Sunday, 13 April 2014

"Making the words work" — Jim Taylor

When Jim Taylor and John Short are sitting across from you at the dinner table, you’re in for a real treat. And, if you happen to be a newspaper reporter like me, listening to two veterans spin stories about their adventures is an unforgettable evening, laced with subtle lessons — just like how they write.

Jim wrote over 7,500 sports columns for newspapers including the Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Province and Calgary Sun. John wrote sports for the Globe and Mail, the Canadian Press, the Edmonton Journal and he is a colleague of mine at the Edmonton Sun.

Jim was in town Thursday to be part a charity event. A few weeks ago he suggested the three of us have dinner “and tell a few stories.”

I just listened. I may have been in the newspaper business for over 30 years, but, frankly, I felt like a journalism student taking his last class.

Jim and John met in the mid-1960’s, decades before the Internet. They relied on notepads and manual typewriters to write their stories and columns. But, more important: their reputation.

Jim gave a great example: he was writing a book with Wayne Gretzky, and several days before Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles, Jim had the story. But he had an agreement with Wayne: not to write anything in the newspaper he discovered while writing the book.

And he didn’t.

I have to wonder if that would have happened in today’s social media.

John says reporters and people they write about these days don’t share time together like they used to — over dinner, or over a cup of coffee. Building relationships are so very important in any business, especially the media.

Funny thing happened, too. Nobody’s cell phone went off once over dinner.

Mrs. Tait joined us and I’m glad she got a glimpse of newspaper reporting years ago.

“I have never heard you so quiet over dinner in the 19 years we’ve been married,” she said.

And that made me wonder if, perhaps, I don’t listen enough.

Twitter @camtait

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