Former Daily Mercury editor Rod Manning has died. Picture: Tony Martin
Former Daily Mercury editor Rod Manning has died. Picture: Tony Martin

Tributes: Manning remembered as a kind-hearted humanitarian

JOURNALIST. Historian. Writer. Friend. Mentor.

Former Daily Mercury editor Rod Manning has been remembered as a passionate advocate for Mackay, a 'tremendous' role model to his children and a caring grandfather.

Known for his great intellect and fierce drive to seek the truth, Mr Manning was a newspaper man through and through.

Right up until he passed on Monday morning at age 86, he was up-to-date with the latest news and current affairs.

His son Laurence said his father read widely and subscribed to newspapers worldwide before the internet evolved.

"He read widely … always looking at the direction of newspapers around the world," Laurence said.

"He knew the names of editors in Australia and around the world.

"And he monitored what was happening in newspapers and brought that into our town, always trying to keep moving our town forward.

"He believed in accuracy and keeping information simple, not confusing people.

"He talked passionately about media and news, was well up to speed on current events and news until his very last days."

Mr Manning worked at the Daily Mercury for more than 40 years, including a long stint as editor from 1980 to 1997.

The Walkley-winning journalist chronicled the biggest tragedies, mysteries and miracles in the region's history.

Mr Manning was in the newsroom reporting on the disappearance of 14-year-old Marilyn Wallman in 1972 and he was the reporter on the ground in 1960 when the TAA Fokker F-27 Friendship plane crashed off Far Beach, killing everyone on board.

His coverage of that fateful night on June 10, 1960, would later be recognised with a Walkley Award - the highest honour for Australian journalists.

"He saw the plane from the ground and he knew it was in trouble," Laurence said.

"He reported it fairly and didn't sensationalise it and won that national award."

 

The first edition of The MidWeek rolled off the press on Wednesday, July 11, 1984. Taking a look at the finished product are then Daily Mercury editor Rod Manning (centre), first MidWeek editor Charlie Payne and first reporter Loris Wall.
The first edition of The MidWeek rolled off the press on Wednesday, July 11, 1984. Taking a look at the finished product are then Daily Mercury editor Rod Manning (centre), first MidWeek editor Charlie Payne and first reporter Loris Wall.

When he reflected on his career in June when the print editions of the Daily Mercury ended, Mr Manning said there were "thousands of stories".

"We covered it all as best as we could," he said.

He said his most memorable stories included the expansion of the coal industry and the development of Dalrymple Bay, the opening of the Entertainment Centre, the establishment of the CQUniversity campus and the Conservatorium of Music, the shifting of the railway station from Boddington St to Connors Rd at Paget, and the new Civic Administration Building on Gordon St.

Laurence said his father had been ill for a little while but he had been quite well until he deteriorated recently.

"He was a tremendous role model and a kind good-hearted person," he said.

"He was also very intelligent; a great source of advice and information, a very caring person and a humanitarian.

"He grew up here in Mackay and he spent two years in London as a young man before he returned.

"He came back in 1955. Mackay was his home.

"He had a passionate interest in Mackay and the history of this place.

"He helped shape our town to a large degree.

"He protected environmental sites and heritage buildings and he applied his intellect to the benefit of others."

 

Former Daily Mercury editor Rod Manning. Picture: Daily Mercury Archives
Former Daily Mercury editor Rod Manning. Picture: Daily Mercury Archives

Laurence said when he had worked for his father, he found him "demanding as a boss but he was reasonable".

"He said newspapers were writing the first rough draft of history so it was important what they reported was accurate and unbiased and concentrated on facts," he said.

The father of six and grandfather of five also will be remembered as a 'massive family man'.

Mr Manning was survived by his wife Win, sons Laurence, Anthony and John, and grandchildren Declan, Ronan, Liam, Caitlin and James.

He survived three of his own children losing his eldest son Michael at age 16, Patrick at 44 and Gabrielle at 40.

"He's a man of faith and losing a first-born son was difficult," Laurence said.

"But he remained a positive, compassionate person.

"He was very involved with his grandkids and his kids. When he was ill, he was always smiling when his grandkids came to see him.

"We are devastated by the loss of Dad."

The funeral service for Rodney James Manning is on Tuesday, December 8, at St Patrick's Catholic Church in River St, Mackay from 1.30pm.

After a Requiem Mass, the cortege will leave for Walkerston Cemetery.

 

Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said Mr Manning was a revered character in town who would be sadly missed.

He said the former editor had a great knowledge of the history of Mackay and a great pride in the community he served.

"When I first embarked on public life back in the earlier 80s, Rod was the editor," he said.

"He's one of the most even-tempered, calm guys I've come across.

"I think his favourite saying was something about how he felt he was doing his job if he was getting complaints of the same level from both sides.

"I think he would have been distraught at the closure of the Daily Mercury's printed paper. His life was the printed paper.

"His legacy I think will be an investment in the truth of the history of the region."

Noting the Bakers Creek memorial and the coverage of the Fokker crash that earned Mr Manning a Walkley, Cr Williamson said the journalist's "groundtruthing of our history will be a lasting legacy".

He said Mr Manning knew the whole Bakers Creek story but could not print it in the paper at the time.

"Yet he kept onto that history until such times it could be revealed," he said.

"And it was thanks to him they went for the history of what happened in World War II."

Mr Williamson said the Fokker crash had a huge impact on the community and writing about all the sons lost when that aircraft crashed must have been difficult.

"Imagine writing about it; a story that would have been the most calamitous impact on our community since World War II. It was a great feat," he said.

 

Bernice Crompton: Very sad news. Mr Manning was one of nature's true gentlemen. I never could bring myself to call him by his Christian name. A sad loss to the newspaper fraternity. Condolences to his family.

 

Former Daily Mercury deputy editor Mark Sleeman: Sad news. Gave me my start at the Daily Mercury in 1992. Was a tough but fair editor who demanded quality from his journalists and sub-editors. Provided me with a great grounding in journalism. RIP Rod.

 

Greg Martin: Was a good man and as Mark Sleeman says … old school tough but very fair. Got my job in 1986 via snail mail after a few years in the UK and Europe.

Had several "dressing downs" from Rod over the years but always well deserved.

The best was when as MidWeek editor he sent me to Moranbah every fortnight for an overnight trip to gather some local news content. I spent my first arvo at the Black Nugget punting and drinking with an expense account (the good old days) but did not expect it to be a handwritten one that went five docket pages and 32 lines with the words "VB Stubbie, VB stubbie, VB stubbie, jug of tequila, VB stubbie, jug of tequila!!! Rod called me in to give me a rev and said "explain this". I replied "Jeez those office girls out there can drink Rod", which drew a wry smile from the great man who had a very dry sense of humour. RIP Rod.

 

Elaine Martin: I always had the greatest respect for Rod. So pleased to have been able to call Rod and Win friends.

 

Geoff Kelly: A tough old bugger, but one of the great wordsmiths. RIP Rod.

 

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