Bill Cameron Mourned

I first heard that Toronto resident and revered journalist Bill Cameron was ill late last October, a few days before he was set to moderate a discussion about Canada's global future in front of hundreds at the U of T's Convocation Hall. Not only was he ill, my fellow hack at the CBC dryly noted, he was on his deathbed, suffering from cancer.

I remember feeling shocked, sad, and doubtful, in that order. How could he be on his death bed right before what would be a demanding day for any reporter, let alone a deathly ill one? I knew cancer could progress rapidly, but presumably not faster than the time it would take for the discussion's organizers to consider someone in good health from the get go.

Sure enough the show went on without him. What I thought was maybe an exaggeration on the part of my colleague was only just. He had cancer of the esophagus, a damming irony considering his career, but was not about to stop engaging the public he served. Those organizing the lecture must have known that and that is probably why they waited until the last minute to replace him. He subsequently recovered enough to continue reporting until the cancer made it impossible for him to do so, last week.

The format never mattered. Film documentaries, newspaper columns, magazine articles, live radio, TV news items, even stage plays and a book, his distinct, authoritative voice and inquisitive nature carried equal weight across the media spectrum.

I did not know him but I will call him Bill. I wish I could have called him that in person. It is selfish to think so, I know, but can you blame me? What self respecting reporter would not want to know a man that was what CBC executive and former boss Mark Starowicz called "one of the last of the classic journalists."

Bill was classic because he developed his craft during a period in TV journalism history that demanded in-depth knowledge of current events and a polished on-air presence to be the best. He had both. Today, the latter suffices too often. Journalists, like everyone else, have specialized and the necessity of understanding the interconnectedness of all things has been undermined.

Bill kept it real. He put a premium on journalism ethics and objective reporting and inspired others to do the same.

On second thought, maybe it is not so bad that I did not know him. After all, I will never forget him or what he stood for.

His voice reverberates..

For a personal take on Bill, Check out Joe Fiorito's obituary in today's Toronto Star or Antonia Zerbisias's in yesterday's. Pick up his recent novel, Cat's Crossing, from Nicholas Hoare, 45 Front St. East.

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