Australian politics

Jan 18, 2013

Vale John Loizou. “A journalist’s journalist”

John not only broke news with a vigor and passion rarely seen but on occasion made it. The year fades into memory but John was the object of then NT cabinet minister Mick Palmer's attention when he 'snotted' John during a session at the local Petty Sessions bar. From that event came, in part, John's place in the annals of journalism in the Territory as being the man responsible for the immortal headline 'Toothless MP head butts reporter'. Palmer, first removing his watch and teeth, admitted to having 'snotted' our man, then working at the Sunday Territorian.

Bob Gosford — Likes birds and people, not necessarily in that order.

Bob Gosford

Likes birds and people, not necessarily in that order.

John Loizou – a “journalist’s journalist” – passed away in the Royal Perth Hospital at 12.15a.m. on Thursday 17th January 2013.

Ashley Manicaros, who worked with John at the NT News described John as a “grumpy, cantankerous, old school journalist who knew how to dig up a scoop.”

John not only broke news with a vigor and passion rarely seen but on occasion made it. The year fades into memory but John was the object of then NT cabinet minister Mick Palmer’s attention when he ‘snotted’ John during a long afternoon at the local Petty Sessions bar.

That ‘snotting’ cemented John’s place in the annals of Territory journalism as being the man responsible for the immortal headline ‘Toothless MP head butts reporter’. Palmer, first removing his watch and teeth, admitted to having ‘snotted’ our man, then working at the Sunday Territorian.

It seems that news wasn’t the only thing that John could break. Paul Costigan of Darwin’s Roma Bar remembers that John once “gave me a friendly hug and cracked 2 of my ribs.”

Ex-Darwin barrister Brian Cassells was in Petty Sessions that day and remembers John as “one of the last old style journos. Dug for his own info and did not rely on ministerial releases. I was present at the infamous incident in the old Petty Sessions. John was a dedicated anarchist who never revealed his sources who’s accuracy was a cause of amazement to me. Last of his kind.”

Phil Cullen worked in Darwin as a journalist and local bureau chief at the ABC for many years and recalls that John “used to drive a Moke and would say that anyone who needed air-con and was afraid of a little rain wasn’t cut out for the Top End.”

This morning  John’s colleague at the NT News Nigel Adlam published this tribute.

THE man considered by many to have been the Territory’s best-ever journalist has died.

John Loizou, who had been ill for several years, was 70.

He worked for the NT News and Sunday Territorian before moving to Hanoi in Vietnam.

But his first love was radio.

Loizou made the news himself when he was headbutted in a Darwin pub by then CLP Cabinet Minister Mick Palmer.

The reporter played football for Carlton reserves before moving to the Territory to work for the ABC. Loizou had a reputation for “going the biff” while playing for Wanderers and St Marys.

He won the NT Journalist of the Year award in the early 1990s for a story about two women who ran away from a Chinese sweat shop at Darwin’s NT government-owned Trade Development Zone.

Everybody was looking for the women — government goons, the police and the Chinese factory owners. Loizou found them — and discovered they were allowed only $1 a day from their pay.

Typically, he didn’t turn up to the awards ceremony — he was down the pub — and the trophy had to be collected on his behalf by the then photographic editor Clive Hyde.

Loizou had many other great scoops.

CLP Cabinet Minister at the time, Fred Finch, said in Parliament that street gangs were terrorising Casuarina, including an all-girl gang called the Black Mafia. Loizou disappeared from the Sunday Territorian office and returned two hours later with a pretty but tough-looking girl and announced: “This is the leader of the Black Mafia.”

He wrote in an old-fashioned style and often shook his head in disbelief at the way that tabloid newspapers “crunched” the English language.

But he had a great hunger to tell a good story — and hold the rich and famous to account.

Loizou was a Marxist but was impeccably balanced in his writing. He thought that Labor’s first chief minister, Clare Martin, made the Territory “a better, kinder place”.

Loizou, who died in Perth on Wednesday night, leaves his wife Cree, and two sons by his first marriage, Brendan and Damian.

