Personal synopsis: I was born in Scotland (June 8, 1947), emigrated to Canada in 1953, and grew up in Cape Breton; I attended high school in Sept-Îles, Que., and university at St. Francis Xavier in Antigonish, N.S. I have worked full time as a journalist in both print and television since 1965. I’m married (1971) and my wife and I have six children.
Skills: I’m a good writer, a fastidious grammarian and a darned fine editor (straightening out tortured prose a specialty). I manage people reasonably well, usually in a collegial style but I can lower the hammer when it’s absolutely necessary. I’m also adept at assembling pages using Quark Express and Quark Copydesk and I have recently learned to do the same thing on Saxotech.. I speak serviceable French.
March-June, 2011: I spent just over three months working in Doha as a script editor and writing coach for Al Jazeera English.
2003-2011 – Editorial writer and letters editor, Montreal Gazette: As a member of the editorial board – often referred to by envious colleagues as the “ivory tower” or the “chess club” – I help through debate and study to develop the newspaper’s position on any number of issues, ranging from the war in Afghanistan and the election in Zimbabwe to the performance of the city’s police department in dealing with hockey-playoff riots. I also play an active role in selecting and editing stories for our Opinion page and letters for the ever-popular Letters to the Editor. I was one of three finalists for the 2010 National Newspaper Award (Canada’s Pulitzers) for editorial writing.
1990-2003 – Travel editor, Montreal Gazette: For 12 years I was the envy of my peers, travelling the world on The Gazette’s dime to places as varied as Yukon and Jordan. Many friends and colleagues still wonder why I abandoned such a dream gig, and I sometimes wonder myself. It wasn’t all beer and skittles, though. I produced a weekly section, managed a stable of sometimes unruly freelancers, worried about an ever-tightening budget, and wrote a weekly – and I’m pleased to say – well-read column. I also introduced a number of innovations – a “follow the readers” column, a best-deals feature, a weekend getaway column, etc. – all while reducing the budget by 30 per cent and increasing readership.
1982-1990 – Assignment editor, Montreal Gazette: As a front-line manager of a newsroom of about 30 reporters and feature writers, I organized day-to-day coverage of everything from bank robberies to health-care failures. I also oversaw the two-person legislative bureau in Quebec City. My particular strengths were developing offbeat and overlooked stories and organizing on-the-fly extensive coverage of such major disasters as the Air India bombing of 1985.
1978-1982 – Producer and executive producer, TV news, CBC-British Columbia: I was sent to Vancouver to help unify a warring newsroom and transform the limping and barely-watched suppertime news and public-affairs hour into a modern integrated information program. It was a hard time – dealing with five mutually antagonistic unions, a cumbersome management system, and a market-dominating competitor – but by and large we succeeded, increasing market share with an award-winning program and a minimal amount of blood on the floor. I also produced several stand-alone public-affairs programs on subjects as diverse as incest and phony bankruptcies.
1974-1978 – Writer, editor and producer, CBC national TV news: I worked with such luminaries as Lloyd Robertson, Peter Kent and Peter Mansbridge on The National –at the time the CBC’s premier nightly newscast. I began as a writer on the desk, putting words in Lloyd Robertson’s mouth, and worked my way up to lineup editor. I also did some field producing, most memorably being sent to Montreal in 1976 to oversee the team covering the Parti Québécois’s first election victory under René Lévesque. In my final year in Toronto I was named producer of The National with overall responsibility for day-today operations.
1968-1974 – Reporter and writer, Montreal Gazette: I began covering court and became something of an expert on the criminal organizations that operated Montreal’s gambling and ************ rackets at the time. I went on to become a general-assignment reporter and feature writer, covering among other things, the police strike of 1969, the Parti Québécois’s first election campaign of 1970 and the subsequent FLQ crisis that October, the inquiry into organized crime of 1972, and the expropriation of farmlands for the no defunct Mirabel Airport, the mistreatment of children in custodial care, etc. I spent my last year as the legislative correspondent in Quebec City.
1965-1968 – Reporter and editor, Sherbrooke Daily Record: For decades this little newspaper in Quebec’s Eastern Townships was the closest thing Quebec had to a journalism school. It was here I honed my skills as a writer and reporter, covering fires and robberies, doing police checks, writing features, reporting on municipal politics, etc. I was promoted to news editor, the No. 2 position in the newsroom, at the age of 20 and helped in the transition from hot lead to offset. In my last eight months I served as acting editor in chief – the youngest newsroom manager in the country.