Basic journalism in twenty pages or lessReporters and editors learned their craft largely on the job in the days before journalism schools, and small newspapers like the Record were the main training grounds. Country correspondents working out of their homes tended to concentrate mostly on social events, and often felt they didn't have the expertise to cover harder news events, like fires and major accidents. So in 1960, I wrote a 16-page handbook (left) for their guidance. It was produced by the paper's job-printing department, and sent out to all correspondents. It included sections on newspaper terms, timeliness, information required, style, preparing copy and editing. In 1962, news editor GERRY McDUFF and I collaborated on a similar handbook for reporters (right). It had 20 pages, and in addition to much of the basic journalistic information in the correspondents booklet, included sections on libel, the courts, and the Canadian Press, Canada's co-operative news agency. At the back, there was a bibliography of the latest journalism textbooks. The purpose of both handbooks was to improve both the quantity and quality of regional coverage, and maintain consistency.
After two years, it was time to move on to something betterThe reporting staff in the Sherbrooke newsroom was small: usually four people, sometimes five, occasionally three. And there was always a high turnover. By the 1960's, new reporters were not expected to stay more than a maximum of two years before moving on to better jobs. Those that showed promise were encouraged; those that did not were advised, as gently as possible, to find another line of work.
Dozens of reporters worked at the Record during the years I also worked there. Here are the names of many of them, in rough chronological order starting in 1953:
Arnold Baron, Larry Moore, Carol Witty, Warren Spafford, Betty Bradshaw, Elaine Smith, Gerald McDuff, Pat Bougie, Dan Caron, Paul Whitelaw, Irwin Block, Jim Davies, Doug Whatley, Claude Lebrecque, Jim McAllister, Nick Powell, Norman Webster, Alison Schoenfeld, Karl Kramer, Sandra Pickford, Malcolm Reid, David Webster, Barbara Stevenson, Paul Waters, Ted Beaudoin, Mike Daigneault, Claude Adams, Dennis Finlay, Peter Verral, Dick Nutbrown, John McCaghey, David Allnutt, Len Ryan, Margaret Smith.
The newsroom wasn't unionized, there was no overtime or pension plan, reporters' pay was low and hours long. Mostly the reporters were energetic young men and women (many even in their late teens) with a talent for writing. They were eager to learn and we tried to turn all of this into a virtue by running the newsroom as a kind of school as well as a professional organization.
I and other senior newspeople used our contacts on larger papers and with news agencies to move reporters onwards and upwards when we thought they were ready. A few months after I left the Record in 1968, the Montreal Gazette hired away the paper's entire four-man reporting staff and the news editor. The recruiting was done by the Gazette's city editor, MIKE DAIGNEAULT, himself a former Record reporter.
Cash prize for month's best reportingThe handbook was one tool in this whole process; another was a Story of the Month competition started in the mid-1960's. A prize of $10 cash went to the winner, as announced in a mimeographed newsletter I wrote and had distributed throughout the plant. Here's a typical one:
Home Page | History of The Record | Covering the County Fairs
Glenn Gould Comes to Town | The Editors | Those Were the Days
A First in Canada | The Strike of '62 | 60th Anniversary in 1957
Trudeaumania Hits the City | Montreal's Expo 67 | Nightstaff: a poem
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Page created Spring 1999. Last updated Apr. 8, 2006