I didn’t go to journalism school. In a day when informal apprenticeship was the norm, I was lucky to learn my trade from its best practitioners: Nick Fillmore, the crusading editor of the feisty local alternative weekly, the 4th Estate; Harry Bruce, one of Canada’s finest magazine writers and essayists; and Pat Connolly, the legendary sports journalist whose microphone was finally stilled last week at 84.
I met Pat back in 1969. I was 20, a fresh recruit in “Arnie’s army,” an eclectic band of inexperienced college dropouts Arnie Patterson had assembled to man the newsroom at CFDR, his tiny-and-trying-harder Dartmouth radio station.
I was there because I came cheap.
Pat’s story was different. Then in his early 40s, he was already a major figure in Canadian sports broadcasting. In 1952, he’d succeeded Danny Gallivan as sportscaster at Halifax’s CJCH Radio after Gallivan moved to Montreal to become the voice of les Canadiens. Many expected the equally gifted Pat would follow the same path. In fact, in 1969, the year I met him, the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers invited him to become their play-by-play announcer, the second NHL team to do so.
Pat ended up in our no-name newsroom, in part, because he was then in the middle of a long, difficult battle with the bottle. He conquered those demons, but by then he’d long since opted to make his career and life permanently in Nova Scotia.
Lucky for us.
Lucky for me to have had the chance to work with him.
Though Pat will be more formally remembered as the voice of every major hockey milestone in Nova Scotia from the Sydney Millionaires’ run for the Allan Cup in 1949 to the birth of the Mooseheads in 1994, I can’t help but think of him first as a kind man, a generous mentor and exemplary role model.
We only worked together for a year, but I learned one of my most important life lessons from him. While it’s important to take the work seriously—Pat knew everything there was to know about sports because he never stopped asking questions—you should never take yourself so.
He will be missed. Pat Connolly, R.I.P..
Copyright 2012 Stephen Kimber
Friday’s much-hyped Fifth Estate documentary on the crash of Swissair Flight 111 generated much arcing and sparking about its cause but—in the end—no incendiary device, no hard evidence the tragic 1998 accident was anything but.
That said, the story raised questions that deserve better than read-the-report, cone-of-silence non-responses from the RCMP and the Transportation Safety Board.
The documentary focused on concerns—not specific allegations—by retired RCMP investigator Tom Juby. Juby claims his bosses shut down inquiries into what he believed were too-high-to-be-explained levels of magnesium in the plane’s cockpit area. He thought the magnesium suggested the crash could have been caused by an incendiary device. He wanted to pursue that as a possible criminal investigation into the murders of the 229 passengers and crew.
Although I never interviewed him, I have no doubt Juby is a dedicated professional who believes what he says.
But I also believe Larry Vance—the deputy chief TSB investigator who spent even more years investigating the crash, and whom I did interview extensively while researching a book about the tragedy—is equally dedicated, equally professional.
Vance and the TSB ultimately dismissed Juby’s concerns. They claim the heightened magnesium levels resulted from prolonged exposure to salt water, and believe an incendiary device would have caused far more damage to the cockpit. “It would be like aiming a blow-torch at your head and burning only one hair,” Vance told Canadian Press.
Which leaves us with… an interesting professional disagreement among professional investigators, goosed by tantalizing, made-for-TV tidbits about missing diamonds and the post-9/11-freighted presence of Arab royalty among the plane’s passengers.
Swiss television, which helped finance the CBC documentary, was so unpersuaded by its conclusions it refused to air it. “It’s not our task to spread speculation,” the network’s chief editor says.
My own issue is not with Juby’s clearly heartfelt complaints nor even with the CBC’s decision to broadcast a documentary filled with so much might-have-could-have-possibly speculation.
My concern is with the RCMP and the TSB, whose refusal to publicly respond to Juby’s allegations can only feed more sinister interpretations and add to the doubt and pain of those who lost loved ones in the crash.
Doesn’t anyone ever learn?
Stephen Kimber is the author of Flight 111: The Tragedy of the Swissair Crash.
Copyright 2011 Stephen Kimber
Stephen Kimber's election-eve profile of the man who would become Nova Scotia's first ever New Democratic Party premier won the Gold Award for Best Feature at the 2009 Atlantic Journalism Awards.
