For Macleay College’s journalism students seated in Eddie McGuire’s presence on a cold Wednesday Melbourne morning, it was a chance to look on and listen in awe at one of Australia’s most famous men and the way he operates his media career. For Eddie, it was a chance to get away from the media landscape for a bit and have a candid chat.
Macleay alumni Paul Robinson sat down with McGuire on a special day for the college, talking about his illustrious journalism career, which has spanned all three major mediums.
Starting as a 13-year-old at the Melbourne Herald, McGuire took sports stats for the publication, before committing to becoming a journalist.
“I got around and watched the really good practitioners,” McGuire said.
McGuire soon started working at The Age as soon as he had finished high school and reflected on his time trying to get a job in what was a tough time for the economy.
“I sat the exam at The Age and got a cadetship – that was going to start at the height of the financial crisis … when we had 17 per cent interest-rates, double-digit unemployment and double-digit inflation so they weren’t hiring anybody. As it turned out, I was probably the last high school graduate who got a job,” McGuire said.
However, for McGuire, there were more surprises to come.
“I came home one night and there was a letter there from Channel 10. There was one from Channel Nine and Seven and the ABC as well. The first three said, ‘You’re on file, we’ll call you’, and the other one – that I opened up with a bit of resignation, to think I’m going to get the same thing – was Channel 10. I read it three times, they said, ‘We’d like to see you for an interview’. I couldn’t believe it”, McGuire recalled.
Quickly, McGuire was able to learn the all-encompassing nature of journalism that would come with working a number of jobs in the industry, always maintaining a positive manner when approaching his jobs.
“The main thing is not to waste any good moments of any day. What journalism does is it gives you a front row seat to history. Depending on how you go, you actually start to become part of the story at times yourself,” he said.
“There’s nothing better in life than walking in a room or a bar and go, ‘You’ll never guess what just happened’. That’s what journalism is.”
When McGuire had just turned 18, Channel 10 sent him to an electronic media evening at VFL Park. That night was his first meeting with his future Footy Show co-host former footballer John ‘Sam’ Newman, who he had met through the late Drew Morphett while dining on Toorak Road.
“He said ‘Have you met this bloke here?’, I knew who he was, and I said, ‘No, we haven’t met’, and I said ‘I’m Eddie McGuire’, he said, ‘G’day Eddie, I’m Sam Newman’.
“And we went around, and Sam quickly twigged that I had no dough … and the parma was $12, and Sam said ‘You’ve got to have the pepper steak’. I remember, it nearly burnt the roof out of my mouth, I hadn’t had anything more exotic than the Irish stew at home, and then at the end of dinner Sam said, ‘I owe you, Drew, for the golf game the other day, I’m picking up the dinner’,” he continued.
“I look back on that with fondness, because it was an amazing night for me – I had literally finished school a month earlier … and I met a bloke called Sam Newman .. the rest is history, it changed my life.”
Before long, McGuire and Newman had combined to help turn The Footy Show into one of the biggest Australian television success stories of the 1990s, turning it into a staple production on Channel Nine, and allowing McGuire to understand how big his brand was set to become.
“The one thing that I want to leave you with is ‘understand the business’. We’re in showbusiness – that is, you’ve got to know the show, but you’ve got to know the business. A lot of journos get left behind because they don’t know what their worth is, and more to the point they don’t know what’s making the money tick,”, he said.
McGuire finished by providing his advice for how journalists can try to emulate his media feats.
“Keep the enthusiasm up. And if you’re not enthusiastic, get out of the way. Don’t be people who stand on the mark of life,” he said.
“The bottom line is this: have a go. Don’t be afraid to fail. That’s the one thing about social media – it wants to really show people when they’ve fallen over. Don’t worry – you’ll get up! We all make mistakes.”