Colvin bought an empathy and deep sense of humanity to those who shared their stories with him. (Supplied)
Over the span of his vast career at the ABC, which began he was a cadet in the 1970s, Mark Colvin conducted a huge amount of interviews with everyone from well-known politicians, to celebrities and cobblers.
No matter who he was speaking to, Colvin bought an empathy and deep sense of humanity to those who shared their stories with him.
During an interview with Richard Fidler on Conversations, Colvin spoke about the importance of always asking short questions.
“The longer the question, the more likely it is to be a statement and if you’re going to ask a statement, then you’re only really asking for a ‘yes/no’ response,” he said.
While it is impossible to say which of Colvin’s interviews is the best, we have pulled out a few favourites which show Colvin’s talent.
In 2010 Colvin interviewed British comedian Stephen Fry and, as expected, the discussion was a mixture of references spanning from literature to the digital age.
Both Colvin and Fry have been influential members of the Twittersphere, regularly tweeting their thoughts on a number of subjects.
They discussed, as only those two could, whether Oscar Wilde would have been a fan of Twitter had he been alive today, to which Fry said he thought he would.
“One thing you can say with confidence about Oscar Wilde is that he believed in the modern and the new. He was considered a modern person,” Fry said.
Colvin asks Fry how someone so steeped in history could be so much at the forefront of the digital age, a question that could be turned around back on to Colvin.
“In fact I think in a strange sort of way it’s impossible to understand digital technology without a grasp of history,” Fry said to Colvin.
The two men believed in and championed the digital medium, from Colvin’s presence on Twitter and his eagerness to speak to the audience on platforms such as Reddit.
Colvin interviewed Clive James, the Australian poet, cultural critic and novelist, a number of times over the years.
James announced in 2010 he had been diagnosed with leukemia and did not know how long he would survive.
And so, after each interview between the two, they would say farewell, neither knowing if it was their final discussion.
“I feared — and he seemed to think — that they might be the last,” Colvin said in 2015.
The two great men would chat about subjects they shared a passion for — literature, poetry, art, music. And they would also speak about death, a subject they both knew too much about.
In one particular interview in 2016, they also discussed Clive’s relatively unknown career as a song writer.
“It was pure instinct, I was surprised to find myself doing it. And lurking in the back of my skull was the idea that we would have hits and make a fortune… But I did it anyway and I can prove that because as years went by we suffered every kind of defeat.”
Morris and Adam Perkal
“They say in journalism that you never know where you’ll find a story, and so it often turns out.”
That is how Colvin began this interview for Friday Late on ABC, describing how he stumbled upon Adam and Morris Perkal, Polish shoe maker brothers in their 90s who survived the Holocaust, during a quest to find surgical shoes.
Colvin returned to the shop to interview the two Jewish brothers, with each telling their tale of survival and a large amount of luck during World War II.
He allowed the two to tell their story unhindered, only occasionally popping into the audio to gently nudge them to keep the narrative flow. The brothers spoke over each other, correcting each other and displaying the deep attachment to each other.
At one point one of the brothers mimed crawling through the snow, to which Colvin laughed and explained the listeners could not see what he was doing.
Always probing and always persistent: they were twin hallmarks of Colvin interviews. And there is no better example of that than the Dutton encounter.
In early April 2016 ABC’s PM program received a short video of a disturbance inside the Manus Island immigration detention.
There was bitter dispute between Border Force and refugee advocates about the alleged involvement of children.
Colvin invited the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton onto the program to clarify the circumstances. Twice Colvin asked if children were involved.
“Well that’s not the advice that I’ve got,” replied Dutton.
Mark asked a third time: “Are you saying that there were no children involved in this?”
“Mark what I’m saying is that I think these people are being used as pawns, frankly, by some advocates in Australia…” Mr Dutton said.
For the fourth time, Mark tried to clarify what the Minister knew: “Sorry, could you answer my question about the children.”
It wasn’t so much a question as a firm insistence.
But Mr Dutton was ready to move on. “I’ve already answered the question in relation to the children.’
The encounter was electrifying, with the exchange continuing on for several more minutes.
Mr Dutton never did acknowledge the involvement of children in the fight. And he never gave Mark another interview.
Sir Les Patterson
But Colvin also knew how to play the role of an unassuming journalist, displaying this skill during a 1982 interview with Sir Les Patterson.
They were at the unveiling of Dame Edna’s waxwork model at Madame Tussauds in London and he innocently asked Sir Les why Dame Edna was not there in person.
Sir Les replied: “I think she felt it was perhaps a bit immodest, might have shown an unseemly conceit.”