Tall, slender and sporting a fedora, Mark Dailey first rose to prominence as Citytv's colourful police reporter, one of the first to bring gritty crime stories to Toronto television; over the years, he became a local icon delivering the station's late-night newscast with dry, offbeat humour.
But he was best known for his baritone, so recognizable in both his own stories and fills for the station that he was billed as "the voice" of Citytv.
On Monday, Mr. Dailey died in hospital of cancer. He was 57.
Born in Youngstown, Ohio, on Aug. 1, 1953, Mr. Dailey worked as a police officer and radio reporter in the United States before joining CHUM in 1974. Five years later, he took a job at Citytv. The young station was eager to try new things, and Mr. Dailey soon became one of the country's first TV personalities to specialize in crime reporting.
"We owned the streets," recalls John Sandeman, who worked as his cameraman at the time. "From a professional point of view, he was a true journalist, he would get both sides of the story."
Mr. Dailey's knack for this flowed directly from his ability to build relationships with sources, including homicide detectives and the families of victims, he said. If he saw cops walking the beat on a rainy day, he would invite them inside for a coffee, something that helped him later on when those officers were promoted; when detectives shared inside information with him, he would keep it under his hat until the time was right.
During those years, Mr. Dailey covered everything from a deadly 1983 propane explosion in Buffalo to the trafficking of illegal drugs from Miami through Toronto. In 1980, colleagues recalled, he was the first reporter on the scene when Constable Michael Sweet was mortally wounded during a botched restaurant robbery.
"Mark always carried that one with him," said veteran City anchor Gord Martineau. Mr. Dailey himself once said, years later, it was one of the few stories that made him cry as he watched it roll on the newscast.
He lent his distinctive baritone to the station's voiceovers, most famously speaking the tagline "Citytv: Everywhere."
"We all were very aware of the impact of that slogan. Wherever we'd go, kids would come up to us and say it, and some of them would try to imitate that voice, but of course, no one could," said Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley, who worked as a weatherman, reporter and host on Citytv. "It was easily the most recognizable voice in the city of Toronto."
As an anchor, Mr. Dailey preserved the punchy storytelling style he had developed on the crime beat, peppering his reports with filme noir expressions like "slug to the chest" and "pumped full of lead."
City Councillor Adam Vaughan, who cut his journalistic teeth at the station, remembers Mr. Dailey testing young reporters' gullibility by telling them tall tales; those who called him on his exaggerations were deemed worthy journalists.
"It was Mark Dailey's newsroom after the six o'clock [show]went to bed," Mr. Vaughan said. "You couldn't walk in without Mark weighing in with an anecdote."
His offbeat personality apparently showed outside the studio, too. When he had time off, Mr. Dailey would drive a tractor-trailer for a trucking company, said Mr. Sandeman, now manager of the Toronto police video services unit. On one occasion, he said, an elderly couple recognized Mr. Dailey at a rest stop in the United States. After repeatedly denying his identity, he shouted that distinctive slogan towards them as he drove off.
Diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2004, Mr. Dailey beat the disease and became an advocate for men's health. In September, he announced on-air that doctors had found a tumour on his left kidney and that he would be undergoing surgery shortly after watching his daughter, Nicole, marry.
He was also treated with chemotherapy and radiation.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Dailey is survived by his wife, Kim, siblings and parents.