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Pioneering New Zealand Journalist Dies

Pioneering New Zealand Journalist Dies
December 1

Renowned journalist, broadcaster, documentary maker and writer Marcia Russell ( B.A.(Hons), M.A. M.Litt, OBE) died this morning after a short illness.

Russell’s long and distinguished career included path-breaking roles in print and electronic media. Starting as a cadet reporter with the New Zealand Herald in 1959, she became the first woman reporter to cover daily news for that morning paper. As founding editor of Thursday magazine from 1968, she developed a public profile and courted controversy, campaigning for the most important and divisive women’s issues of the era, including abortion law reform and the introduction of the Domestic Purposes Benefit. In 1973 she was one of the organizers and a speaker at the first United Women's Convention in Auckland, attended by more than a thousand women.

In 1975, she left Thursday to join New Zealand’s brand new second television channel, South Pacific Television, working first as presenter on the magazine show Speakeasy, then returned to her reporting roots to edit their award-winning News at 10. In 1986, she used her combination of news and television skills to help win a warrant for the private third channel, TV3, and became chief of TV3 News from 1987 to 1990.

She was also an award-winning documentary-maker, working on projects that were both popular and critically acclaimed, such as Landmarks (1978), and The New Zealand Wars(1996), for which she won the SPADA award for best scriptwriting in 1999. Her four part series, Revolution (1997), which cast a critical eye on the reforms of the fourth Labour Government, won an award for Best Factual Series for 1997, and went on to be published in book form. In recognition of her work, Russell was awarded an OBE for her services to journalism in 1996 and became the first recipient of the Academy of Film and Television Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.

Since then, Russell had focused her attention on studying the lives of two other pioneering women journalists, completing a dissertation on the journalism of Robin Hyde, in 2010. In 2011 she was awarded a University of Auckland doctoral scholarship to pursue work on New Zealand-born, Australian-based poet and journalist Elizabeth Riddell. In the week prior to her death, she was awarded a Master of Literature from The University of Auckland for her work on the project.

Marcia Russell is survived by her partner, Tom Finlayson, and her daughter Kate.

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