Keep punching: Remembering life and times of sports journalist Scot Palmer

Scot Palmer

Colleagues pay tribute and read about The Age’s failed attempt to poach Punchlines

Friends and colleagues responded on the weekend to the news that sports journalist Scot Palmer had passed away aged 84.

Glenn McFarlane and Fiona Byrne paid tribute to Palmer in the Sunday Herald Sun:

The man whose catchcry Keep Punching and whose columns kept generations of readers informed and entertained for more than five decades was one of the most loved and respected footy scribes in the country.

He was also one of the first multimedia performers, using his exceptionally popular Palmer’s Punchlines column in the Sunday Press, the Sunday Sun and Sunday Herald Sun to build his profile with a side career on television with Channel 7 as well as on breakfast radio with 3UZ (now RSN).

After securing a cadetship with the Herald & Weekly Times, Palmer wrote for The Sun, Sunday Press, Sunday Sun and Sunday Herald Sun for more than 50 years, before retiring in 2008.

Scot Palmer

“No one can underestimate the indelible mark and legacy that Scot Palmer made to the game of Australian football through his personality and profession,” footy broadcaster and long-time journalist Eddie McGuire said.

“He was a part of as many sporting stories in Melbourne, particularly in football, as he actually reported.

“To me, he was also the mascot of journalism and football and inner-city, gritty Melbourne. In a way, a chapter of that period closes in our game, in our city’s fabric and in our profession with Scotty’s passing.”

National executive editor of News Corp Australia Peter Blunden said Palmer had an uncanny knack of not only finding a story, but delivering it with maximum impact for his readers and audience.

“Scot was not only a huge character and the biggest personality in the office, he was also deeply respected, knowledgeable and a master of his craft,” Blunden said.

Editorial farewelling Scot Palmer in Sunday Herald Sun

Long-time colleague and friend Rod Nicholson marvelled at how enthusiastic Palmer was about his work each and every day.

“He was as enthusiastic about his work when he retired as he was when he started,” Nicholson said. “He just loved the caper and the readers loved him. He loved telling stories and loved meeting people.”

Channel 10 sports presenter Stephen Quartermain commented on social media: “Vale Scot Palmer. His contribution to journalism in this town was enormous. Keep punching.”

3AW’s Bruce Eva posted an online tribute: “The desire to be a part of the Melbourne sports media was fuelled by the likes of Scot Palmer. What a character, but what a genuine news-breaker he was too! An enormous figure in our industry, and one who will never be forgotten.”

Rohan Connolly on social media: “So sad to hear Scot Palmer has passed away. An icon of football media and an encouraging mentor of young journalists, whose generosity of spirit towards me when I started in the business I will never forget. Keep punching Scotty, you were much loved & will be truly missed. RIP.”

News Corp colleague Jon Ralph: “You would find any excuse to wander into Scot Palmer’s office. Without fail he would deliver a tale mixing a football superstar, a full-blown scandal and his incredible role in uncovering the story. At least 20 per cent were printable. A journalistic legend. What a life. RIP.”

Former colleague Mark Stevens, now with Sky News: “Worked closely with Scot Palmer 92-97 on Sunday Herald Sun sports desk as an impressionable lad from Shepp. So many tales/memories. Never seen anyone pound a typewriter harder … or laugh louder. Thoughts with Lorraine and family.”

Glenn McFarlane on Twitter: “Shattered to hear of the passing of one of Australia’s greatest sports reporters/sports editors, Scot Palmer. He was not only a wonderful mentor to me but a dear friend for more than 30 yrs. Deepest sympathy to Lorraine, Jodee & Lincoln. I’ll miss our weekly calls.”

AFL Media’s Ashley Browne: “If you had plans on a Saturday night, you’d wait until after Scot Palmer came on to the replay with all the news of the day. Old fashioned reporter but also a visionary and saw where the industry was headed. A giant of footy media.”

Palmer was a frequent Twitter user and his final Tweet just days ago was about journalism: “Carl Bernstein was always my journalistic hero, even more so now that he has launched his book Chasing History A kid in the Newsroom. Everything he relates mirrored my life. CNN commentator Wolf Blitzer urged anyone who wants to be a reporter to buy it.”

Scot Palmer with Glenn McFarlane (left) and Jon Ralph (right)

Writing for Inside Football five years ago, Paul Amy profiled Palmer:

He was sold on the newspaper game from the moment he walked into the old Herald building on Flinders St, looked over the newsroom and took in the sight and clickety-clack sound of reporters typing their stories. “This is for me,” he thought.

Newspaper ink ran in the family. His father, Clyde, was a crime and sports reporter, most notably at The Truth, and his uncle, Howard, wrote the iconic column A Place in the Sun for The Sun News-Pictorial.

As a schoolboy, Richmond-born and raised Palmer was a copyboy for The Truth in his spare time, running the racing results.

He said his “big breakthrough” was becoming its film critic. He had to file a couple of paragraphs and sum up the movie using a caricature of a man sitting in a chair: He sat upright if the film was good and snored if it was bad. Howard Palmer told his nephew that The Sun’s copyboy, Ken Burslem, might be moving on and there could be a vacancy.

In between his newspaper, radio and TV commitments he found time to run the Cherry Tree Hotel in Richmond, in partnership with Ron Barassi and Adrian Gallagher.

It was badly run down and a haunt for drug dealers when they moved in, but thriving when they sold it five years later.

He credits Lorraine for its success. Much earlier, he’d also picked up work as one of the Eric Beecher-edited Inside Football’s earliest contributors. And yes, his nom de plume really was Hamish McLachlan.

Palmer stayed at the Sunday Press until the 1989 Melbourne newspaper shake-up, when he crossed over to The Sunday Sun.

The Age made a play for him and he agreed to an interview. During it, he noticed the editors looked out the window more than they looked at him. He decided he couldn’t work for people who couldn’t look him in the eye and so chose to keeping breaking his news on the News Ltd payroll.

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