Speight, and another in 2011 for his exposure of the so-called ‘ADFA Skype scandal’.
In 2017, he published a memoir, Minefields: A Life In The News Game.
In this episode, Hugh and Tom discuss…
01:53 – A round-about journey to New Zealand
02:59 – Memories of early life in Sri Lanka – and returning under tragic circumstances
04:21 – Having a (statistically unusually) good relationship with his father
06:53 – First being aware of being a boy – and being grateful not to be a girl
09:00 – Contraception and the Church
11:16 – School, being a bit of a tearaway and developing a precocious taste for alcohol
13:39 – Early career prospects and cleaning rat cages
15:08 – A case of mistaken identity and an accidental career choice
17:46 – Early experiences of professional life – and workplace discrimination
19:29 – Moving from New Zealand to Australia and a mild case of culture shock
24:06 – Recruitment criteria for men and women in a 1980s Australian newsroom
26:01 – First international experiences and preparing for life as a foreign correspondent
31:23 – Whether he would have got his big break as a woman
33:06 – Benevolent sexism and letting women take their own decisions about working in conditions of violence
35:24 – Women in television being judged on their looks
36:42 – Moving to CNN in Hong Kong
38:04 – Homophobic and racist barriers to progressing in the media
39:29 – The phenomenal Kristie Lu Stout
40:59 – Helen Garner and the classic foreign correspondent’s romantic history
41:54 – Becoming a solo father
43:54 – Returning to Australia and settling down
45:04 – The newsroom today and the media’s responsibility to conscious diversity
48:08 – Francis Fukuyama, classic liberal ideals, identity politics and populism
49:55 – Gendered work and whether the world is better place for women today
51:59 – Optimism for his children’s future and the importance of listening to everybody
54:35 – Completing the sentence “If I Had Been Born A Girl…”
We ask all of our guests to recommend one resource related to their area of expertise and one related to the subject of gender equality.
Hugh’s first recommendation is actually a series of recommendations, but we’re going to allow them because they all relate to good causes in which Hugh is heavily personally invested:
- Soldier On is a organization which supports Australian Defence Force veterans of post-1990 conflicts and their families.
- Hugh sits on the board of The Crescent Institute, which is a professional networking and thought leadership organization which seeks to create a more well-connected, thoughtful and inclusive Australia.
- He is also on the advisory board of Media Diversity Australia.
- The John Mac Foundation was founded by former Sudanese child soldier, Den Thiak Adut, to provide scholarships for students from refugee and humanitarian backgrounds.
His second recommendation is Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different and How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men by Steve Biddulph. Hugh comments: “It is more than 20 years old now but Biddulph’s insistence that boys need kindness and hugs from their fathers, even more (he argues) than girls need them from either parent, rings true for me. It can’t be bad for the future women of the world to have men raised in environments of gentleness and care from the adult males in their life.” As it happens, an updated version was published in 2018 under the title Raising Boys In The 21st Century.
In case you missed it in the bio higher up the page, Hugh’s memoir is Minefields: A Life In The News Game.
Hugh is co-host, with Peter Van Onselen, of a highly entertaining and informative bi-weekly podcast, The Professor And The Hack, in which they discuss what is happening in Australian politics and “get to the bottom of what is really going on.”
Hugh doesn’t have a professional website, but he does have Rimintons On The Road, a personal site documenting the adventures of “two journos, three kids and a four-wheel drive”. It features occasional blogposts and some stunning photography, much of it by Hugh’s wife, Mary Lloyd. You can find more of Mary’s photography here.
One of the blogposts which appears on the Rimintons On The Road website, written by Mary, was published in the Huffington Post under the title Raising Someone Else’s Child Is Hard, But So Rewarding. It’s a beautiful piece of writing.
There are innumerable clips of Hugh’s television and radio appearances available on the internet. Such is the ephemeral nature of news, that many of the more topical pieces are of limited interest now. One recording which we think nicely complements Hugh’s appearance on our podcast, however, is his discussion with Hamish Macdonald on ABC Radio National’s Sunday Extra segment The Year That Made Me – Hugh focuses on the year 1992.
One of the subjects which we discuss during our conversation is the question of the extent to which it is desirable or fair to prevent women journalists from covering war zones or other situations where there is a significant risk of violence. Dr Barbara Barnett, Lee Young Professor of Journalism at the University of Kansas, has produced a remarkable body of research around the subject, which she has collected in blog form on Women, Journalism and Violence. Start by reading this post, which explains the origins of this remarkable project.
Last but not least, not many people today can say that they have had a Shakespearean sonnet written for and about them – but Hugh can. Andrew Barker, creator of the Mycroft Lectures, wrote Modern Shakespearean Sonnet No 61: The Newsman Leaving Town, inspired by the manner of Hugh’s departure from Hong Kong. Barker comments: “Hugh was a regular at the Joyce Is Not Here bar from which this collection gets its title. […] What I admired most about [his] ‘sad to be leaving, glad to be going stance’ was his enthusiasm for the future combined with his bemusement with what life had presented him thus far.”