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Paul Murray - Veteran journalist unafraid to take on the powerful, finds sense of community by walking the dog

Respected journalist Paul Murray barely knew his neighbours around Allen Park in Swanbourne for years, working long hours as he did as editor of The West Australian.
He was in and out his front gate, leaving early, returning late. He didn’t see his neighbours, they didn’t see him. Then he and his wife Grace got a dog named Oscar.
“It changed everything,” he said.
“It changed our appreciation of the area dramatically. It completely changed our way of life actually.”
While he loved where he lived, he realised that with the long hours and slipping in and out of his front door daily, he was cocooned from his community.
“It doesn’t really matter where you live when you’re not engaging with anyone, he said.
The dog changed all that, and Oscar even made it into a fair few of his columns over the years.
It was the proximity to the beach that drew him and his wife to the Allen Park area in the first place.
“It’s a lovely part of Nedlands; being close to the beach, and with the literary precinct, park and bushland, it’s different from the area most people know,” he said.
Mr Murray was editor at The West Australian for 10 years from 1990 to 2000. When he resigned he was the longest serving metropolitan daily editor in Australia.
Mr Murray has always been a journalist, following his father, who was a journalist at The West Australian, and his brother who was a fellow journalist with the now-obsolete Daily News. He started university intending to become a geologist, but a stint in Kalgoorlie working underground in the mines put paid to that idea. It wasn’t for him.
“Eternal curiosity” drove Mr Murray into the profession, but life as a journalist has come with its own set of challenges. As editor he drove the opinion of the newspaper, in the process provoking the ire of the powerful.
Mr Murray said opinion creates discussion, and there was a fair amount of discussion surrounding him during his tenure as editor at The West. Halfway through his career as editor, there were moves to have him removed. The government of the day didn’t like the editorial line he was following about issues such as Mabo. The government was against native title; The West Australian under Mr Murray was for it.
“So push came to shove,” said Mr Murray, and his job hung in the balance. Staff at the paper, loyal to him and their journalistic integrity, voted unanimously against what was happening. The board relented and he remained as editor.
He believes it’s par for the course, the conflict between the media and government.
“It’s always part of the stresses and strains between a free press and a democratically elected government,” he said.
He now writes an opinion column a couple of times a week for The West, and was morning host then drive host at radio station 6PR for 11 years in all, interviewing prime ministers, premiers, politicians of all persuasions and the public.
Writing columns “is cathartic” and he continues despite considering retirement because he still loves it. He’s never short of a topic for his pieces.
He draws on politics and current affairs most often in his columns, and of course many column inches were devoted to Oscar the dog and Allen Park when the dog was alive.
Mr Murray was posted to The West Australian’s Sydney and Melbourne offices during the 1970s, but was lured back to Perth as an investigative reporter in 1981 by Robert Holmes à Court who was starting a new weekly newspaper, The Western Mail.
During his time at The Western Mail, he won a slew of journalism awards – the state’s top journalism prize, UWA’s Lovekin Prize, the Daily News Centenary Prize and the Beck Prize for political journalism.
When The Western Mail paper was wound up, he returned to The West Australian which had been bought by Holmes à Court. He went back as Chief of Staff and a few years later was appointed deputy editor, then editor.
He hadn’t really had ambitions to be the editor of a major newspaper, but when it was put to him, “I went ‘Gulp’, ok that’s where it’s heading.” He was only 39 at the time.
He thought he’d have about five years of good ideas in him, then give someone else a go.
“But five years came and they tried to sack me so I stayed another five years just to punish them!” he joked.
With retirement on the horizon, he’s considering travelling with his Grace, though his friends tell him he’ll never completely retire.
He values the opportunity to write his column too much.
“I won’t throw it away lightly.”
“Every journalist thinks he’s got a book or two in him, so that’s a possibility,” he said. It would be fiction, but drawing on things he’s “stumbled” over during his career.
Watch this space.