If you knew John and want to add your memories please register and post your thoughts.

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7 thoughts on “Vale John Loizou. “A journalist’s journalist”

  1. Karen Pecy

    Farewell John – you will be missed. As a young ABC reporter in the NT during the late 80s and early 90s it was great to be around a true journo like John who worked hard and played hard. He loved to socialise and to share his views, and he was a legendary news man. He never went off duty. He wasn’t intimidated by anyone or anything. And he wrote a damned good yarn. My thoughts are with his family.

  2. Bob Gosford

    This advice just in from Bill Day.

    Christine Pas and the family of the late John Loizou of Darwin wish to announce that the funeral will be held at the Amy Johnson Drive chapel on Friday February 8th, followed by a burial at Thorak or McMillans Rd.

    A notice will be placed in the NT News with final details closer to the time.

  3. David Coles

    Sad to hear that he has gone. A journalist who did the job as it should be done, he wrote well with good humour and without bias. He had a strong reputation as a bloke who would respect a confidence and was careful not to drop any source in the soup. He didn’t always get it right but he did seem to have a red hot go.

  4. Garry Dembon

    The head-butting incident illustrated both the level to which the then NT government had sunk and John Loizou’s dedication to fair play come what may. If others hadn’t blabbed it would have remained a private dispute.

    Whether or not he deserved a smack – he could be a little loud in his cups — Loizou sought no revenge or recrimination. He regarded a bar room altercation in the same way as a bit of biffo on the oval, to be forgotten after the match.

    Friends knew they could rely on John to be unreliable. He was forever out trawling for information, and when he got it colleagues and contacts also knew they could rely on his research, reportage and analysis to be thorough and balanced.

    Loizou’s contacts knew he would protect his sources too, and boy did the man have sources.

    Once, the day before we were due to leave on an overseas work trip his passport was destroyed. I cancelled my ticket. The next day Loizou lobbed with his ticket and a new passport, raring to go and childishly excited in the way that only Loizou could be.

    I drove him to the airport, feeling a bit cheated, and as we walked to the boarding gate he darted his great bulk sideways and kissed me on the earlobe. My startled response was met with an impishly sheepish smile.

    “We Greeks do that sort of thing,” said the very Australian Scots-Greek Cypriot.

    Yes he was a great reporter. And a character. And a bit of a mongrel too.

    Bye bye John.

  5. Bob Gosford

    A correction down the line from ABC journo Phil Cullen:

    Good story on John Loizou in Crikey. Small point, I was manager programs (8DR then 8DDD) rather than news director.

    John worked in the programs teams from time to time during my time, on After Eight and other current affairs input. He was a handy man on a story. Take care.

  6. Bob Gosford

    From Bill Day on FB:

    At the age of 17, John applied for a job with the ABC. All the other 60 or more applicants were academic types while John was only a boy from Dandenong Technical School.

    However, he got the job and was sent to Darwin in 1959 as a cadet journalist.

    Some years later he moved across to the Northern Territory News under legendary editor Jim Bowdich. In Darwin he met and married Olive Kennedy (dec), an ex-Retta Dixon girl.

    After reporting for many newspapers, including the Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times, John moved to Vietnam with his partner Christine Pas where they worked for the Vietnam newsagency.

    In 2000 John and Cris started the South East Asian Times which was published daily as the on-line daily .

    The couple did not miss publishing an edition in 12 years, until the day John died suddenly while preparing the January 17th edition.

  7. Peter Mccutcheon

    I have very fond memories working with John at the ABC in the late 1980’s. My favorite line of his – ” People who live in air-conditioning shouldn’t be allowed to vote in NT elections.”
    He was passionate, but when I worked him I was impressed by his professionalism. “Always be polite to the people you’re talking to, even if you think they’re complete dickheads.” I’m not sure he always lived up to that standard (I know I haven’t), but I was greatly impressed by the way he could deal cut through the crap and get to the heart of a story. He taught me a lot.

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