Janie Lalor was an ABC legend; a highly skilled director and producer who made thousands of television shows for the ABC during a 40-year career. As importantly, she made thousands of friends along the way.
Facebook tributes are studded with words like “irrepressible”, “spectacular”, “huge personality”. All true. Janie was an Adelaide girl who kicked off her career with ABC News and Current Affairs in the mid 1970s. From temp typist to PA to director on News and This Day Tonight.
Later Janie took Sydney by storm, working on documentaries and then as director for News, 7.30 Report, Foreign Correspondent, Four Corners, Media Watch and many other programs. Janie’s last gig before retiring in 2012 was producing promos for a huge suite of NewsCAff programs, which meant a weekly whirlwind of viewings and editing sessions. Her contribution to promoting Australian Story, in particular, was outstanding. ABC Director of News Gaven Morris paid tribute: “She was a very well-loved and highly respected colleague and a warm, endlessly energetic and inspiring friend with a huge enthusiasm for life.”
I was fortunate to share an office with Janie for much of the first decade of the 21st Century. First you’d hear the jangles of her bangles as she approached and then that deep throaty laugh. Janie always knew how to make an entrance, cracking jokes and imparting her wisdom of the day. It was as if Janie was the ABC’s Chief Morale Officer and her job was to make everyone feel better.
Well perhaps not everyone. For producers “you’re all up yourselves” time was allocated every day – and sometimes multiple times per day – for unsolicited advice on behalf of her alter ego Mrs Stringbag. It could be exhausting but there was often truth in the critiques. Here was a program maker who really cared about the ABC and most importantly about our many and varied audiences. And if you bought her a beer at the end of the day she’d tell you again.
Janie travelled Australia and the world with her little pink bag. Facebook friends could travel vicariously through her posts whether to Italy or Namibia or her beloved Adelaide and the seaside splendour of Victor Harbour. Janie moved back to Adelaide last year. Cancer treatment ensued. Janie’s optimistic spirit prevailed.
Former ABC reporter Philippa McDonald lunched with Janie just last month at one her favourites, Greek on Halifax.
“Janie was stylish and as impeccable as ever,” Philippa reports. “And sparky. Two beers and a moussaka. And she directed the Facebook shoot.” We’d expect nothing less.
Janie died after a long illness on the evening of Saturday 5th December 2020.
Written by Greg Wilesmith, a director of ABC Alumni.