Christie Blatchford

Christie Blatchford, journalist, newspaper columnist, writer, broadcaster (born 20 May 1951 in Rouyn-Noranda, QC; died 12 February 2020 in Toronto, ON). Christie Blatchford was one of Canada’s best-known journalists. In a career spanning five decades, she wrote for all of Canada’s national daily newspapers — the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the National Post — as well as the Toronto Sun. She also published several books, including Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army (2008), which won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction. Blatchford won a National Newspaper Award for her columns in 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame in November 2019. She was a conservative writer who focused mainly on crime, human suffering and criminal justice. Her often controversial views prompted strong reactions and media responses.

Early Years and Career

Christie Blatchford grew up in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, where her father managed the local hockey rink and community centre. She gravitated to journalism as a child, writing and publishing her own newspaper and distributing it at the hockey rink. She moved to Toronto with her family when she was in high school.

While studying journalism at Toronto’s Ryerson Polytechnic Institute(now Ryerson University), Blatchford worked as a part-time copy editor at the Globe and Mail. After she graduated at the top of her class in 1973, she was hired by the Globe as a reporter. She landed her first big scoop in 1974 when she accompanied Cindy Nicholas’s support team during her record-setting swim across Lake Ontario. She then became a sports columnist for the Globe and Mail(she was one of the first women in North America to hold that position) and a columnist for the;Toronto Star.

Journalism Career

Blatchford later worked at the Toronto Sun, where she wrote for almost 20 years as a lifestyle columnist and a city columnist. She started writing for the National Post when the paper launched in 1998. She became a columnist at theGlobe and Mail in 2003 and returned to theNational Postin 2011.

Blatchford garnered many critics over the years as well as many fans. She was considered a conservative writer whose views prompted strong reactions and media responses. Her writing focused on a variety of issues, mainly crime, human suffering and criminal justice cases. She covered the trials of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, Russell Williams, Jian Ghomeshi and Mike Duffy.

In 1999, Christie Blatchford won a National Newspaper Award for her columns. In addition to her newspaper work and her books, she was also a radio commentator for CFRB Toronto and CJAD Montreal.

Books and Controversies

Christie Blatchford’s first book,Spectator Sports(1986), was a collection of comic reflections on life, love and current events that were originally published as columns in the Toronto Sun. In 1988, she published a similar book of essays calledClose Encounters. Both books were nominated for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour.

In 2006, she spent half a year in Afghanistan as an embedded journalist with the Canadian Armed Forces. Her third book,Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army(2008), was based on this experience. It won the 2008 Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction. The book focuses on 15 significant days in the Canadian Armed Forces’ time in Afghanistan. Blatchford spent time getting to know the soldiers and their families while researching the book, which focuses on members of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Blatchford wrote with tenderness and concern for the victories, trials and tragedies that touched both the soldiers and their families in Canada. She let the reader into a world of war, which is normally unknown to the civilian population. However, the book also drew criticism for excluding the perspective of those who were opposed to, or wary of, the war in Afghanistan.

Blatchford’s fourth book,Helpless: Caledonia's Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us(2010), was surrounded by controversy and accusations of racism against Indigenous people. The book condemns the inaction of the government and police forces during land disputes between the residents of the Six Nations of the Grand River and a development near Caledonia, Ontario, culminating in blockades in 2006. Blatchford sympathized with the non-Indigenous people involved in the dispute, while not providing a voice for the Indigenous people. Both critics and supporters of Blatchford’s work suggested she did not focus strongly on the historical context of the conflict and, as a result, did not provide readers with the complete story.

Blatchford caused controversy again in 2013. Her column about Rehtaeh Parsons, a Nova Scotia teenager who committed suicide after being sexually assaulted, was criticized by many readers as a form of victim blaming. Parson’s mother posted a message on Facebook calling Blatchford’s piece a “biased, degrading and harassing article.”

Honours and Death

In addition to a Governor General’s Literary Award and a National Newspaper Award, Blatchford won several Dunlop Awards and the 2019 George Jonas Freedom Award. She was also a finalist for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing in 2016.

Blatchford was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame in November 2019. That same month, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She died from the disease at the age of 68. Following her death, the Toronto Sun’s Liz Braun wrote, “Blatchford became a superstar of journalism through her coverage of crime and the courts. Her writing changed the face of court coverage.” Ontario Premier Doug Ford called her “a legend” and former premier Kathleen Wynne said she was “a terrific reporter, a smart, feisty woman and a razor-sharp wit.”

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