Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Bill Cameron, 62 Add to ...

Bill Cameron, the intellectually challenging and erudite broadcast journalist who had a celebrated parting of the ways with CBC Television in the wake of 1999 budget cuts, is dead.

Cameron died around midnight Friday night of cancer of the esophagus which had moved into his brain and liver despite rounds of brutal chemotherapy, said a CBC spokeswoman.

He was 62.

"He was one of the last of the classic journalists," said CBC senior executive documentary producer Mark Starowicz.

"The man was a terrific writer, a terrific correspondent, an anchor, a documentary writer and a documentary director," recalled Starowicz, who hired Cameron in 1983 for CBC's news magazine program The Journal.

"A lot of people are good at one of those things. I can't think of anyone else that's good at all of those things."

The veteran TV news personality was born in Vancouver in 1943.

He got his first break in broadcasting at CBC Radio in the 1960s as a freelance journalist. He later served as an editorial writer and columnist for the Toronto Star and as an associate editor at Maclean's magazine.

He appeared on Global TV as host of Newsweek from 1978 to '83. He was also an anchor on Toronto's independent Citytv before joining The Journal as a reporter, producer and alternate host.

He spent nine years there and during his stint he journeyed to the United States and Britain, and to Jordan to cover the Persian Gulf crisis. He also reported from Mozambique and Nicaragua.

He was the show's final host when it signed off Oct. 30, 1992.

"To me, he was a great interviewer," said CBC's The National anchor Peter Mansbridge, who worked with Cameron at The Journal.

"He had a skill that few can match in terms of drawing people out in an interview," Mansbridge told CBC Newsworld from Stratford, Ont. "It was just a treat to watch him do that."

His death, "leaves a giant hole in Canadian journalism," he said.

After The Journal, Cameron joined CBLT, CBC's Toronto flagship station where he anchored the evening newscast, and won a Gemini Award for his efforts.

In September 1995, he joined Newsworld in Halifax as host of CBC Morning News, replacing Henry Champ who was moving to Washington. In 1999, he moved back to Toronto to host Sunday Report and daily newscasts for Newsworld and Newsworld International.

He co-wrote The Real Poverty Report, a study of the plight of the poor in Canada.

"He lived the journalistic spectrum," friend and fellow journalist Peter Kent said Saturday.

Cameron's extensive experience was passed on through his role as educator at Toronto's Ryerson School of Journalism.

"He shared it with the up-and-comers quite freely," said Kent. "He wasn't a turf protector at all. He's a loss to the younger generation of journalists."

Cameron also wrote plays and poetry, having been published by Random House.

"He has a wealth of news experience and knows how to get the most out of a story," Slawko Klymkiw, CBC-TV's chief programmer and former head of Newsworld, once said.

Although once cited as a potential anchor of The National, in 1999 he had a parting of the ways with CBC after being asked to reduce his workload and his paycheque in the wake of major budget cutbacks.

Friends said he'd had it with indecision and narrow-mindedness at the public broadcaster.

"I don't want to sound maudlin, but there's an awful lot of my life there," he said at the time. "I still believe in it and I feel a little homeless, wandering around in the big, wide world."

He still considered himself a "CBC lifer" and declined to be outright critical but warned the network was in danger of hemorrhaging more good people.

"It's very easy to look at a corporation that's had one-third of it just cut away with a hatchet and say, 'Well, you're really not running the extra two thirds very well, are you?'." he said.

"The kind of broadcasting that I wanted to do, I don't think they can do now. ..... I wasn't being asked to use my creativity enough to keep me awake."

He added that in the end his departure was as much a quality of life issue as financial.

"Inevitably, you find that what you're doing for a major part of your day is extremely silly," he said. "I've got enough silliness in the rest of my life. I don't need it at work."

Cameron had had lucrative offers from the United States, but within days announced that he was taking a job as vice-president of communications at the Toronto-based American Gem Corp., a sapphire marketer, which then changed its name to Digital Gem Corp.

He also held the ethics chair at the Ryerson and freelanced for the National Post.

Recently he was back on television, hosting the talk show (At)issue on the I Channel, the fledgling digital tier service, but could not continue due to his escalating illness.

Cameron is survived by his wife, Cheryl Hawkes, a freelance journalist, and their three children, two of them in university and one in high school.

Follow us on Twitter: @globeandmail


In the know

Most popular videos »


More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular