Philip Chubb, 1951-2017

Tributes paid to award-winning Australian journalist who later became an academic

December 7, 2017
Philip Chubb

An award-winning Australian journalist who went on to become a prominent academic has died.

Philip Chubb, who was born in January 1951, was one of Australia’s leading journalists, serving as a leader writer on The Age, deputy editor of Time Australia and national editor of ABC TV’s 7.30 Report. Together with Sue Spencer, he was given a Gold Walkley award for best journalism for his series Labor in Power, which told the inside story of the administrations headed by Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. He also won a prestigious Logie Award for best TV documentary and a Gold UN Media Peace Prize.

In 2008, Professor Chubb joined the staff of Monash University, where he later became head of journalism. Particularly concerned about the implications of media fragmentation, he would regularly challenge his students by asking: “As a Monash journalism graduate, you will inform and shape the future. The only question is: what is the world you would like to create?”

The author of Power Failure: The Inside Story of Climate Politics under Rudd and Gillard (2014), Professor Chubb ran workshops for journalists from nine Asian and Pacific countries on climate change and acted as the Monash coordinator of the Global Environmental Journalism Initiative, a pioneering consortium of European and Australian universities. He also led workshops for Burmese journalists on how to cover election campaigns.

In a memorial speech, Bill Birnbauer, an adjunct senior lecturer and former journalistic colleague who joined Monash at the same time as Professor Chubb, paid tribute to both his reporting and academic achievements.

On one occasion in 1981, he recalled, “Phil had spent most of [the] afternoon [on] a long, liquid lunch across the road from Parliament.” It was only late in the day that news came through that “the Socialist Left [had withdrawn] its support from the opposition leader Frank Wilkes”, yet Professor Chubb “confirmed it and filed the story and his analysis over the phone straight from his notes. The next day, as reporters were backslapping and congratulating him, he confessed rather sheepishly that he was somewhat hazy about the events that had followed the third or fourth complimentary port at lunchtime.”

As head of journalism at Monash, Dr Birnbauer went on, Professor Chubb “introduced units on smartphone reporting, digital reporting and digital production. He was responsible for designing and obtaining funding for a multimillion-dollar media lab…He never wavered from emphasising the basic tenets of journalism to students: accuracy, verification, independence and a having ethical framework.”

Professor Chubb died of cancer on 9 November and is survived by his sons Rory and Dan.

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