Fremantle Press author Chris Pash has been named in the 2024 Australia Day honours list for services to the Media and Communications sector. 

Chris Pash OAM, journalist, editor, information industry pioneer, board director and former CEO has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). 

‘This is an unexpected honour which comes late in the third act of a long career, a longevity that amazes me,” he says. “I am grateful to be able to still be at the frontline of journalism, to help others with their careers and to contribute to the media industry. It was a fortunate day when I started as a cadet journalist at the Albany Advertiser newspaper in Western Australia in 1975, hired by the then emerging entrepreneur Robert Holmes à Court.’ 

Pash moved to Sydney late in 1978 to the national news agency Australian Associated Press (AAP), where he was a desk editor, parliamentary reporter, correspondent, bureau chief, editor-in-charge and business manager.

He was then the founding chief executive of an Asia-focused news joint venture Asia Pulse, and a corporate director of a global online information service Factiva, running content strategy and negotiating with publishers for content licences.

He has been the editor of AdNews, writing about the media industry, for almost five years.

Pash has also been a board director at a range of not-for-profit organisations, including newspaper industry body PANPA, a decade at the Australian Society of Authors (chair), the Copyright Agency and the former Australia Papua New Guinea Friendship Association (founding executive committee member).

‘I recommend committing a little bit of time each month to not-for-profit work,” he says. “You meet great people doing amazing things, making a difference in their community.’

From 2001, he was director of content strategy and content licensing for Factiva, a Dow Jones and Reuters joint venture, building the world’s deepest database of news in the Asia-Pacific, including Australia.

James Harker-Mortlock, the founder of information service Acquisdata and who introduced, and ran, what was then called Dow Jones News/Retrieval to Australia, says the significant business and cultural impact of the information industry is little understood by those outside the industry.

‘Through Asia Pulse, and later Factiva, Chris Pash released hard-to-get business information on Asia and Australia to the rest of the world in a digital format,’ said Harker-Mortlock. ‘At one stage, he had more news available online about Australia than the media owners themselves.’

Chris Pash also wrote The Last Whale (Fremantle Press, 2008), a narrative non-fiction book chronicling the end of whaling in 1977-1978 and about his time at the Albany Advertiser.

The book looks at whaling from two sides: the last whalers in the English-speaking world, and the environmental activists who fought to end the whale kill.

‘I see the story as being about a town, a clash of ideas as outsiders bring a different viewpoint, disrupting the world-view of locals,’ Pash says. ‘As it turned out, this direct action — using small inflatable open boats to place people in front of harpoons to shield whales from harm — was the first by a fledgling Greenpeace outside North America. So Albany has two claims to fame on this score: the last whaling station and the birthplace of Greenpeace Australia and Greenpeace International.

‘What I am most proud of is that the book itself brought both sides together. The whalers and the activists made their peace, took on each other’s viewpoint. One side recognised the importance of people being allowed to make a living and the other the need to conserve our natural environment.’

In 2023, Chris Pash contributed a chapter on Australia to the book, Mr. Mindbomb: Eco-hero and Greenpeace Co-founder Bob Hunter — A Life in Stories (Rocky Mountains Books, 2023).

Hunter, a Canadian and the first president of Greenpeace, came to Australia in 1977 to lead the direct action against the Albany whaling station. Pash is still in contact with his wife, Bobbi, Greenpeace’s first treasurer, who also took part in that campaign.

‘That 1977 campaign had a lasting effect on me,’ Pash says. ‘The efforts of the activists to save the environment versus the livelihoods of the whalers. Was it people versus whales? This continues today with those working in mining and those opposing fossil fuels.

‘One of my enduring memories is asking Bob, who was about to go to sea in an open boat to place himself in front of a harpoon, if he thought what he was doing was a bit on the violent side. He replied: “We’re peace crazed.”

‘I have travelled since with this at the back of my mind. You can make a point, and be forceful, without causing physical harm.’

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