(Above, Syd, Lloyd Roberston and Mel at 25th Webster Awards, Oct. 24, 1011.)
Lloyd Robertson, Rafe Mair and Jim Taylor are among our nation’s best-known journalists, and I got to meet and talk with all of them — and others, like Tony Parsons, Vicki Gabereau, Jack Knox and Bill Good — at this week’s 25th annual Jack Webster Awards in Vancouver’s Hyatt Regency Hotel.
Robertson, Mair and Taylor are alumni of what Taylor calls the unofficial Old Farts Club of journalists. In their 70s, they have no intentions of retiring any time soon.
You won’t find them down at the seniors center playing bridge. They may have slowed by a step or two, but they’re still on the job, writing stories and dispensing advice to a new generation of journalists.
“Would it kill them to laugh once in awhile?” the delightful Taylor complained of the youngsters emerging from J-school intense, humourless and determined to change the world.
We were talking about changes in the industry, lamenting, in a sense, the loss of the old way of doing things, and conceding that the day is probably not far off when newspapers won’t be produced on newsprint at all any more, and will show up only on one of those new-fangled electronic tablets.
Taylor is a legend in B.C. sports writing after decades at the Victoria Times Colonist, Vancouver Province and Vancouver Sun. He could be taking it easy now; instead, he’s busy on a promotional tour with a new book he’s co-authored with soccer star Bob Lenarduzzi.
Mair, on the other hand, has made the transition from radio to print, churning out columns for several B.C. publications including The Daily News, gleefully shredding what he calls “this appalling provincial government.”
Older but not a bit less opinionated than when I knew him as a lawyer and MLA here in Kamloops in the 1970s before he got into talk radio at the Coast, he’s as funny and salty as ever. Rafe doesn’t string very many words together without interjecting an expletive or two.
Robertson is, without challenge, the very dean of Canadian journalism. He “retired” in September at the age of 77, leaving the CTV National News but carrying on as co-host of W5.
Robertson provided the keynote address to a thousand people in the Regency Ballroom, drawing comparisons between traditional mainstream journalism and the blogosphere.
Acknowledging the importance of technological change and trends in the news business, he nevertheless pointed out that network television provides a connection with the audience — via recognizable professional journalists — that online pretenders can’t match.
His bottom-line message came in the reprise of a comment from another 70-something journalist, Morley Safer of CBS’ 60 Minutes, who compared citizen journalists to citizen surgeons.
Safer’s full quote was actually this: “The blogosphere is no alternative, crammed as it is with ravings and manipulations of every nut with a keyboard. Good journalism is structured and structure means responsibility. I would trust citizen journalism as much as I would trust citizen surgery.”
I’m with Safer and Robertson on that one. The way news is delivered may change, but I will trust proven journalists like Robertson, Mair and Taylor, and all the young professionals who will replace them, long before I’ll ever trust the gossips, innuendo artists and rumour mongers of the blogosphere.