Neil Reynolds, one of Canada’s most storied newspaper editors and a Globe and Mail columnist, died of cancer in Ottawa Sunday. He was 72.
A native of Kingston, Ont., Mr. Reynolds worked his way through several newsrooms, rising to city editor at the Toronto Star by the mid-1970s. He left that job abruptly to take a posting at his hometown newspaper, the Whig-Standard.
By 1978, he had been promoted to the paper’s top job, and set about transforming it into a powerhouse. Taking advantage of its independent ownership and the sophisticated audience in college-town Kingston, he chased big stories, sending reporters overseas and giving them time to work on major projects, and emphasized strong, intellectually rigorous writing.
In the Whig’s obituary of Mr. Reynolds, former editor Harvey Schachter recalled a time when Mr. Reynolds used his credit card to pay for a reporter to head to Washington, D.C. to interview a Romanian who wanted to spill secrets on the sale of nuclear reactors, so badly did he want the story. Such moves paid off. The Whig-Standard punched far above its weight during his tenure, racking up a series of National Newspaper Awards, including nods for investigative reporting, editorials and critical writing.
In 1992, he left the paper to run two other small titles, the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal and Saint John Times-Globe. Conrad Black brought him into the Southam chain in 1996 as editor of the Ottawa Citizen. He moved to the Vancouver Sun in 2000, where he remained until 2003. Mr. Reynolds later penned a column for The Globe. In 2009, he returned to the Telegraph-Journal as an editor-at-large of that paper and its two sister publications.
John Stackhouse, editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail where Reynolds' columns appeared, called him one of the country's great newspaper editors "and a ceaselessly positive adviser to anyone who sought his counsel.
"He came upon writing later in life, as a freelance columnist for the ROB and then Comment, two forums he loved and respected. He loved challenging orthodoxy. He loved delighting and infuriating readers.
"Those who dealt with Neil know he was a true gentleman, mature and decent in every way."
Russell Mills, who was publisher of the Citizen during the 90’s, told the Citizen that Reynolds was not afraid to be offbeat.
Reynolds is survived by his wife, Donna Jacobs, three children, and grandchildren.
- With a report from The Canadian Press