Rex Mur­phy sets a high stan­dard

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - CAM TAIT ctait@post­media.com @cam­tait

It’s been a good 15 years that I have turned ev­ery­thing in my world on mute — Mrs. Tait will at­test, too — once a week, on Thurs­day nights, to crank up the vol­ume on the tele­vi­sion for Rex Mur­phy.

Lis­ten­ing to words stitched to­gether to cre­ate beau­ti­ful sen­tences and just paus­ing at the per­ci­sion-per­fect sec­ond to em­pha­size a point takes skill — and God-given tal­ent. Then to take those prose and ap­ply it to news sto­ries, some barely hours old, is ic­ing on take cake.

That’s what Mur­phy does. His work on The Na­tional — CBC’S moth­er­ship of news cov­er­age — is a weekly high­light. And as a re­porter whose ul­ti­mate goal at the end of the day is to make the next day’s con­tri­bu­tion, some­how, just a tad bet­ter, Mur­phy has served as a tremen­dous role model and men­tor for me.

What if, I of­ten won­dered in what seemed like noth­ing more than a dream, one day I could meet him, shake his hand and thank him. Maybe, he’d even share a story, or two, in that un­mis­tak­able New­found­land tone.

Tues­day was such a time. To launch their an­nual Christ­mas Ket­tle Drive, the Sal­va­tion Army bril­liantly asked Mur­phy, clad in a light brown three-piece suit and most colour­ful tie, as guest speaker. A to­tal or 420 Army sup­port­ers nes­tled into the Chateau La­combe ball­room for a luncheon — good­ness gra­cious, that chicken gravy was tasty — be­fore Mur­phy took to the podium, not a bun’s throw away from the ban­quet room’s north wall.

Then, for the next 42 min­utes, Mur­phy did what he does so mag­i­cally: tell sto­ries. I didn’t see him take any notes with him, and un­like his weekly tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ance, he wasn’t read­ing off a teleprompter.

Mur­phy’s style is won­der­ful, but also his cog­ni­tive choice — pow­ered by a car­ing heart — of con­tin­u­ally and pur­pose­fully em­broi­der­ing (one of his favourite words Tues­day) the work of the Sal­va­tion Army.

In par­tic­u­lar, he spoke of New York ter­ror at­tacks of 2001, when the ma­jor­ity of North Amer­i­can air­ports were closed within the “mur­der­ous” events to­wards the World Trade Cen­tre.

Planes were di­verted to New­found­land where “in­ter­na­tional strangers” shared some un­ex­pected time in New­found­land.

One young cou­ple, Mur­phy said, was on their way to Las Ve­gas to get mar­ried. When a Sal­va­tion Army of­fi­cer named Shirley learned of this, she put to­gether a wed­ding — East Coast style, of course — and it was won­der­ful.

Mur­phy also talked about the hope the Army gives the hope­less, homes they shel­ter the home­less and the food the dish up for the hun­gry.

“They do it qui­etly and don’t look for pub­lic­ity or ad­ver­tis­ing,” he said. “They do it be­cause it’s the right thing to do.”

While Mur­phy didn’t so­licit do­na­tions to the Christ­mas Ket­tle cam­paigns, he painted to im­por­tant work of the Sal­va­tion Army as use­ful in­for­ma­tion.

One could say he thought­fully opened a door to op­por­tu­nity.

Rex Mur­phy was ev­ery­thing, and more, than I en­vi­sioned. He made be proud to be a re­porter. But even prouder to be Cana­dian.

FILE PHOTO

Jour­nal­ist Rex Mur­phy spoke at the Sal­va­tion Army’s an­nual Christ­mas Ket­tle Drive in Ed­mon­ton in Tues­day.

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