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Right in the Kisser

by Stephen Lautens


April 7, 2000

As my grandmother used to say, the nut doesn't fall far from the tree.

That why I take such strong exception to a new US survey that says journalists are out of touch. It says that there is a gap between "normal people and journalists."

I was so upset when I read it that I could barely finish my champagne and caviar. I had to send the butler out to get me a cold compress.

The study says journalists have these hoity-toity tastes and hobbies, and really don't understand the things they're reporting on. (If I was really hoity-toity, I'd write "the things on which they are reporting.") That they don't like the common man, and don't share his (or her) interests.

Even though these observations are about American journalists, I still have to take it personally. You see, my family has ink in its veins - newspaper ink.

It all started with my grandfather Joe. He worked the teletype room at the Hamilton Spectator for fifty years. Before the Internet, if anything of importance happened anywhere in the world, newspapers learned about it by a long yellow ribbon of paper covered in punched-out holes. My grandfather kept those teletype machines running.

To a young boy, it was like magic to watch him read the long yellow ribbons as they told about floods in China or riots in Europe.

Joe was married to my grandmother Bertha, who also worked for Canadian Press, but gave it up to raise two boys. One of those boys was my uncle Trevor, who retired last year as an editor of the Vancouver Sun. His columns infuriated his critics and the trendy Lefties. He's part of a rare breed - a really smart conservative.

Along the way I have cousin who was in at the founding of Cosmopolitan Magazine with Helen Gurley Brown. Cousin Morley worked for Time Canada and People Magazine. His daughter Karen produced the Jenny Jones Show, and now does documentaries.

Starting to get the picture?

My brother Richard is a news photographer for the Toronto Star, and a darned good one. It means no one in my family ever has to carry a camera to family events. He does great work, as long as you don't mind waiting for the results. His home-made Christmas cards usually arrive in April.

And then there was Dad.

Through his column at the Toronto Star, my father Gary was best known for his common sense and gentle touch.

Unlike the 3,400 US journalists they studied for the survey, Dad was as far from the Mercedes-driving, racquet-ball playing, yacht-sailing newspaperman as you could get.

He drove a Chev, liked dinner at home, and had no time for phonies. He'd rather spend time with his family than be out getting an award. Unlike the journalists in the US survey, he didn't own a hot tub, hang out in jazz clubs or play the stock market.

Maybe that's what made him so good at what he did.

When Dad died eight years ago, he left shoes no one could fill. So much so, I was hesitant to get into the same field. But, like Grandma said, the nut doesn't fall far from the tree, so here I am.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to supervise the maid while she polishes the silver.


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