If there’s such a thing as an accidental journalist, Murray McNeill fits the bill.
When he left the farm for the big city (Winnipeg), his goal was to save some money, go to university to become a conservation officer. But fate intervened in the form of a bleary-eyed roommate who worked as a copy boy at the Free Press. After a Friday night of much reverie and no sleep, he convinced Murray to accompany him to work to ensure he didn’t fall asleep on the job.
Murray found the newsroom and the people who worked there so fascinating, he went back for the next three weekends. By then he was smitten, so Yogi Bear and Boo Boo got kicked to the curb while he pursued a career as a newspaper reporter.
After landing a job as copy boy at the rival Winnipeg Tribune, Murray enrolled in a typing course and in his spare time took whatever reporting assignments the newspaper’s editors would give him. After about a year, he was offered a summer job as an intern reporter, which morphed into a full-time job as a reporter trainee.
He admits those first couple of years were a white-knuckle ride while he learned the ropes. But eventually he did, thanks in large part to the help of some very patient reporters and editors who helped him along the way.
Murray’s career, which to that point had included stints as a police, courts, universities and general-assignment reporter, was briefly interrupted seven years later when Southam Inc. had the gall to shut down The Trib.
But by then, Murray had gained enough experience to land a job as a police/court reporter with the Free Press. For roughly the next seven years, he worked on the police, courts, legislature and general assignment beats. Among the more memorable court cases he covered was the trial of former Saskatchewan cabinet minister Colin Thatcher charged with murdering his ex-wife.
In the late 1980s, Murray was asked to try his hand at business reporting. He liked it so much, he stayed. Today, he continues to cover business news, with a special focus on real estate and Statistics Canada-related stories.
When not at work, Murray can usually be found at home harassing his wife, Sandy, and their two cats. He also spends a ridiculous amount of time chasing squirrels away from the bird feeders in their backyard.
Between the two of them, he and Sandy — OK, maybe it was mostly Sandy — raised three wonderful, well-adjusted children. Matthew, Carly and Krisjan grew up way too fast for their Dad’s liking, and are now making their own way in the world. That leaves Murray to putter around the yard, read, chase squirrels and dream about the day he and Sandy retire and build a little home in Winnipeg Beach.
Like they say, you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.