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"CKY" 2005 Obituary


CKY o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2005-01-15 published
Earl CAMERON, Broadcaster: 1915-2005
The man with the distinctive, rich voice and famously unflinching face lent authority to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the early days of television broadcasting. Never a journalist, 'I just read the words'
By F.F. LANGAN, Special to The Globe and Mail, Saturday, January 15, 2005 - Page S7
Toronto -- Earl CAMERON used to tell the story of how he once walked into a store and found a salesman staring at him.
"Fellow who reads the news on television looks just like you. Ever watch him?"
"No," said Mr. CAMERON, not telling a lie since he couldn't watch himself while he was doing his job.
Early on, he discovered the strange kind of fame that comes with appearing on television. Like the salesman, people thought they knew him but weren't sure.
"People often look at me in the street. They want to say hello, but aren't sure whether I'm somebody's brother or a guy they met recently at a party."
Earl CAMERON was a classic Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announcer, the voice of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's The National, which, in the early part of his tenure from 1959 to 1966, was the only national television newscast in the country. If Lorne GREENE was the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Voice of Doom, then Earl CAMERON was probably its voice from Mount Olympus -- listened to and trusted by the viewers.
"If Earl said it, you knew it was true and that, even with all the miseries, all was well with the world," said Knowlton NASH, who read The National long after Mr. CAMERON.
"He was the last anchor who was part of the old school of broadcasting," said Mr. NASH from his winter home in Naples, Florida "No matter how awful the news -- and he broadcast during the war -- he was always a reassuring presence, giving the impression there were better things ahead."
Mr. CAMERON will long be regarded as "the anchor's anchor" by the corporation. "His skill and professionalism contributed greatly to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's reputation for credibility, objectivity and dependability in our newsgathering and broadcasting, and in our role as Canada's national public broadcaster," said Richard STURSBERG, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation-television's executive vice-president. "He was truly a legend."
All told, Mr. CAMERON read more than 1,500 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation newscasts. His audience believed that if Mr. CAMERON said something -- anything -- then it had to be true. One woman went so far as to say, "he couldn't convince me that black is white, but if he said it, then I would certainly give it some thought."
Back in the days when news on television was a few talking heads and too many words, Mr. CAMERON appeared on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's 11 p.m. news broadcast and became a national institution. He read the news from a script, not a teleprompter, and was famous for his diction and flawless delivery.
His fans included those with an ear for perfectly spoken English. In 1966, television columnist Dennis BRAITHWAITE wrote in The Globe and Mail that "I consider him a uniquely talented news reader, the only one at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation who, in my hearing, has never made a mistake in phrasing or pronunciation."
Earl CAMERON was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan., during the early months of the First World War. He inherited his magnificent voice from his father, Ernest, who was described as having "one of the finest undiscovered bass-baritones in North America" by Sir Arthur Benjamin, the British composer who toured North America judging choral contests.
The elder Mr. CAMERON wanted Earl to become a teacher like his brother and two sisters. Earl did go to Saskatchewan Teachers College, but soon decided the vocation wasn't for him. He liked to tell a story of his brief career in the classroom. "I was hired to teach in a little town called Kildare. This was during the great Western drought of the '30s and it hadn't rained in Kildare for a long time. My second day on the job there was a downpour of 3½ inches. I figured I had done enough for the town, so I left."
Perhaps it wasn't a great idea at the height of the Depression, for he next found work shovelling coal for $18 a week. After that, he worked on the railway for 25 cents an hour. His break came when he heard of an audition for a summer job as an announcer at CHAB, the local Moose Jaw radio station.
"I had about 70 others competing against me for an announcing job. The whole public speaking class at the Young Men's Christian Association," quipped Mr. CAMERON, who had a droll sense of humour despite his unflinching, stone-faced persona. His distinctive, rumbling voice won him the job, and it quickly became permanent.
He soon moved to CKY in Winnipeg and stayed there for four years. The station was owned by the Manitoba Telephone Co. but, as it happened, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation also used the staff and facilities there and Mr. CAMERON quickly made a good impression. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation promptly lured him away and, in 1941, he arrived in Toronto. It wasn't long until he was reading the National Radio News.
After television arrived, Mr. CAMERON served as the backup for Larry HENDERSON, who was the reader at 11 p.m. When Mr. HENDERSON quit in 1959, Mr. CAMERON was given the job of reading the National News.
For the next seven years, he was a familiar face, opening the program with a nod of his head, a hint of a smile and a quiet "good evening." It was a no-nonsense approach to a no-nonsense subject, and both Mr. CAMERON and the network liked it that way. Then he got down to the serious stuff (commercials were not allowed during the news) and he worked hard to avoid the slightest gesture or change in inflection that might betray an emotion or a personal opinion. If the program's editors provided him with a "kicker" to end the newscast, he would permit himself an expression that might suggest a chuckle.
He was the anchor, a term that didn't make it into the Oxford English Dictionary until 1965, from 1959 to 1966. In many ways, he was the last of a breed.
"Earl was devastated when they decided to go with a journalistic anchor rather than a traditional broadcaster," says Larry STOUT, who was then a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation news writer and reporter. "He didn't think of himself as a journalist, but rather as a broadcaster."
That got him into a bit of trouble. Like other announcers, he was allowed to do commercial work. Mr. CAMERON had two big clients Crest toothpaste and Rambler, a car made by American Motors. The toothpaste ads caused some complaints of bias -- by politicians, among others -- and in 1965 Mr. CAMERON was given a choice: no more jobs doing ads if he wanted to keep his high-profile job reading the 11 o'clock news.
In the end, he chose the news over toothpaste, but a year later he was dumped anyway. Mr. CAMERON's replacement as the main reader on The National was Stanley BURK/BURKE, who had worked as a foreign correspondent. Mr. CAMERON took over rotating duties that included reading the early evening news that went across the country. He also introduced the opinion program Viewpoint.
Earl CAMERON was always strictly a newsreader. He wasn't allowed to change a comma of copy. It was a union regulation and not one he minded. "I just read the words."
While his diction may have been perfect, he was wrong on the direction that television news was taking. In 1967, he told the Toronto Telegram, "I've heard that Huntley and Brinkley and Walter Cronkite say that the era of the broadcast journalist is ending and here the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is just trying to start it."
The tradition at almost all television networks now is that the main newsreader is not "just an announcer" but someone who has advanced through the ranks as a reporter. The change did not occur overnight. Stanley BURK/BURKE quit and was replaced by announcers, including Lloyd ROBERTSON.
Peter KENT, a field reporter, read The National after Mr. ROBERTSON and he was followed by others of similar background. For all that, Mr. CAMERON and Mr. ROBERTSON were remembered as newsreaders by the audience and by the comedy troupe SCTV, which played on their names in a running sketch that featured rival anchors Earl Camembert and Floyd Robertson.
After Mr. CAMERON's demotion from his television job, he was still one of two readers for The World at Six on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio. And he stayed on, introducing Viewpoint until it was cancelled in January of 1976. A few months later, Mr. CAMERON retired after 32 years -- and the world seen through a Canadian television screen was never the same again. "He was very, very Canadian," said Mr. NASH. "As Canadian as wheat."
Earl CAMERON was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan., on June 12, 1915. He died Thursday in Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie, Ontario, after a lengthy illness. He was 89. He is survived by his wife, Adelaide and son Harold. He was predeceased by his son Clark, who died in a car accident in 1984. Funeral services will be held on Saturday.

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CKY o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.toronto_star 2005-01-15 published
Earl CAMERON, 89, voice of the National
News anchor retired in 1976
Was announcer at Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for 32 years
By Jim BAWDEN, Television Columnist, Page A18
Earl CAMERON was often called Canada's best-known anonymous man. The onetime warehouse worker from Moose Jaw became Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's " Voice of Doom" when he replaced Lorne GREENE on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's national radio news in the late 1940s and Larry HENDERSON on The National in 1959.
CAMERON, 89, one of only seven men to anchor The National, died Thursday in Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie after a lengthy illness.
Over the years, CAMERON's uncanny resemblance to the mythical "man-in-the-street" Canadian made him a well-respected television figure. Television critic Bob BLACKBURN wrote in 1965: " CAMERON is not just the image of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation news, he is the cultivated image of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation itself: solid, patriarchal, Gibraltary!"
CAMERON took early retirement from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1976, at age 61 and after 32 years with the corporation. Throughout his Canadian Broadcasting Corporation career, he had always been officially a staff announcer. He remained one of the regular newsreaders on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio's The World At Six but had become disappointed over his decreasing role on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Television.
On his last day, he simply dropped off a note for his department head and left for Florida. That was in keeping with a man who was typically "quiet, not ostentatious" said CTV anchor Lloyd ROBERTSON, who knew CAMERON from his early days at Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
"I came to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1954 and we were required to do it all. A typical day for Earl involved reading weather on radio, then hosting a radio jazz show, doing station breaks, too. At 9: 30 he'd stroll over to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News' studio to begin script rehearsals for The National, which went live at 11 p.m. He had to do it all, and he did so calmly, rarely making a mistake. We were required to memorize the pronunciation of difficult names and foreign words, and Earl made it all seem very natural."
Born in 1915, CAMERON ran the gamut of business training and normal school in his Moose Jaw hometown. Local radio station CHAB hired him as a summer replacement at $20 a month.
CAMERON said in 1966 that,1" got the best advice ever from my first boss. He explained to me I was reading for just one person. He said to go into a house, and you'll find one person listening to a radio. Try to talk to just this one person."
CAMERON later moved to Winnipeg radio station CKY for a year, and in 1944 joined Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio in Toronto, from which he rose to top anchor status.
In 1965 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation executives began publicly grumbling that CAMERON was doing too many outside commercials. His association with Rambler cars and Crest toothpaste, though allowed by the union contract, was unseemly for the voice of The National, they said. Under intense pressure, he ended his lucrative contracts.
His television star went into eclipse the next year, when he was replaced as headliner of The National by Stanley BURK/BURKE.
There was never any doubt about CAMERON's announcing abilities his reading was impeccable, but it was the system that was at issue. He was dropped in an effort to break the union jurisdiction which dictated that newsmen could write the scripts but announcers could only read it on air.
Television critic Dennis BRAITHWAITE wrote at the time: "The national news didn't make Earl CAMERON. He made the national news."
CAMERON did not mention his departure on air. For his last broadcast as announcer he simply said, "Now this is Earl CAMERON, saying goodnight for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Television News."
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation offered him a job as host of the public affairs series Viewpoint, reading viewers' letters, but that show was canned in 1976 after an 18-year run.
Retired, CAMERON moved his family to LeFroy, on Lake Simcoe. He did commercials for American Motors and Krona margarine, golfed daily and watched Global's 6 p.m. news.
His retirement didn't stop SCTV from satirizing him and Lloyd ROBERTSON as duelling, argumentative anchors Earl Camembert and Floyd Robertson in skits CAMERON liked because "in this business a little publicity always helps."
CAMERON leaves his wife, Patty; son, Hal; and three grandchildren.

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