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Winnipeg-born Don Newman may have been the Don Cherry of pol­i­tics (mi­nus the suits)

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - FRONT PAGE - Re­viewed by Roger Cur­rie

Four pages of re­views

JOUR­NAL­ISTS who cover pol­i­tics any­where on this planet will gen­er­ally agree with the old maxim that one week is a long time in pol­i­tics. By that mea­sure, Winnipeg’s Don Newman must be very old in­deed.

In fact, he will cel­e­brate his 73rd birth­day on Oct. 28, just days af­ter he launches his lively and en­ter­tain­ing mem­oir, Wel­come to the Broad­cast. Un­til his re­tire­ment from the CBC a cou­ple of years ago, Newman be­gan his daily look at pol­i­tics with that phrase.

It seems that once they re­tire, old TV news guys are ex­pected to write down their life sto­ries. This past year has seen mem­oirs by Lloyd Robert­son and Craig Oliver. Peter Mans­bridge is a few years younger, but he’s prob­a­bly al­ready keep­ing notes.

Newman’s mem­oir sug­gests that dur­ing the al­most half-cen­tury that he cov­ered pol­i­tics and events re­lated to it, he was as com­pletely into the game as Don Cherry is into hockey.

In­deed, de­spite spend­ing a few years in Eng­land dur­ing his early childhood, Newman was as much into hockey as most Cana­dian boys in the 1950s. He played the game on out­door rinks at the old Sir John Franklin Com­mu­nity Club in River Heights, just be­fore start­ing high school at Kelvin in 1956.

But for a bad case of measles in the spring of 1960, his life might have fol­lowed a dif­fer­ent path. The ill­ness kept Newman from get­ting a good out­door sum­mer job that year.

At the urg­ing of his older brother Roger, who was al­ready a reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, Don dropped by the ri­val Winnipeg Tri­bune and caught on as a copy boy.

Like many a jour­nal­is­tic ca­reer, Newman’s then be­came the prod­uct of a se­ries of for­tu­nate choices, lead­ing him to work in the news­room at CJAY-TV in Winnipeg in its early days, as well as ra­dio sta­tions CKRC in Winnipeg and CKCK in Regina. Then came the Globe and Mail, which was then on its way to be­com­ing Canada’s first na­tional news­pa­per.

Through all of th­ese for­ma­tive years, Newman nur­tured and de­vel­oped his po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions, which would serve him well in the years to come.

He was also blessed with that in­nate abil­ity to be in the right place at the right time. A prime ex­am­ple was on Sept. 22, 1975, in San Fran­cisco. Newman was the CTV cor­re­spon­dent in Wash­ing­ton, and he was the only Cana­dian reporter cov­er­ing U.S. pres­i­dent Ger­ald Ford when a woman named Sara Jane Moore failed in her ef­fort to as­sas­si­nate him.

It was dur­ing his Wash­ing­ton years in the late 1970s that Newman made the move to the CBC, where he spent the rest of his ca­reer. By the time Joe Clark en­joyed his brief turn as Canada’s 16th prime min­is­ter, Newman had be­come es­tab­lished as a trusted ob­server of the Cana­dian po­lit­i­cal scene.

Es­pe­cially from this point on, Wel­come to the Broad­cast is a true page-turner for any­one with a strong in­ter­est in pol­i­tics in thist coun­try over the flavour past ppf 40 years. is rem­i­nis­cent The f ofo what Peter C. New­manmm achieved with his land­markla books about thet Diefen­baker and Pear­son PPg in Power years, Rene­gade and The Dis­tem­perD of Our Times.

Af­ter a rel­a­tively dur­ing brief bbd post­ing the peak in Al­berta years ofo Peter Lougheed’s regime, gga Newman be­came a fix­ture in Ottawa. He wasw CBC’s point man on all of the ma­jor con­sti­tu­tional bat­tles, from Pierre Trudeau’s pa­tri­a­tion fol­low­ing his come­back in 1980, through Brian Mul­roney’s un­suc­cess­ful Meech Lake and Char­lot­te­town ac­cords, to the near vic­tory by the sep­a­ratists in the Que­bec ref­er­en­dum in 1995.

There are some rev­e­la­tions along the way. Ac­cord­ing to Newman, Manitoba’s Lloyd Ax­wor­thy wanted very much to run for the lead­er­ship of the Lib­er­als when Trudeau stepped down in 1984. He did not run be­cause broad­cast mogul Izzy Asper, the pow­er­house of Lib­eral pol­i­tics in this prov­ince, was com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing John Turner, who won the lead­er­ship and was dec­i­mated by Mul­roney’s Con­ser­va­tives in the gen­eral elec­tion a few months later.

Also sur­pris­ing is Newman’s ad­mis­sion that he never voted in elec­tions that he was cov­er­ing as a reporter. He said it would be com­pa­ra­ble to “a ref­eree bet­ting on the out­come of game that he was of­fi­ci­at­ing.”

Over the years, Newman never se­ri­ously con­sid­ered run­ning for of­fice him­self, and thank­fully he never longed for a seat in the Se­nate, where his for­mer col­leagues Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin are now in the news for all the wrong rea­sons.

Newman’s life has not been with­out its share of per­sonal tragedy. His first mar­riage was to Au­drey-Ann Tay­lor, whom he met at CKCK TV in Regina in 1961. Their only child was a son named Lin­coln, born in June 1971.

In Fe­bru­ary 1992, 20-year-old Linc died in a bizarre way, go­ing into car­diac ar­rest while un­der gen­eral anes­thetic in a den­tist’s chair. He was left brain dead and was taken off life sup­port. Two years later Au­drey-Ann died af­ter a brief bat­tle with ovar­ian can­cer.

In 1998, Newman mar­ried a sec­ond time. His wife is Shan­non Day, and she part­ners with him in a con­sult­ing busi­ness that they started af­ter Newman’s re­tire­ment from the CBC. Roger Cur­rie is a Winnipeg writer and broad­caster who is heard on CJNU, 93.7 FM. Cur­rie’s brother, David, was a class­mate of Newman’s at Kelvin High School.

SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS ARCHIVES

Wel­come to the Broad­cast By Don Newman HarperCollins, 320 pages, $33

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