Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Let me tell you about Doug

Publisher offers a unique insight into our favourite funny man

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Eds. note: Doug Speirs failed to file his column under strict new guidelines imposed by the publisher. "Get the column in before we send the newspaper to the presses," the publisher barked. "But the B.C. Lions are playing," Speirs said, "and I have to get my hair cut and the dogs need to be walked..."

"Look, Doug, anybody could do what you do," the publisher said. "If you don't do it, I'll do it myself." You know the rest of the story. So here is the publisher's humour column. We all laughed, in the appropriate places for the appropriate amount of time, and we really meant it since, well, he is the publisher.


Today's column is about Doug. It couldn't be by Doug for the reasons stated above.

Many people think Doug makes up his columns, or at least wildly embellishes parts of his life to make them funny. He doesn't. In fact, he withholds true facts that people simply wouldn't believe.

Doug jokingly writes that he spends most of his time on the couch watching TV. This is not true. He spends all of his time on the couch watching TV.

Doug lives for leisure.

My introduction to Doug came in the Free Press newsroom on a frozen January day in 1984. I was a young reporter anxious to work hard and prove myself.

His first words were: "Let's go to lunch." He then led half the editorial staff out of the newsroom for an hour and a half meal in downtown Winnipeg.

Doug has a massive appetite for a lot of everything. He is incapable of ordering a beer for himself. He must order, at the least, "beer and wings." He says it as if it is one thing, and, in many ways it is for Doug.

Doug can't simply buy coffee for himself. Any time Doug goes for coffee, he returns with a variety of lattes, dark roasts and other blends, which he distributes around to various people in the newsroom. He spends about $200 a week at Starbucks.

You should never walk into a store with Doug if you are in a hurry. He will look at everything, want to buy half of it for himself, and urge you to buy the other half.

This even applies to corner stores. If I go into 7-Eleven for a drink, I emerge with a drink and, maybe, a newspaper.

Doug emerges with at least one bag, which will contain three different drinks -- "These are new; I haven't tried them yet" -- two chocolate bars, a couple of magazines and a bag of chips, worth about $25. And that's on the way home from the gym.

Doug wants everyone to share his attitude.

My two children were introduced to Doug four years ago.

"Who wants chocolate milk?" he said by way of greeting.

He emerged from the kitchen with two giant glasses, each containing about a litre of chocolate milk.

"That's a bit much," I ventured before Doug stopped me. "In my house, this is a small," he said as he slapped one glass in front of my wide-eyed six-year-old.

By the end of the evening, my two girls had cut out a circle of paper, put a ribbon on it and awarded Doug a gold medal in barbecuing.

Doug's generosity extends to all life forms. He really doesn't make a distinction between dogs and humans.

His dogs sleep in his bed, sit on his couch, even watch TV and cheer for the B.C. Lions right along with him.

My own dog does not get treats, except when Doug is around.

One summer day, sitting by the pool in my backyard, Doug started pouring his beer on the deck so that my dog could lick it up. Who wants to drink alone?

He even topped that one evening. My dog jumped on the couch, where he is not supposed to be, to sit beside his favourite human. Doug shared his after-dinner liqueur with the dog -- by letting him drink out of the glass.

People who read Doug's columns are often surprised to learn Doug has had a long history at the Free Press and has held senior editorial positions at the paper.

I'm the reason he no longer does that.

Doug has always been funny. One of his first jobs at the paper was to write an "Answers" column. It was supposed to provide serious answers to questions posed by readers. Doug didn't quite see it that way. When asked what you could do with old pairs of glasses, Doug wrote that they make lovely Christmas tree ornaments. Perhaps not surprisingly, he lost the job of writing the Answers column.

So, 20 years later, I thought it was time for Doug to share his humour again, just as he likes to share everything with everybody.

Sure it's distracting, but many readers have told us that is just what they want -- a bit of fun and distraction amidst the seriousness of the day's news.

Nobody does that better than Doug.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 16, 2009 A2

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About Bob Cox

Bob Cox was named publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press in November 2007. He joined the newspaper as editor in May 2005.

"Rejoined" is a better word for it, because Bob first worked at the newspaper as a reporter in January 1984. He covered crime and courts for three years before getting restless and moving on to other journalism jobs.

Since then, his career has spanned four provinces and five cities. Highlights include working in Ottawa for the Canadian Press covering Prime Minister Jean Chrétien during his first term in office, and five years at the Globe and Mail in Toronto, first as national editor and later as night editor.

Bob grew up on a farm in southwestern Ontario, but has spent most of his adult life in Western Canada in Winnipeg, Regina and Edmonton.


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