Au revoir and thank you for your trust


After more than 40 years in journalism, 29 of them in Montreal, Lucinda Chodan will be retiring on Feb. 25 as editor in chief of the Gazette.

Article content

Over the last four decades, I have written hundreds of articles for the Montreal Gazette. This one has been the hardest of all to start. But here goes.

advertisement

Article content

This is my last column as editor in chief of the Gazette. After more than 40 years in journalism, 29 of them here in Montreal, I will be retiring on Feb. 25.

Over the course of my career, I have worked as a journalist in four Canadian cities: Victoria, Toronto, Edmonton (on two different occasions) and Montreal (twice). I was at the Gazette near the start of my career; I came back to become editor in chief in 2013. In the past three and a half years, I have split my focus between my role here and my responsibilities as senior vice-president of editorial content for Postmedia, the news organization to which this newspaper belongs.

But the Gazette has always been my home and my lodestar, ever since I walked in the doors at 250 St. Antoine St. W. and rode up the long escalator past the bright yellow Goss presses on Monday, Oct. 22, 1984.

advertisement

Article content

I was awed by the grandeur of the building — my last newsroom had been in a nondescript mall near Refinery Row in Edmonton. I was dazzled by my colleagues: at the time the newsroom included household names like cartoonist Terry Mosher (aka Aislin), sportswriter Red Fisher, restaurant critic Helen Rochester, books editor Doris Giller and boulevardier-cum-columnist Nick Auf der Maur.

And most of all, I was inspired by the Gazette itself, founded in 1778. As history ebbed and flowed for more than two centuries, this newspaper was there to bear witness. That tradition of long and impassioned service to this city and province imbued me with a sense of responsibility about my role at one of North America’s longest continuously publishing daily newspapers.

advertisement

Article content

Lucinda Chodan on assignment in China in April 1987. She traveled to Beijing to cover the filming of Bethune, a fictionalized biography of Montreal surgeon Norman Bethune, who became a hero in China in the 1930s.
Lucinda Chodan on assignment in China in April 1987. She traveled to Beijing to cover the filming of Bethune, a fictionalized biography of Montreal surgeon Norman Bethune, who became a hero in China in the 1930s. Photo by Courtesy of Kevin Tierney

So when it came to shaping a 2017 marketing campaign for Postmedia, I volunteered to write the story of the Gazette. (That is not usually in the job description of an editor in chief, but I didn’t think anyone else would do it right — a general attitude that has got me into plenty of extra work over the decades.)

The campaign was called “Built on trust.” Here’s what appeared on our front page on March 30, 2017.

The Montreal Gazette was there for readers when the French Revolution began. When Mozart died. When Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo.

We’ve reported on the Patriotes rebellion and Canadian Confederation, the Quiet Revolution and Expo 67 and the first and second referendums on Quebec sovereignty.

Our journalism has unearthed scandals and uncovered cover-ups. Over the last twenty years alone, our reporters, editors and photographers have been nominated for dozens of provincial and national awards for their unflinching truth-telling.

advertisement

Article content

We have raged and laughed and cried with you through almost two and a half centuries of Montreal history. We don’t plan to stop now.

I still believe every single word of that. And I know the journalists in our newsroom, and the rest of the team here, are committed to it, too.

My time at the Gazette has included the Meech Lake Accord. The Polytechnique murders. The Guns N’ Roses riot. The second Quebec referendum. The Ice Storm. The mosque shootings in Quebec City. The election of Montreal’s first female major. The deaths of René Lévesque and Pierre Trudeau, Lili St. Cyr and Oscar Peterson, Rocket Richard and Claire Kirkland-Casgrain.

We covered all of those momentous events, and many more. But one of the things I am most proud of is our coverage of a once-in-a-century pandemic. Unflinching truth-telling, indeed — our reporting helped reveal the degree to which our health-care system was crumbling and Quebecers were dying because of COVID-19. We broke news that shocked the province and infuriated the premier. And we helped Quebecers navigate this unprecedented health emergency as our leaders sometimes lost their way.

advertisement

Article content

In my national role at Postmedia, I am responsible for more than 120 newsrooms across Canada, and I can assure you that the Gazette’s reporters, photographers and editors are as fine and principled a group of journalists as you will find anywhere in this country. They do what journalists are supposed to do: provide the public with fair, balanced news and information so that our community, and democracy, can continue to function.

While we offer information and commentary that is important to everyone in the province, the Gazette’s role as a voice and a platform for English-speaking Quebecers is something we take very seriously. At a time when our community is being increasingly marginalized and undermined, that mission seems more important than ever.

advertisement

Article content

You are the raison d’être for all of that. Over the years, I have told you about new columnists, old photographs, and dozens of changes in our content, our sectioning, and our design. (No, we have NEVER made the typeface smaller.) Recently, I have written to you about the importance of respectful political dialogue; our challenges with home delivery; and my gratitude for your generous support of the Christmas Fund.

I have been in touch with hundreds of you individually about topics ranging from editorial integrity to mistakes in the TV listings. Almost every single encounter has been enlightening for me; I have done my best to make sure you have felt heard and respected. (To those four or five people I shouted at over the years — I apologize, but you should not have kept yelling at me.)

Without your encouragement, your support, your feedback and your commitment to our community, there would be no Gazette.

So thank you from the bottom of my heart. It has been a pleasure and a privilege serving in this position.

[email protected]

    advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user follows comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your e-mail settings.


Leave a Comment