World Renowned Journalist Visits Rye’s Own
Joe Schlesinger of the famed Canadian Broadcasting Company programme ‘Newsworld’ was at the Rye’s Own Office on Saturday 22 February to interview Editor Jim Hollands and Copy Reader Jo’ Vincent about their views on the situation regarding Iraq. They also called on Mayor Peter Dyce, Annie Jay of the Magic Wardrobe Boutique and John Izod at the Old Grammar School Record Shop.
Joe Schlesinger was born in Vienna in 1928 to parents who lived in nearby Bratislava in Czechoslovakia. In 1939, after Hitler dismembered Czechoslovakia and occupied most of it, Joe’s parents sent him and his younger brother for safety to relatives in England.
When Schlesinger returned to Czechoslovakia at the end of World War II in 1945, he found that his parents had been killed in The Holocaust. In 1948, he got his first journalistic job as a translator at the Prague bureau of the Associated Press. When the communists took over in Czechoslovakia and started arresting AP staffers, he fled across the Iron Curtain to Austria and in 1950 went to Canada.
He started in Canada by working on construction jobs in Vancouver and on B.C. coastal ships. In 1951, he enrolled at the University of British Columbia, wandered into the Ubyssey, the UBC’s student newspaper, and eventually became its editor-in-chief. He then worked as a reporter for the Vancouver Province and the Toronto Star, as an editor at the UPI bureau in London, England, and at the European Herald Tribune in Paris. In 1964, he was named assistant managing editor of the Paris Trib.
In 1966, he returned to Canada and joined the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in Toronto. Except for a brief stint as foreign editor of the Toronto Star, he has been with the CBC ever since. He served both as executive producer of The National and head of CBC TV News.
In 1970, Schlesinger went overseas again, this time as the CBC’s Far East correspondent based in Hong Kong. This was followed over the next 20 years by postings to Paris (74-79), Washington (79-90) and Berlin (90-91).
He reported on wars in Vietnam and in the rest of Indochina, the ’71 war between India and Pakistan, the guerrilla wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador of the eighties, the Israeli-Arab conflict at various times, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in ’80, earthquakes in Italy, Iran and Romania, haute couture and haute cuisine in Paris, revolutions in Portugal, Iran and Mao Dzedong’s Cultural Revolution in China. Finally, 50 years after he first left Czechoslovakia as a refugee from tyranny, he was privileged to return to Prague to witness the Velvet Revolution that overthrew the communist regime in his own homeland.
Schlesinger also reported on the comings and goings of world leaders. He was in Russia with Richard Nixon, in China with Pierre Trudeau, in the Middle East with Jimmy Carter, in Tehran when the Shah fell and Ayatollah Khomeini returned to take over, in St. Peter’s Square when John Paul II became pope and with him on his travels in Poland, Argentina, Canada and the U.S., in Europe with Jerry Ford, with Brian Mulroney in Africa, with Ronald Reagan on many of his travels, including his summit meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev, and in Mexico with Jean Chretien.
The last war Schlesinger covered was the Gulf War in 1991. Shortly thereafter he came back to Canada as the CBC’s Chief Political Correspondent in Ottawa. In 1994, Joe retired from the CBC news service and moved back to Toronto. He has, however, continued to contribute to CBC Television programmes, first as the host for five years of his own foreign affairs show on Newsworld, and now as co-host and contributor to Newsworld’s “Foreign Assignment” programme.
A book of Schlesinger’s memoirs, “Time Zones,” was published in 1990 and became a best-seller.
Joe has been honoured a number of times for his journalism. He won three Gemini awards and the John Drainie award for distinguished contribution to broadcasting. He was awarded honorary doctorates by UBC, The Royal Military College and Dalhousie University. In 1994, he was named a member of the Order of Canada.
But for Joe, the most rewarding of all has been “the joy and marvellous fortune” of being the husband of Mike, the father of Leah and Ann and grandfather of Rachel and Antonia
From Rye’s Own March Issue 2003