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IN MEMORIAM: REMEMBERING SOME OF THE VOICES CANADIAN JOURNALISM LOST IN 2020

A kind editor, a veteran investigative journalist who redefined crime reporting, and a longtime municipal reporter with a sense of humour.

These are some of the people Canadian journalism lost in 2020. 

Here, the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) is commemorating the lives of some of the remarkable journalists who departed this world in 2020. All left a mark in their communities and a legacy for future generations.

If there is someone we are missing, please let us know. You can contract Nebal Snan at: [email protected]

Linda Diebel, Toronto Star reporter and first Latin American Bureau chief, died in Jan. 2020. She was 71.

Diebel was a reporter who left no stone unturned in her search for the truth, according to friends and colleagues in a Toronto Star story about her life. She was known for her intense personality and “flamboyant fashion sense.”

From the story:

“Linda was an absolutely fierce and dedicated journalist who would go to the limit on any story,” said her colleague and friend Olivia Ward. 

Christie Blatchford, journalist and columnist at the National Post, died in Feb. 2020. She was 68.

She was a war correspondent and had a passion for war and crime stories. Blatchford was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame in November 2019 but was unable to attend the ceremony as she was undergoing cancer treatment.

“Christie put us on the map for a huge number of readers. She was passionate and intelligent about every assignment,” said Kenneth Whyte, founding editor of the National Post, in an interview following Blatchford’s induction.

Anne Kingston, senior writer and columnist at Maclean’s, died in Feb. 2020. She was 62.

Kingston wrote about topics from business to social trends during her career, which spanned more than three decades. In recent years, she became well known for writing about women.

From a remembrance in Maclean’s:

“Her curiosity was inexhaustible, and she defied pigeonholing—in subject or ideology or approach. ‘Everything connects,’ her Twitter bio begins, and in Anne’s work, it did. Her beat was life; nothing else could contain her.”

Richard (Rick) James Ouston, journalist and teacher, died in Aug. 2020. He was 64.

Throughout his career, Ouston worked at the CBC, Global TV, and the Vancouver Sun where he started his career as an investigative journalist. He also taught journalism at Langara College in Vancouver. 

From a remembrance in the Globe and Mail:

“Getting the goods and getting the facts right were of paramount importance to him. He covered the Clifford Olson killings, exposed dirty doctors, brought four Nazi war criminals living in Canada to justice and waged a journalistic campaign against those who were prostituting children in the city.”

Richard Gwyn, longtime Star columnist, died in Aug. 2020. He was 86.

Gwyn was a columnist, author, historian, and civil servant. A remembrance in the Toronto Star described Gwyn as an expert in Canadian politics with a natural gift for journalism.

From the remembrance:

“He was a giant in terms of parliamentary reporter. There was always something new in a story by Richard Gwyn. He had a great ability to cultivate top sources, work the bureaucracy and the backrooms. He was very analytical, but he was also very colourful. He broke a lot of stories, but he also supplied a lot of the context for the big news of the day.”

Allan Fotheringham, author and columnist, died in Aug. 2020. He was 87.

Fotheringham was a columnist at Maclean’s, and before that, at the Vancouver Sun

For 27 years, Fotheringham wrote a column in the back page of Maclean’s that was so popular people read the magazine back to front.

From a remembrance in Maclean’s:

“Fotheringham’s back-page column was a must-read destination for Canadians, making him loved and loathed but rarely ignored. Even if you missed out on a column, you would hear the funniest lines repeated at your next barbecue, dinner party, or family gathering.”

Peter “Ray” Rakobowchuk , veteran Canadian Press broadcast journalist, died in Aug. 2020. He was 71.

A Canadian Press story about Ray said he was a reporter with a distinctive voice and great love for his craft. 

From the story:

In the early '90s, Rakobowchuk slipped into a phone booth to file a report on a protest south of Montreal when he began having difficulty. Tear gas, he explained apologetically, as he got his report across between coughing bouts.”

Harvie Gay, former managing editor at the Penticton Herald in B.C., died in Sept. 2020. He was 84.

A remembrance in the Penticton Herald described him as a kind boss with “powerful” writing:

“I can’t remember him ever getting angry about anyone or anything, which says a lot about his character.”

John Gray, longtime Globe and Mail journalist, died in Sept. 2020. He was 83.

During his time at the Globe and Mail, Gray was a  Parliamentary reporter in Ottawa, and an award-winning foreign correspondent based in London and Moscow. He was a family man and “enjoyed pranking his friends and family.”

From an obituary in the Globe and Mail:

“He was an elegant writer who could effortlessly capture the essence of a story. He knew what he wanted to say and almost never needed more than a gentle cursor waved over his work.”

Nancy Leigh King, reporter at the Cape Breton Post, died in Oct. 2020. She was 47. 

A story in the Cape Breton Post described her as a “passionate reporter who excelled at producing hard copy.”

