Newsman Timothy Pritchard’s last published piece, his own tightly written death notice, made no mention of the illustrious career that helped transform the way business news is reported in Canada. Instead, Mr. Pritchard wrote about the psychic dividends of retirement: playing hockey into his mid-70s with a Huff N' Puff league, enjoying lavish meals with his family of foodies, and clearing brush at his hobby farm southwest of Stratford, Ont.
“Mixer of excellent martinis” also made it into the lede of the obituary Mr. Pritchard penned before he died on Sept. 4 of complications from prostate and bone cancer. He was 81.
Whether or not the down-to-earth Mr. Pritchard considered his contributions to journalism newsworthy, he is remembered in newspaper circles as a legendary editor. As he moved through a series of management roles at The Financial Times of Canada, The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business – which he led through the 1980s – and The Financial Post, where he finished his career, Mr. Pritchard enhanced the tone and quality of financial reporting in Canada, say former employees and management colleagues. Following the lead of The Wall Street Journal and Forbes in the United States, Mr. Pritchard encouraged Canadian business scribes to be more analytical and critical in their coverage.
“He was very supportive of people once he had hired them, putting them in positions where they could experiment and bring new ideas for covering business,” says Carleton University journalism professor Christopher Waddell, who won two National Newspaper Awards for business coverage at The Globe after Mr. Pritchard poached him from The Financial Post in 1984.
Mr. Pritchard demanded more than a dry recitation of facts and figures, but would rein in excess verbiage, recalls Greg Keenan, another Globe colleague. “Even after he retired, he remained an editor. We went to see a production of Henry V at the Stratford Festival together a few years after he retired. After it was over he turned to me and said ‘I could have taken half an hour out of that.’”
Mr. Pritchard was, for the most part, a genial manager. “Whaddya got?” he would ask reporters as he made the daily rounds with a pen and scrap of paper. But he could be tough, sometimes brusque. “Resignation has two Ns, so I hope you spelled it right in your letter,” he once told an aggrieved ROB reporter, who later recounted it as one of his favourite memories from the Pritchard era.
In an industry notorious for frequent regime changes at the executive level, Mr. Pritchard was also adept at managing up. “He was adaptable without sacrificing any of his principles,” says Colin MacKenzie, a former Globe management colleague and hockey teammate before Mr. Pritchard and his wife retired to their 96-acre retirement property near St. Marys, where they lived for 17 years before moving to Stratford when it became too hard to maintain.
Not that he was a yes man. When William Thorsell was appointed editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail in 1989, he recruited Mr. Pritchard from the ROB to be managing editor. “I liked the sign facing outward on his desk: ‘What is it about No you don’t understand?’ … He knew the newsroom upside down and was a source of wisdom and balance, always with that wry edge of skepticism just below the surface,” Mr. Thorsell said. After three years in the role, Mr. Pritchard decided to take a break from management and assigned himself to the auto beat.
Mr. Pritchard’s most treasured memory from his time as managing editor was an early morning phone call in late August, 1989, from Marlon Brando. The actor told the astonished Mr. Pritchard that he admired The Globe’s coverage of Indigenous issues, was shooting a film in Toronto and wanted to talk. Murray Campbell, the only reporter in the newsroom at the time, was dispatched to the film set of The Freshman, where Mr. Brando told him he was fed up, was retiring from the business and wished he “hadn’t finished with a stinker.” Mr Campbell had no idea it was the first interview Mr. Brando had given in years. “When I wrote that he was giving up show business, it made headlines around the world. … I think Tim loved that The Globe was being mentioned on five continents.”
Born in Toronto on April 18, 1939, Mr. Pritchard spent most of his childhood in Winnipeg and Calgary, where he developed his passion for hockey, before returning to Toronto in his teens. His parents, Geoffrey and Eileen, hoped Tim, the eldest of four, would follow in his father’s footsteps as a professional engineer. But he opted to study journalism at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute (now Ryerson University) and found work in the 1960s covering business – then considered “a backwater” beat that ambitious journalists avoided, Mr. Pritchard later recalled.
He was married by then, having met Vicki Foti, who was a first-year journalism student in radio and television arts at Ryerson when he was in third year. Tim was a sports reporter for the school paper; Vicki was a cheerleader.
“My plan was to spend a couple of years in that stagnant [business] milieu, learn what other kinds of enterprise had a more promising future and put scribbling behind me,” he wrote in a 2002 Globe and Mail article, headlined How the Backwater of Business Reporting Flooded the Front Page. “To my surprise, business reporting proved to have lots of potential, and it challenged and engaged me for the rest of my working life. Once dull fare for the wealthy or elite, the coverage of business and economics moved into the media’s mainstream.”
Mr. Pritchard kept his hand in after retirement, writing Canadian business stories for The New York Times between 1999 and 2001, but he gave it up because breaking news was interfering with his “tractor time,” says family friend Kimberley Noble, another award-winning reporter from Mr. Pritchard’s ROB days.
Ms. Noble and her journalist husband Dan Westell were among a group of friends invited to visit when the Pritchard family rented a house in the south of France for a month in the summer of 2019.
Mr. Pritchard leaves his wife, whose career in the travel business enabled them to travel the world; daughters, Tracey and Jennifer Pritchard; grandchildren, Alexandra O’Shea, Nicholas and Jack Murphy, Ruth Pritchard; and great-granddaughter, Freya O’Shea.