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IN THE FIELD: REMEMBERING CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD

This In The Field piece was writen by the CAJ's post-secondary student intern, Conor McCarthy. Conor is a fourth-year student at the University of Ottawa. He has been previously been published in The National Post, The Guardian and the Ottawa Sun. 

Journalist, author and well-known columnist Christie Blatchford died, age 68, February 12 after living with cancer for several months. Her voice as one of Canada’s most well-known columnists never softened, with her final column, a retrospective on the federal election, published on October 22 of last year.

Blatchford, born in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, got her first job in journalism in 1972 at The Globe and Mail while she was still attending Ryerson University.

In 1975, when she took the reins of a column at The Globe and Mail, Blatchford was hailed as Canada’s first female sports columnist. She talked publicly on several occasions about growing up in rinks amid the hockey culture of Canada and how that shaped her worldview later on in life.

In writing on her legacy on SHuSH, Ken Whyte, the founding Editor-in-Chief of the National Post, said Blatchford, “yearned to report breaking news and work her Toronto police contacts, and cover sporting events (especially Olympics).” Whyte hired Blatchford at the Post in 1998, where she worked until 2003, and again between 2011 and 2019.

Whyte also said in that blog post that he hired Blatchford to cover trials, and that is where she built a large part of her tough, no-nonsense image. She covered crime and courts extensively for her entire career and could be seen in the courtrooms of some of Canada’s most famous trials. “I had hired her specifically to cover trials. O.J. Simpson, Menendez brothers, and the Clinton impeachment proceedings were fresh in mind,” he wrote on his blog. “It seemed every few months there was another trial-of-the-century. Christie was to be for the National Post what Dominic Dunne was for Vanity Fair, the courtroom drama specialist.”

Her column-writing won a National Newspaper Award in 1999, and Blatchford was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame this past November.

Blatchford wrote five books over the course of her career. The first, Spectator Sports, was published in 1987 by Key Porter Books, and the latest, Life Sentence: Stories from Four Decades of Court Reporting -- or, How I Fell Out of Love with the Canadian Justice System (Especially Judges), published by Anchor Canada in 2016.

Blatchford’s third book, Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army, published in 2007, recounted her time embedded with the Canadian Army during the War in Afghanistan. The book won a Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction in 2008.

She had a knack for tackling subjects that made others uncomfortable. Her columns never shied away from controversy, although in an interview with Toronto Life in 2016, she said she didn’t, “consider it part of my job to be deliberately provocative.” 

Blatchford was known for her wit and her determination to find the truth, no matter what it might be.

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