Joe Schlesinger (seen in 2009) died Monday, leaving nothing but praise and admiration in his wake. To his fellow reporters and journalists, including Brian Stewart (see interview belowl), Schlesinger was a reporter's reporter. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese)

Joe Schlesinger dies, leaving a legacy few will match


Canada lost an important part of her history on Monday.

Joe Schlesinger died.

He wasn’t really famous, though he appeared a lot on television.

Joe Schlesinger covered some of the key events of the 20th century as a foreign correspondent for CBC News: the Iranian Revolution, the Contra war in Nicaragua, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the first Persian Gulf war, among many others. (CBC)

He wasn’t especially pompous, though his body of work might have given him cause to be so.

He was a reporter.

Reporters are called journalists now, but when Schlesinger started in the news business, guys like him were called reporters.

News rooms were different then.

Jimmy Breslin, the noted New York City newspaper columnist, once vowed that he would never work any place where you couldn’t put your cigarette out on the floor.

Joe Schlesinger, right, in Amman, Jordan, in 1991. (CBC)

That’s what it was like when Schlesinger started in the news business with a desire “to report on “the triumphs of the world.”

He was 90 when he died Monday and had been in ill health.

He hadn’t graced our television screens for a while, sharing his compassionate, insightful and fiercely intelligence take on world events.

But he was a guy you don’t forget.

He was the antithesis of most of the people you usually saw on tv–no blow-dried hair, had an accent when he spoke English.

He was an extraordinary presence–probably because he was such fabulous reporter.

You can click on the obits to get the facts of his extraordinary life’s journey: from Vienna to Czechoslovakia to Britain (as part of the so-called Kindertransport) back to Europe, on to Canada, back to Europe.

Schlesinger (in an undated photo) sparked awe from his colleagues. (CBC)

The guy never stopped.

The world was his beat and he couldn’t wait to get there.

Before he was done, the rest of us had a very good take on virtually everywhere.

I did not know Schlesinger, but his work made me proud to be in the same business.

Brian Stewart did know Schlesinger, worked with him, was his friend.

Like Schlesinger, Stewart is one of the finest reporters and journalists Canada has ever produced.

I spoke with him by phone at his home in Toronto on Tuesday.

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One comment on “Joe Schlesinger dies, leaving a legacy few will match
  1. Avatar David Lesley says:

    I grew up listening to Joe and his reports, he taught me about the world and his humanity showed through in every report. I miss his incisiveness, his accent, his humanity. A giant has left us. My sympathies to his family.