For 41 straight years, Lloyd Robertson delivered the news to Canadians, first as an anchor for CBC television and later during a 35-year run at CTV. The Stratford, Ontario-born newsman got in on the ground floor of television. He started in radio, got bored and moved to Winnipeg in 1956 to make his mark in the fledgling industry.
During the span of his career he met and interviewed prime ministers, world leaders, entertainers and visionaries. He talked to John Lennon and Yoko Ono after their Montreal "bed-in" and to Terry Fox as he inspired Canada with his cross-country run.
When he stepped away from the anchor's desk last fall, Robertson, 78, completed his memoir, The Kind Of Life It's Been. He will be at McNally Robinson on Tuesday to speak, answer questions and sign copies of the book.
You started your television career in Winnipeg, didn't you?
"I was here from January 1956 until June of 1960. The Winnipeg station had started in late '54, early '55. I was in Windsor working in radio for the CBC. It was pretty boring, actually. I thought, 'I can't spend my life doing this sort of thing' and television was opening up and so I thought, 'Well, I'll apply for TV.' Then a job came up in Winnipeg and I applied and headed out there.
"I tell you, I went out there as a single guy but I was married to my Stratford girlfriend that first year and we just loved Winnipeg. The people, we had relationships that turned out to be lifelong relationships and we just had a wonderful time there. I can't say enough of the generosity and the humanity of the people in Winnipeg. It really is a wonderful place. I say in the book about Winnipeg often getting a bad reputation because it's isolated and the winters are cold and all that stuff but it's all made up for by the warmth of the people.
What are some of your career highlights?
"Well, the one I remember was the moon landing of 1969. Here's this little kid from Stratford, with no post-secondary education. You have to remember there were no journalism schools when I started, there was certainly nothing to teach you about television. When I started in Winnipeg I just learned by doing in TV. When I got further along I kept thinking, 'Wow, I'm doing pretty well in a business that's pretty hard for a lot of people because it's very Darwinian. There's a real weeding out in television.
"When I got to Toronto and I was able to do the moon landing in July of 1969 I thought 'Good grief, here I am in this history-making moment.' And I got up from the desk when we had a break and I walked out into the parking lot. It was the CBC building in Toronto. I looked up at the moon and Neil Armstrong had just put his boot down in that famous boot print... and he'd uttered his famous line 'one small step for man' and I pinched myself. Could I really be doing all of this? This little kid from Southern Ontario?
"I have no regrets. I just feel extremely lucky to have been a part of it all. If I have a regret it has to do with not being able to be there enough with my girls when they were growing up. My regret would be on the personal side, not the professional side. The professional side has been so very good to me.
"But on the personal side, I was not there when I should have been for some of those early times when they were graduating from high school or that kind of thing. I wasn't there for the PTA meetings, you know? I was very conscious, when I got on a regular shift pattern in later years, of rebuilding that relationship with my daughter. I have a very strong relationship with them now. Nancy, my wife, was the rock for all those years.
Do women have an easier time on television now? It used to be the male anchors were allowed to become seasoned and the women just disappeared.
"I'm a big fan of Candy Crowley, of Diane Sawyer. The example that was always used was 'Well look at (corpulent former television reporter Mike) Duffy. If a woman were that fat would she be tolerated on TV?'
"I don't think you get that kind of question now. I think it's different for women. And when (Robertson's replacement) Lisa LaFlamme took the news after I left, there were very few questions about 'Are you putting her in just to have a woman in the job?' I said constantly, 'This woman is getting this job purely on merit because she's great. She was a great communicator, she was a terrific reporter, she handled herself well in front of crowds. She had every aptitude you need to do the anchor job well. She was a natural for it. The fact that she was a woman was almost incidental in the end."
Do you think the way people look for news has changed?
"We're in the midst of a revolution right now in that respect because we're all into Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia and all those things, crowd-sourcing, what have you. I don't agree with the gurus who say people don't care where they get their news from anymore. I think they still do. I see people still coming back to their reliable sources. I can't see, certainly in my time, a day coming when people will rely on the gossip that's floating around. They'll go to Twitter and they'll go on the Internet, to blog sites and so on, because they want to see the gossip. They want to see what's moving, but a lot of that is faulty evidence, it's flawed analysis and very biased opinion. I want to believe they don't really take it all that seriously."
Do you tweet? Are you on Facebook?
"I guess maybe it's generational. I tweeted during the election campaign in 2011 and I was on for a bit but I really couldn't get into it. I didn't care what certain of the bloggers were having for breakfast that day or who they'd run into on the street. After the election campaign it just doesn't seem very important any more."