Monday November 24, 2014

Saying goodbye to a journalism giant


View from the Cheap Seats is kind of an extension of the newsroom. Whenever our three regular reporters, Calvin Daniels, Thom Barker and Randy Brenzen are in the building together, it is frequently a site of heated debate. This week: Remembering Knowlton Nash?

Bright Light

It sometimes seems like Peter Mansbridge has been CBC’s chief correspondent forever, but before Mansbridge, there Knowlton Nash. In fact, Nash was the first national news anchor to be given the title by CBC, a nod to the fact that he was much more than just a pretty face to put in front of the camera and read the news. I can still remember his first news cast as anchor of The National in November 1978 because the lead story was the Jonestown Massacre.

Canada has produced some top-notch journalists and Nash has to be counted among them. From the nomination of John F. Kennedy to Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech to the trial of Jack Ruby, Nash was on hand to bring home the momentous events that shaped the 1960s.

He was a visionary who embraced the new media of television even though reporting for TV did not pay very well when he started. When he stepped aside from reporting in 1969 to work as director of news and current affairs for the CBC, it was Nash who was responsible for upgrading The National from black-and-white to colour.

As chief correspondent and anchor of CBC’s flagship news program from 1978 to 1988 Nash was Canadian journalism royalty, but he also had a selfless streak. When CBC was faced with losing Mansbridge to the United States, Nash offered to step down as chief correspondent and The National anchor for the good of the network.

There is really too much to say about Knowlton Nash to do him justice in this small space. Suffice it to say, we have lost one of the brightest lights in our trade.

— Thom Barker

Calm presence

It is hard to believe there is a Canadian over the age of 30 who is not aware of Knowlton Nash.

So when Nash died May 24, it was a passing which rippled through this country.

Of course, on a personal level, someone like Nash is someone as a journalist myself, I likely paid attention to more than some.

Granted when Nash was the anchor for The National for a decade, it was just after my high school graduation, and before I had started writing for my hometown newspaper (Tisdale Recorder), but even in school I had a keen interest in current affairs thanks in large part to history teacher Ted Degenstein, and so watching The National was just about a daily occurrence.

While Nash might be most recognized for his years with The National, the man had a long and distinguished career as a journalist.

Nash was selling newspapers on the streets of Toronto during World War II, which I suppose is something many have in their past if they wanted to make some extra money when young.

“Before age 20, he was a professional journalist for British United Press. After some time as a freelance foreign correspondent, he became the CBC Washington correspondent during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, also covering stories in South and Central America and Vietnam,” detailed Wikipedia.

I can’t say I recall his reports at the time, but have seen several in the years since, and Nash had a calm way as a reporter, his questions delivered with timing, and getting to the heart of the topic smoothly.

“Nash moved back to Toronto in 1968 to join management as head of CBC’s news and information programming, then stepped back in front of the camera in 1978 as anchor of CBC’s late evening news program, The National. He stepped down from that position in 1988 to make way for Peter Mansbridge,” stated the website.

It was with The National Nash gained his fame in this country, showing us the best of news coverage that comes with an accomplished anchor and a network not controlled by advertising dollars and offering a distinctly Canadian look at our world.

Thank you Mr. Nash for showing what the best of TV journalism can be. We can only hope others aspire to such heights in a world where TV journalism seems increasingly little more than poorly done reality television.

— Calvin Daniels



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