Monday 12 October 2020

That's Why I'm a Journalist by Mark Bulgutch


Journalists live fascinating lives, many being fortunate with being witness to some of the biggest stories of our times. It's one of the reasons I wanted to read Mark Bulgutch's That's Why I'm a Journalist.

News stories are like collective memories, encapsulating the most iconic moments in recent history around the world. But to those who work in journalism, up-close involvement with these stories can also be life-changing. In That’s Why I’m a Journalist, veteran broadcaster Mark Bulgutch interviews 44 prominent Canadian journalists, who each share their behind-the-scenes accounts of some of the most memorable stories of their careers and describe the moment that made them say to themselves, "That’s why I’m a journalist." 

 Although many of the contributors' stories are related to their roles in the most high-profile events of the 20th and 21st centuries, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to 9/11, here too are reflections on quieter and more intimate moments that had a deep personal impact. Peter Mansbridge talks about a trip to Vimy Ridge on the hundredth anniversary of World War I, Adrienne Arsenault recalls bringing together old friends separated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Terence McKenna recounts what it’s like to worry about being kidnapped as part of the job and Wendy Mesley reflects on the satisfaction of asking tough questions—and uncovering the truth.

At the beginning of each of the 44 stories in this book, Bulgutch gives a short biography of the journalist telling their story and what led up to the event which they are covering. So many of the Canadian journalists in this book, I not only have heard of have but have watched regularly over the years. Each story is written in the journalist own words and not retold by Bulgutch. 

Some will tell the story of how fascinating or horrifying it was to witness an event, but most tell their personal connections to the story in relation to the people they met during their covering it. I was surprised at the friendships they built with those people, friendships which continued long after the story. 

The stories vary. Some are large and horrific and makes you wonder how they dealt with what they saw for the rest of their lives. Others are smaller, unique, personal stories. 

That's Why I'm a Journalist is a fascinating book, one which makes me want to read his follow up to it, That’s Why I’m a Doctor.

Mark Bulgutch’s own entry into journalism started with a paper route. After journalism school, he worked for the CBC News for over 35 years. He was the senior editor of The National for 11 years and retired as Senior Executive Producer of TV News, which put him in the control room for all major special events, from election nights to commemorations of Remembrance Day. He is the recipient of 14 Gemini awards, 4 RTNDA Awards, the Canadian Journalism Foundation Award of Excellence and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Gold Ribbon Award. He currently lives in Toronto, ON.

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