Key roles in The Age's 'golden years'




3-6-1934 10-8-2012

CLIVE Malseed, a former chief subeditor of The Age who played a major role in the paper's "golden years" from the 1960s to the 1980s, has died in nursing care in Blackburn South. He was 78.

Malseed spent his entire working life on The Age, mainly as a subeditor when production of the paper underwent its most significant period of technological change in the early 1980s from "hot metal" to computerised production.

He joined the paper as a cadet journalist in the early 1950s and, after a relatively short period as a general reporter, was appointed a subeditor. In those days he sat in stark contrast to his colleagues rather sombre gentlemen, many of whom were 30 or more years his senior, wearing conservative suits and eye shades.

One former colleague remembers the young Malseed, who mainly covered the late-stop shift manning the news desk alone in the early hours to handle late-breaking news being unfairly blamed for mistakes by other subs. But he clearly earned the respect of the chief subeditor, who assigned him tasks of increasing responsibility despite his relative youth.

In 1972, he was appointed chief subeditor by the legendary editor, Graham Perkin, under whose leadership The Age resumed its role as an influential and forceful voice in Australian society.

In the early 1980s, Malseed was given the responsibility of training editorial staff and particularly the subeditors on how to use the new computerised editing and typesetting system.

His patient and unflappable nature made him an ideal choice for this role. It is to his credit and those in the senior management of the company who chose the computer system that the transition to the new technology was achieved with scarcely a hitch, an achievement that few other Australian newspapers managed.

After leaving The Age, he was twice invited to China as a "foreign expert" to teach at the China School of Journalism at Beijing University. Back in Melbourne he taught English to migrants, earning an award for this volunteer work.

Greg Taylor, who later served as editor and managing director, was joint chief of staff when Malseed was a junior editorial staff member. He paid tribute to Malseed's contribution during the "golden years".

"This was such a critical time for the chief sub, when the style and content of the paper was evolving at the same time that the production process was going through so much change," he said. "Clive had such great ability to get along with everyone and keep calm amid all the pressure and stress of those nightly deadlines."

Les Carlyon, who succeeded Perkin as editor, described Malseed as "one of the best handlers of copy I have seen and a major figure in the rise of Graham Perkin's Age. He was also a man of charm, courtesy and good humour. He smiled his way through a dozen crises every night."

Born in Launceston, the youngest son of Constance and the Reverend Herbert Malseed, a Methodist minister who died when he was a young boy. Malseed jnr was a popular Sunday school superintendent and capable lay preacher.

A suggestion of his interest in newspapers from an early age is revealed in archives from the defunct Melbourne Argus that record the young Malseed being awarded prizes in scripture essay, bird painting and crossword competitions the paper ran.

Unlike many of his journalistic colleagues, he was somewhat straightlaced but possessed of a dry, self-deprecating humour in which he jokingly traded on his differences from the others. Not given to strong language, "Goody, goody gumdrops" was a favourite of his when things were going well. In periods of great stress during production of the paper he would burst into a rendition of Jesus Loves Me.

And again, unlike most in the business, Malseed was not an enthusiastic consumer of strong drink. The very occasional brandy and dry was one of his tipples, an indulgence he maintained in moderation almost to the end, thanks to a colleague who brought flasks to his bedside. They remained unopened.

Despite the differences, his cheerful and kindly nature and professionalism earned him the respect and affection of his colleagues. He never married. He revealed little of his private life to those he worked with apart from declaring his enthusiasm for classical music, marathon running-walking and for waterskiing, which he attempted to share with selected colleagues including former distinguished foreign correspondents Peter Cole-Adams and Cameron Forbes.

Cole-Adams recalls narrowly escaping death by drowning as a result of a Malseed waterskiing lesson. Another colleague, John Allin, was a licensed pilot whom Malseed nagged into taking him for a spin. Allin recalls an alarming part of the trip when, first, his passenger's long legs had to be untangled from the rudder pedals, and then Malseed insisted on fiddling with switches and knobs just to see what they did.

There was, however, one major exception to Malseed's quiet reserve. He became so angry with Coalition government policies, particularly conscription, that he stood as an independent candidate in the blue ribbon Liberal seat of Chisholm in 1966. He did not poll many votes.

Malseed had a brain tumour removed last October and, on discharge from hospital, spent his remaining days at Inala retirement village in Blackburn South. His express wish was that there be no service and that he be cremated privately.

He is survived by his brothers Les and Brian and their families.

Peter McLaughlin and David Harrison are former Age journalists and long-time friends of Clive Malseed.

Friends and colleagues are invited to a memorial gathering at the Rising Sun Hotel, Raglan Street, South Melbourne, from 6pm on Friday, August 24.

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