South Africa’s journalism community was shocked on Friday morning to learn of the death of Peter Malherbe. He shaped a generation of journalists who worked under him at the Sunday Times, where he was news editor and then deputy editor. Many of those journalists are now editors in their own right, and credit Malherbe for their success and for being a role model.
“Peter was one of the most talented journalists I have ever had the honour of working with,” said Mike Robertson, outgoing managing director of the Times Media Group’s media businesses and former editor of the Sunday Times. “As my deputy he played an integral part in reshaping the Sunday Times into the hugely successful paper it became in the early 2000s.”
Andrew Trench, who was then one of the young journalists who moved up through the ranks until taking on the editorship of the Daily Dispatch, recalls how Malherbe wrote to him when he took up the position in 2008.
“… Peter wrote to me from Thailand with his congratulations. I wrote back to him to tell him that he had been my role model as a news professional ever since I had worked for him at the Sunday Times in mid-90s. He was the best news editor I have ever worked under,” said Trench, who is now editor in chief of News24.
“I told him that I hoped to emulate his judgement, sincerity, honesty and humour in dealing with people in my new role. He was genuinely surprised that he had had such an impact on me, but he did, as he did on many others in our profession,” Trench said.
“His death is a great loss. He had so much to offer and was so generous with his experience. A nicer person has never crossed my path.”
Ray Hartley, editor of rdm.co.za and also a colleague of Malherbe’s, said of him: “A newspaper man to the bone. You will be missed for your humour, your wry (and sometimes cutting) observations, your ability to find the excitement in the ordinary and your love of the craft of producing news. Go well my friend.”
Another of Malherbe’s protégés is Peta Krost Maunder, outgoing editor of The Media magazine. “I woke up this morning to hear that the man who gave me the confidence to become a journalist died,” Krost Maunder posted on Facebook on Friday. “Peter Malherbe, you were my tutor at university, my news editor at the Sunday Times and a man with a huge heart. You taught me what it truly means to be generous and kind. Rest in Peace dear Peter. May the angels show you the kindness and love you showed us.”
Editor of Grubstreet, Gill Moodie, who also worked with Malherbe, recalled how a few years ago she wrote a story on news editing, and asked Malherbe for his tips “for the toughest job in journalism because he was the best news editor I ever saw in action”.
Moodie says it is a “great shame he never got to be Sunday Times editor because he would have been brilliant. He was a natural leader because he demanded the best of you, was such a generous soul and was so much fun to work with – I also never saw someone make such thoughtful smart news decisions so fast. A genius of our industry – up there with Deon du Plessis, for sure”, Moodie said.
On a personal note, I too was one of the journalists who worked with Peter in the mid-1990s in the Sunday Times newsroom in Johannesburg. I was lucky enough to spend three months on the desk with him as acting deputy news editor while a colleague was on maternity leave. I never learnt so much nor worked so hard and yet had so much fun doing the job. I have such fond memories of the buzz we got with breaking news stories, scooping the competition (he LOVED to pull one over our rivals and boy, didn’t we do just that on several occasions) and working with a newsroom full of talented young journalists. A big man with a big heart, a generous spirit and an inimitable sense of humour.
RIP Peter Malherbe.
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