My parents were fans of broadcaster Lloyd Robertson, so I grew up feeling like he was a trusted member of the family. If you also watched Lloyd Robertson on the CBC or CTV news, you will appreciate his new book, The Kind Of Life It’s Been: A Memoir. I was fascinated by the behind-the-scenes anecdotes from a bustling newsroom, and Robertson’s interviews and relationships with media personalities, politicians, and celebrities.
In the mid-fifties, television invaded the broadcast landscape. Some of Robertson’s colleagues believed that TV would not last, and others felt that it spelled the demise of radio. It is fascinating to read the inside scoop on how television developed and radio reinvented itself, changing the nature of twentieth-century society. In the current decade, the television industry is facing new challenges, as old advertising systems break down and the number of media outlets steadily increases.
I was surprised to learn that one of Robertson’s earliest jobs was right here in Guelph, Ontario. Born in Stratford, Ontario in 1934, Robertson began his radio career at CJCS. Always ambitious, Robertson moved to Guelph’s radio station CJOY in 1953! Instead of attending university or college, Robertson developed his skills through on-the-job training. He was also a voracious reader. Perhaps he borrowed books from our library, as it was certainly in close proximity to CJOY at that time (which was located downtown at the main square).
One of the things I enjoyed the most about Robertson’s memoir was his willingness to admit his mistakes, and to share the high and low points in his life. The book is full of humorous stories of Robertson’s personal gaffes, and that of his colleagues. Robertson admits that he once locked himself out of the radio station, leaving the population of Guelph with radio silence. Later in his career, while reading copy on-air, Robertson once stated “pea for peace” instead of “plea for peace.” After a particularly stressful period at the CBC in 1972, when the CBC suffered through one of the ugliest strikes in its history, Robertson experienced a bout of “nervous exhaustion” and was dispatched to Homewood in Guelph. After a short stay he was released, but he remarks that he did fear that he had inherited some of his mother’s genes (she had a lobotomy at one point to deal with her mental illness).
Robertson offers insightful assessments of several prime ministers (from Diefenbaker to Harper), royalty, newscasters, celebrities (even John Lennon is included), and numerous world events (moon landing, Olympics, FLQ crisis, 9/11). Robertson remarks that the riveting television coverage of the Kennedy assassination was the pivotal event that empowered television to rise as a news and information medium.
One of the definitive moments in Lloyd Robertson’s career came when he moved from the CBC to the CTV news. It was a difficult decision and caused a media uproar. Ultimately, Robertson switched jobs to ensure he had more editorial involvement in the newscast. The memoir includes a touching chapter devoted to Terry Fox and his impact on our nation and Robertson himself. Robertson also outlines a typical day in his work life to prove that being an anchor is not an easy job. It involves a lot of preparation, research and prep work. There is also an interesting chapter devoted to frequently asked questions like “what was your worst news day?”
This book was both enjoyable and informative. I gained valuable insights about the transformative news events and newsmakers of our generation and enjoyed some laughs, compliments of a master storyteller.
Place a hold on this memoir today!
If you enjoy biographies, there are several recently published books you may enjoy on a cold winter’s night:
Bruce: The Innocence, The Darkness, The Rising by Peter Carlin
Cronkite by Douglas Brinkley
Mick: The Wild Life And Mad Genius Of Jagger by Christopher Andersen
Next by Gordon Pinsent & George Anthony
Rod: The Autobiography by Rod Stewart
Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young