Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Who's the boss of me?

MAD ABOUT PLAID: Portrait of the editor as a
young show-off.
Last night I decided to write down the names all the terrific managers I've had since I started working as a journalist.

There's a lesson here somewhere.

Starting with my first reporting job, in 1979, they are:

Jon Butler, The Standard in Elliot Lake, Ont.: Jon hired me twice. Then, when I tried to quit, Jon didn't let me go. In 1981 I spent an evening drinking beer with a man named Mark Cranford and we came to the very sensible conclusion that we should both quit our jobs and go to India. Mark backed out. Me, I handed in my letter of resignation, which Jon flatly refused. He said if I wrote stories for The Standard from India, my job would be waiting when I got back. That was only one tiny part of Jon's stellar bossness. As publisher of the first newspaper I ever worked for, The Standard, Jon set the bar against which all subsequent managers would be measured. The Standard? Get it? Never mind. 

Rick McCutcheon, Manitoulin Expositor. I still write for this, the best community paper in the world, whenever I get a chance. Rick told me one of the reasons he hired me was I wore red Converse high-tops to my job interview.

Glen Brisebois, Northern Life: Speaking of shoes, Glen put on his front page a story I wrote about my parents' neighbour Joe Hughes' 40 year-old shoes. At the time, I thought keeping an item of clothing for four decades bordered on the miraculous. As I type, this I'm wearing a red t-shirt I bought 25 years ago and still think is pretty cool. 

Jim Cormier, Influence Magazine: When our kids were little, my wife Helena augmented Kraft Dinner with extra cheeses and spices and it was delicious, but Jim always prepared KD according to the directions on the box, which the kids preferred and called Kraft Dinner a la Jim Cormier. Jim died far too young in 1998 at 39, but I think about and consult Jim so often he might as well still be alive.

REJECTED LETTER : My notice of
quitting that Jon Butler turned down.  
Alan Lofft, Sound &Vision, ProSound: Alan's not only an editor, banjo picker and actor, he's a hi-fi expert. When I applied for a job with his hi-fi magazine Sound&Vision, he gave me a little test that asked what the terms "wow" and "flutter" meant. I didn't have a clue. I answered "what I would say and what my heart would do if I got a job here." I got a job there.

Peter Worthington, Influence:  An "every idea is a good idea" guy who taught me that the only difference between a good and bad haircut is three days. Plus he said my ability to write attention-grabbing headlines probably stems from me being the youngest of 10 Carter kids. 

Ernest Hillen, Influence: When I first met Ernest, he had already travelled the world for various magazines including one I grew up with, Weekend, but despite that, he shared the same excitement and sense of wonder of a 12-year-old and never made me feel like a junior. He turned 90 this past April 6 and strangely enough, our phone conversation just yesterday lasted a mere 47 minutes. By Ernest's standards that was scarcely enough for a hi-how-are-ya?

Alan Morantz, Metropolitan Toronto Business Journal: Years after I worked for Alan, after he had moved on to another magazine; as I had,  I one day found myself fired. (That was neither the first nor the last time.) Next morning, Alan, sensing how much I'd feel like a loser, assigned me a story about Mississauga rattlesnakes. Those snakes made me feel like a writer again.  

GENTLEMAN JIM: He still helps me
make decisions.
Patricia Anderson, Metropolitan Toronto Business Journal: Pat was my boss the year my wife Helena gave birth to our twin daughters Ewa and Ria. A year or so earlier, Pat had become mom to Zoe. So sweet was Pat that one day, visiting our house and holding Ewa or Ria in her arms, my boss Pat actually mused about her actually nursing our daughter. My late brother Ed was on hand. Ed was like, "I work at the post office. Every day, we're fighting  with our managers. If my boss showed up right now I'd call the cops to get him off the property. And yours is talking about breastfeeding your baby??? "

David Bailey, Financial Post Magazine: Here's David, to me, when our baby son Michel arrived into our lives: "I really like what you've done with Michel. If you need any extra days off, just call me and say 'I need a Michel day' and don't worry about it." David died young and is now in heaven. 

Maureen Cavan, Harrowsmith Country Life: My mom and three of my sisters are nurses. Maureen was a nurse before becoming a publisher. That was evident in everything she did and that's all you need to know.

Caroline Connell, Chatelaine: Everybody who has worked with Caroline calls her the best manager they've ever had. And she might kill me when she reads this next part but what the hell I've had a good run. Before Facebook; before Instagram, before emojis, Caroline's family and close friends and her jazz-piano wizard husband Peter Hill called her, presciently, "LOL"! As in laugh out loud. There. I've outed Lol, one the best bosses on the planet. 

Rona Maynard, Chatelaine: Before Facebook, before Instagram, before the invention of everything, Rona let me brag about my family in a column in her magazine. But also, before I worked at Chatelaine, and shortly after Rona was named editor, I wondered, in the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors newsletter, how a physically wee woman like Rona could hold sway over such a behemoth as Chatelaine. She told me later that helped convince her it wouldn't hurt to have me around. Humour. More powerful than you know.

Stephen Petit, Today's Trucking: Hired me for what turned out to be the job of a lifetime. "There'll be as much travel," he said before leaving and handing me the reins, "as you want." I wanted lots.

 At 13-plus-years, Rolf was the longest
 putter up with me of all. 
Rolf Lockwood, Today's Trucking: Rolf was Stephen Petit's boss and then mine and let me, for 13 and change years, have as much fun as Stephen promised. 

Jim Glionna, Today's Trucking: You've never met anybody like Jim,  the founder of Todays' Trucking. Come visit me and I'll spend two days amazing you with Jim Glionna stories. But you ain't getting any here.

Okey Chigbo, CPA Magazine: Way back up there at Metropolitan Toronto Business Journal, I hired Okey to be an associate editor; his first full time editorial gig, and he's never let me forget it. In a good way. 

John Carson, The Lawyer's Daily: John's style: If an issue arises, look it in the eye, solve, move on. Staff love bosses for that.

Matt Grace, The Lawyer's Daily/Law360 Canada: Matt has put up with me as his direct charge for more than three years and hasn't fired me yet. 

And those are all the great journalism bosses I've had. 

So far.




  1. Wow! In excellent company from a true pro like you, Peter. Very touched and thank you. And this does prove I subscribe to your blog!

    1. Thanks John. They're in excellent company, too! And I believe you are a charter subscriber!!! When we start issuing merch, you'll have to send me your t-shirt size.

  2. Loved reading your stories about our/my family in Chatelaine..

    1. Thanks, whoever you are. I really appreciate that. I've had so many jobs I sometimes feel like Mark Giordano, the oldest member of the Toronto Maple Leafs who, when he was in the minors, got picked by a whole bunch of teams because he had such a huge family, whatever team he played for would be guaranteed to sell out the arena. True story. haha

  3. Thanks for the peek Pete. Loved that.

    1. Thank you! I"ve sure had a lot of good bosses. If you want to hear about the others, call me. Anytime.