From the story:

“You always knew to have your facts straight in talking with her,” said John Malcom, former CEO of the Cape Breton District Health Authority.

“A true professional. Tough but fair,” he said.

Cory O'Kelly, longtime CBC journalist, died in Oct. 2020. He was 73.

O’Kelly covered municipal affairs in Ottawa for the CBC, with 5,000 stories under his name. 

From a remembrance on the CBC website:

“O'Kelly covered the city like no one else, once sifting through the recycling bins of local politicians to see what secrets they held. He'd occasionally venture out in the guise of his Finnish alter-ego Urho, and even doffed his familiar trench coat — along with everything else — to get the inside scoop on a nudist colony.”

Pat McCormick, longtime Toronto Star editor, died in Oct. 2020. He was 76. 

From a remembrance in the Toronto Star:

“Patrick McCormick wasn’t just a Toronto Star editor who made his writers better; he was a decent guy with a wicked sense of humour while embracing the odd ducks and misfits who made journalism fun.”

Robert “Bob” Joseph Sarti, journalist, died in Oct. 2020. He was 77.

Sarti started his career in the United States, where he was born. He later moved to Canada and worked at the Vancouver Sun for 30 years.

An obituary for Sarti published in the Globe and Mail described him as “a rabble-rousing reporter with a deep concern for the poor and downtrodden.”

From the obituary:

“For many years, he was a volunteer at the Carnegie Community Centre, a gathering place in Canada’s poorest neighbourhood, where he was known for cooking and serving chili con carne.

Gerald “Gerry” McAuliffe, investigative journalist, died in Oct. 2020. He was 81.

McAuliffe had a long career with bylines in the Hamilton Spectator, the Globe and Mail, and the CBC. An obituary in the Hamilton Spectator described him as a fearless investigative journalist whose investigations led to “numerous public inquiries into alleged wrongdoings in Ontario and made headlines across the country.”

From the obituary:

“Saying he was legendary doesn’t cover it,” said family friend Greg Crone. “He was fearless and actually delighted in getting a libel notice or refusing to reveal his sources in a court proceeding. Even better was hearing him regale us with funny stories about it later.”

Michel Auger, longtime crime reporter in Quebec, died in Nov. 2020. He was 76.

Auger redefined crime reporting in Quebec and was a mentor for young journalists, according to an obituary in the Montreal Gazette.

From the obituary: 

“Beyond his accomplishments, he was also remembered as a lasting symbol of freedom of the press — even after nearly being shot to death over his reporting, Auger continued to cover the criminal underworld with the same rigour and passion he was known for.”

Erin Elizabeth Paul, broadcaster, died in Nov. 2020. She was 49.

Paul worked as a reporter at the CBC, Sportsnet, and CTV News, where she was also an anchor. 

She won the Gemini Award in 2000 as an associate producer of a documentary on CBC’s "the Fifth Estate.” She also covered the Olympic Games including the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the London 2012 Olympics.

Ron Wallace, founder and longtime editor of the Auroran newspaper in Ontario, died in Nov. 2020. He was 76. 

An obituary published in the Auroran described Wallace’s love for the town of Aurora. He founded the Auroran in 2000 to provide the community with local news that mattered to them. He also extensively volunteered in local organizations and was awarded Aurora’s Citizen of the Year in 2013. He retired in 2011.

From the obituary:

“The newspaper’s early motto was simple – ‘If it matters to Aurora, it matters to us’ – and it was a motto he took seriously.”


Patricia Pleszczynska, longtime managing director of CBC's English-language services in Quebec, died in Nov. 2020. She was 67. 

A CBC story about Pleszczynska said she “cared deeply about teaching other Canadians about Quebec.” 

From the story:

She was the architect who designed and built the infrastructure for much, if not all, of what you see and hear on the public broadcaster's airwaves in the province, and what you read on its websites.”

She joined the CBC in 1984 as a researcher in the afternoon show in Gaspé. After 25 years, during which she worked as head of English services in Quebec, Pleszczynska accepted the position of director general of radio services for Radio-Canada.

John “Jack” Kellum, longtime CBC producer, died in Dec. 2020. He was 77.

Kellum was a storyteller passionate about celebrating Canadian culture. He was involved in numerous productions with the CBC, including “this hour has 22 minutes.” During his time with CBC Newfoundland, he produced a show called Ryan’s Fancy, a musical variety show that aired on the national network.

From an obituary published in the Globe and Mail:

“For the first time Canadians saw the spectacular Newfoundland landscape in popular entertainment. It was a game changer for Newfoundland and a showcase of its rich artistic culture.”

Carly Amanda Stagg, CBC and CTV journalist, died in Dec. 2020. She was 39. 

From a tweet about Stagg:

“She was brilliantly sarcastic, blunt, a hell of a writer, allergic to bullshit, passionate about protecting the health of the vulnerable. She was a warrior who fought until she had no fight left to give.”

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