The story, "Who is Darrell Dexter?", appeared in the June 3, 2009 edition of The Coast, Halifax's alternative weekly. Coast writers were finalists in five categories at last night's awards presentation in Halifax.
King's Journalism School alumni were also well represented. Christina Harnett (along with Myfanwy Davies) of CBC Radio, Halifax, NS, won the Gold medal for Feature Writing, Radio. Christina was also a finalist in the Enterprise Reporting catergory. Other finalists included Bev Ware (Spot News, Print), Rob Linke (Enterprise Reporting, Print), Joan Weeks (Continuing Coverage, Radio), Chris O'Neill-Yates (Feature Writing, Television), Norma Jean MacPhee (Arts and Entertainment Reporting) and Eleanor Beaton (Commentary and Best Magazine Profile). Halifax Magazine, edited by King's alum Trevor J. Adams, won for Best Magazine Cover. A number of other journalism grads were members of newsroom teams that won or were finalists in other categories.
2010 journalism grads Jon Linds (Atlantic Lottery Corporation Achievement Award) and Jennifer Pawluk (Province of Nova Scotia Prize) were also recognized during the ceremony.
Check here for a complete list of winners
Stephen Kimber's cover feature for the June 9, 2009th issue of The Coast—"Who is Premier Darrell Dexter?"—has been selected as one of the finalists for this year's Atlantic Journalism Awards.
The Dexter story is up against two other stories—Tim Bousquet's "Doolittle, Darwin and the Deeply Dumb" from The Coast and Andrew McGilligan's "Long Journey's Home" in the Saint John Telegraph-Journal—in the Print Feature category. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Halifax on May 8.
Excerpt's from the entry submission explaining the background to the Dexter story:
"From During the winter of 2009, it became increasingly apparent Nova Scotians would voting in a spring general election, and that Darrell Dexter’s New Democrats would likely form the next provincial government. Such an outcome—unthinkable a generation ago—could mark an historic turning point in Nova Scotia politics.
How should The Coast cover these developments? Unlike the dailies or other media, we don’t have the luxury—in the print edition at least—of providing continuing coverage of events as they unfold. We had to decide on the central story of the election and write it.
We decided that story was Darrell Dexter. Who is he? Where does he come from? What makes him tick? What kind of government was he likely to lead?
While Nova Scotians had seen Dexter in action in the legislature over the previous decade, few were aware of more than the vaguest outlines of his personal history or the path he had taken to party and political power.
Our feature profile was an attempt to understand the man who could become premier by weaving together his personal story with the story of the party’s rise, and showing how the party had affected Dexter and Dexter has affected the party."
I’ll admit I was taken aback when I looked at the cover of The Coast on June 9 to see a title that assumed Dexter would win the election the next week," Kimber recalled. "Shades of Dewey! But the paper’s editors were braver—and more prescient—than me. Dexter won and, even seven months later, I believe our story provides useful insights into the mind of the province’s 27th premier."
Kimber is also a finalist for this year's Atlantic Book Awards. His book, IWK, is up for the Dartmouth Book Award for Nonfiction. The Atlantic Book Awards will be presented April 14 at a ceremony in Dartmouth.
"When, just 15 minutes into reading the book, I am in tears, then something's got to be right. And I believe Stephen Kimber has done everything right in his captivating history of the extraordinary story of pediatric care that exists right here in Halifax and beyond... Kimber has given us a fully integrated account of what makes the IWK Health Centre what it is today, 100 years from the opening of the Halifax Children's Hospital... Interspersing the time-line with case studies has made this book a superb read and, indeed a collector's item."
Atlantic Books Today
Sunday, Dec 6, 12:00-2:00pm
Author Stephen Kimber will be signing copies of his books, including his latest, IWK: A Century of Caring for Families. Coles, Halifax Shopping Centre.
Sunday, Dec 6, 3:00-5:00pm
Author Stephen Kimber will be signing copies of his books, including his latest, IWK: A Century of Caring for Families. Chapters, Bayer's Lake, Halifax.
Copyright 2009 Stephen Kimber