Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award
Brian CoxfordAs any good reporter will tell you, if you want to get the goods on someone, go to the people that person works with - day in and day out.
Brian Coxford, this year's recipient of the Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award (see page 3), had a career in journalism that spanned more than 45 years, nearly 40 of those at Global BC and its predecessor BCTV. We went to his supervisors and workmates, some of whom have toiled alongside him for much of that time and asked them what it was like to work with him.
We got an earful.
"He was very passionate about exploring issues," said Steve Wyatt, former BCTV news director and senior vice-president of news for the Global TV network. Steve remembered Brian coming to BCTV management with an audacious ask - a ton of money for a major tour of Europe to find out how other countries funded healthcare.
"Rather than just go at it from the perspective of the usual reporting style of getting 'he said, she said,' Brian said 'I want to travel to Europe and I want to examine how places like France and Sweden fund their health care systems because on the surface it looks like they are more efficient and more effective than ours.'
"He fought really hard. He got the funding. He travelled to Europe. His research was impeccable and he lined up several experts from several countries. And he came back with a series of reports that were well researched and beautifully told. What he achieved was to ignite a whole new layer of public debate over public health care.
"He was always the kind of reporter who would like to go beyond the histrionics of an issue and try to get an understanding elsewhere of the ideas on how it might be changed for the better. In my mind, that's good journalism."
Clive Jackson, who worked with Brian for the last 35 years, says Coxford was an assignment editor's dream come true.
"From my point of view he was great," said Jackson, now managing editor at Global News.
Clive remembers in particular Brian breaking stories on the grisly murders of Johnson-Bentley family in 1982, in which David Shearing killed six members of the family in Wells Gray Provincial Park.
"He was able to do everything from breaking news and crime to politics to stories on the resource industry and health care. The thing about Brian is that unlike a lot of reporters you could put him into a combination of hard news and features. He was so ambidextrous."
Clive also remembers how Brian earned his nickname, "Cardiac Coxford."
"Everything he did was down to the wire," Jackson laughed. "Producers would tear their hair out. I mean he didn't make his spot every time."
In the end, Brian's stories were masterfully created, said Clive. "He was able to combine words and pictures and turn it into compelling journalism in a visual medium."
Linda Aylesworth, a 33-year veteran of Global-BCTV, said she understood why Brian sometimes took things to the last minute. "He is one of the sweetest guys you will ever meet and always has time to chat, which sometimes is a concern for his editors. He loves to talk to people."
If he sometimes tested people's patience, he was also an incredible asset in the newsroom, Linda said.
"The thing about Brian is he is so versatile - we all should be so versatile. Brian really and truly could do anything really well. He was totally a "jack of all trades" and master of the dying art of story telling."
As every television reporter knows, you're nothing without a pro behind the camera that accompanies you. Cameraman Karl Casselman worked with Brian from 1987 until Brian's retirement this past August. He remembers him as a reporter who took on hypocrisy and double talk head on.
"He was always passionate when things were askew, like in the softwood lumber dispute." One mill owner in Atlanta, Ga., who led the fight against what US forest companies considered an unfair Canadian competitive advantage - an 80-cent Canadian dollar. Brian exposed the mill owner for his hypocrisy by noting he was buying Canadian mill equipment at a discount and paying his employees $8 an hour.
Like Clive, Karl remembers well how Brian earned his nickname, including one nail-biting episode in New York.
"We were rushing back from covering John Furlong who had been addressing the United Nations before the (Vancouver) Olympics. We were dashing back on deadline to our feed point, screaming along in a New York taxi. Brian starts talking to the cabbie and after a few minutes it is like they are best friends. Here we are on deadline and Brian is asking the cabbie where he is from and what's it like working in New York. Brian just loved talking to people.
"At the end of the day, Brian's explanation was 'I just want to tell a good story.' "
See the dinner presentation video for Brian Coxford.
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