Jack spent a total of 68 years in the news business, forty of them in Canada in and 27 of those on open-line radio and television broadcasts.
The son of a Clydeside ironturner, he is a Canadian media giant who pioneered talk radio and television. Hundreds of thousands of listeners and viewers tuned in eagerly to hear his abrasive Scots baritone champion the cause of the little guy.
Jack was born in Glasgow in 1918, and, as he never tired of telling, held down junior reporter jobs with two and three newspapers at a time, honing both his craft and his brogue in Glasgow and on Fleet Street. When the War broke out Jack joined the British Army and rose to the rank of major, with most of his six years’ service in the Middle East.
Emigrating to Canada after the Second World War, he covered the labor beat for the Vancouver Sun. In 1953, he brought his hard-hitting reporting style to commercial radio, making his mark broadcasting shorthand transcripts of testimony during a sensational probe into corruption on Vancouver’s police force.
He made ordinary people feel important, and he could make people who felt important seem ordinary. And that was a gift. – Bill Good
In 1963, Webster himself was the news when he acted as a mediator between hostage-holding prisoners and the authorities during an aborted escape attempt at the BC Penitentiary.
At the age of 60, Jack moved his radio show to television where his familiar expression ‘9 am precisely’ became the moniker for his highly rated Webster show. For eight years until his retirement in 1987, the gruff Scot could be seen and heard on BCTV sparring with his guests.
His late friend, columnist Marjorie Nichols wrote that Jack Webster was “a permanent fixture on the provincial stage, the information impresario to an entire generation of British Columbians that has been suckled on the daily diet of news that has been piped through the Webster pen and microphone”.
He won most of the major Canadian radio and television awards. He was a ‘reporter’s reporter’. In 1987, he was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame and was later appointed a member of the Order of Canada.
His friend, Bill Good said at his wake: ‘He made ordinary people feel important, and he could make people who felt important seem ordinary. And that was a gift.”
We believe it will always be said of Jack Webster, proud son of British Columbia, that his voice made a difference.