Don Newman was an Edmonton Broadcaster, too

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Don Newman was an Edmonton Broadcaster, too

Postby jon » Sun Nov 03, 2013 10:44 am

Preview: Don Newman shares memories at Edmonton book signing
Veteran broadcaster covered politics for for decades
By Fish Griwkowsky, Edmonton Journal
November 1, 2013

EDMONTON — With a rolling voice as familiar and Canadian as Tom Thomson’s paintings, veteran broadcaster Don Newman sums up more than four decades of direct contact with prime ministers and presidents alike.

“When you start off in the business, everybody’s older than you,” he notes. “Then you go for 15 or 20 and they’re all about the same age, and then you go for that last lap that I did and they’re all younger than you.

“And you kind of think,” the 73-year-old laughs, “how did these kids get to be so important?”

Don Newman’s history-mapping memoir, Welcome to the Broadcast, personally and candidly covers decades of journalism in an often-thrilling Canadian political landscape since the ’60s. His ‘tough but fair’ style ran through a tenure as CTV’s first Washington correspondent in 1972 through a stint in Alberta with the CBC and into a Canada on the brink of separation to eventually ribbing Prime Minister Stephen Harper about the PM’s suffocated press access. He retired from the CBC in 2009, getting a standing ovation in the House of Commons.

Newman will be interviewed by CBC host Portia Clark at Indigo South Edmonton Common Saturday 2 p.m., afterwards signing his books. Here are a few of the highlights of a long conversation (the entire transcript is on the Journal’s Wildlife blog).

Journal: You have a story about Premier Lougheed …

Newman: “I’d first met Lougheed in ’71, during the election that made him premier. When I came to Edmonton in the fall of ’79, the big problem was Lougheed was suing the CBC. He didn’t like the way he was portrayed in a docu-drama called The Tar Sands. A young premier who wasn’t named but was obviously him was bullied by the oil companies.

I said to him, ‘I’m going to be on CBC, and if you don’t want to come on with me, you won’t be able to complain about what I’m saying.’ He came up with a plan where he would appear in what appeared to be random encounters between me and him. They were prearranged. They weren’t staged; he didn’t know what the questions were.”

Journal: You were in the business for a long time. Can you described the minimizing in disclosure and access from the PMO?

Newman: “As soon as he (Harper) came in, he started to do it. Harper lets a few of his cabinet ministers speak, a little. But all the lines come from the PMO. Harper doesn’t like the media because he can’t control it. I had a funny relationship with him because when he had a fight with (Preston) Manning and didn’t run in the ’97 election. He phoned me up in ’98 and asked if he could be a panelist on my show (Politics). He wanted to stay politically viable. So I tried him out and he was good.”

Journal: Do you look back fondly to a time when he’d arrive and say, “Helloooo, Newman”?

Newman: “He’d come into my studio from behind me and do the old Seinfeld gag line. I’d say, “Helloooo, Harper!” Then we’d both laugh like we were funny, which actually we weren’t, but we thought we were.” (Laughs)

Journal: Canadians polled are leaning toward Mike Duffy’s version of what’s going on right now. Do you think there’s finally a limit to how much we’ve stopped accepting Mr. Harper’s need to control the message?

Newman: “It’s certainly damaging. (Harper)’ll survive in that he won’t resign. Because the narrative in Question Period coming from Harper has changed so much, and Duffy has admitted he was part of the conspiracy, which has kind of a confessional feel to it, so that’s probably what the polls are reflecting. You can’t believe a story that changes so much.”

Journal: Can you list the PMs and presidents you’ve talked to?

Newman: “One on one, I’ve talked to every prime minister since, and including, Trudeau. I talked to Jimmy Carter. I talked to Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, but not on TV, as well as Reagan and Clinton, just being around, reporting on them.”

Journal: Tell us about encountering Richard Nixon.

Newman: “I was in Washington with my wife. We walked out of our hotel and saw the presidential limousine and lo and behold, out he came. He started working the line. I said, “Hello, Mr. President, we’re from Canada.” He shook our hands and he said, “Great country.” The next year I was the first Washington correspondent for CTV, I covered Watergate when he resigned, but that was the only time I spoke to him. ‘Great country’.”

Journal: What’s a characteristic common in politicians?

Newman: “The exception to this rule is Stephen Harper, and to some degree Pierre Trudeau, but not as much. Most of them are gregarious and talk a lot and try to win you over. Not necessarily with their arguments, but with their personalities. They like people and usually have a lot of friends. With Jean Chrétien, everybody he’s ever met think they’re his best friend. That’s a general politician’s personality.

Journal: What were some of the stories you covered that stand out as being the most work or the most rewarding?

Newman: That whole period starting from Meech Lake, through Charlottown, through the Quebec election and then the referendum, then the Supreme Count on whether or not Quebec could declare itself independent unilaterally - there was a real feeling that the country was in play when you were cover that, I see it as kind of an arc.

Journal: Would you rather be starting out as a reporter now, or are you happy to have covered your times?

Newman: I was really lucky. I started in the ‘60s, and Canada really started to change in the ‘60s. Journalism, particularly television journalism, changed with it. The technology kept getting better and better. You can’t live your life over.

Although, I think people who are staring starting now have the opportunity to have just as many interesting things to do as I did.
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Re: Don Newman was an Edmonton Broadcaster, too

Postby Jack Bennest » Sun Nov 03, 2013 12:42 pm

Part of my great life in broadcasting was sitting at a desk at CBC Edmonton - radio/TV in 1980.

Across the desk was Don :worthybow: - a very nice man. Peter Lougheed + the National Energy Plan attracted Don to this cold outpost.

Don't think he stayed long. I didn't - too cold.

A well grounded national reporter. Great seeing him on TV recently flogging his book.
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