By Mark Buckshon
Interim editor, New York Construction News
There are few situations which make a journalist uncomfortable. We need to be unafraid to ask sometimes pointed questions. After a while, we acquire thick enough skin that we can manage our fears and get the story.
However, some of the most challenging experiences occur when we become the story ourselves. Fortunately, the most recent incident has been exceptionally positive, and you can listen to the results of my hour-long interview with Colin Toop of Tools of the Trade Podcast here.
Toop successfully delved into my story; the self-discovery process that ultimately took me to Africa and my life-defining experience as a young adult living 16 months through the end of the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe civil war. The interview also covered the history/story of the Construction News and Report Group of Companies, and my evolution from a journalist/foreign corespondent, to government PR writer, before starting the publishing business about 30 years ago. The corporate group owns and publishes several publications and websites in both the US and Canada, including New York Construction Report.
I’m glad the recent interview with went well, though I certainly recall other experiences that weren’t so much fun, including a wacky experience in 1975 when a Communist leader in Vancouver arranged a “press conference” attended by 450 angry East Indians to denounce a story I had written a week earlier for the city’s morning daily newspaper.
I had been assigned to cover an event sponsored by the “East Indian Defence Committee” organized by Hardial Bains, leader of the Communist Party of Canada Marxist-Leninist. He told the audience that police weren’t doing enough to protect their interests and perhaps the community needed to take measures to protect itself.
With a little help from an overzealous copy editor, the story became that Communists were advocating for East Indian vigilante action in Vancouver.
I returned to my university classes as the proverbial four-letter word hit the fan. Rocks were thrown through the committee’s offices, and Canadian parliamentarians called on Bains to be deported. (Does this sound at all like some of the current political/police controversies in New York and elsewhere in the U.S.?)
No one called me from the newspaper, but when I showed up at my next Sunday afternoon shift, I was given an assignment – to attend a “press conference” hosted by Bains. Turns out, 450 angry East Indians were in the room, and the event was entirely to denounce my story. As I struggled to write about the event, reporters from other media were calling to get my side of the story.
Fortunately, I survived the experience with my career intact. The editors determined that “vigilante” was indeed a correct definition of what the Communist leader had proposed – and some garbling in the story that resulted in technical inaccuracies occurred when the copy editor mixed up the confusing fact there were two competing Canadian Communist parties.
Toop’s podcast, thankfully, has a much happier result. I obviously have a rather strong personal bias in encouraging you to listen to it yourself.