Last Word With Clive Jackson

Broadcast legend Clive Jackson weighs in on the state of TV news and the art of good storytelling. Photo submitted.

Clive Jackson discusses his thirty-five-year long career with Global TV and the future of journalism

By Cloe Logan 

In the 25 years Clive Jackson spent as the assignment editor at Global TV, Jackson brought acclaim to the station as both an expert chaser of breaking news and a master storyteller. Before his time on the assignment desk, Jackson reported for BCTV (now Global) in the ’80s, and was the first to report on the polygamist community of Bountiful, B.C.  Jackson retired in 2015, and in October 2018 received the Jack Webster Lifetime Achievement Award. We caught up with him for a look back on his storied career.

Newsrooms changed dramatically over the course of your career. What were some of the biggest changes?

The expression used at BCTV was that they would wheelbarrow money into the newsroom because there was so much of it to spend. We had a lot of staff, we had a lot of camera people, we had a lot of reporters and we were able to cover the province. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, it was almost impossible to live feed; we had to put tape on planes to fly it back to Vancouver where it was picked up. The kind of extravagance that there was in those days. I’m guessing that the number of reporters at Global now is probably half of what we had.

Do you think that a journalist’s job is any easier in this new media age?

I personally think it’s harder. Now, what reporters are being asked to do––I just couldn’t do it. Simply couldn’t do it. They’re being asked to not only do a story for the six o’clock show, but they’re often doing something for noon, a live hit for five o’clock. They’re having to file on the Global website, they’re having to tweet. It’s just endless.

What is the key to good storytelling?

A story to me is like an onion: you slowly reveal more and more as you unpeel it. You tell the story so it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In television, it’s something you build up to: you don’t necessarily start with the biggest drama, you build to it. And then have a good line or two to finish the story.

What did the lifetime achievement award at the Websters mean to you?

It meant a tremendous amount. I worked with Jack Webster back in the early 1980s and he was iconic––probably the best journalist I’ve ever worked with. And he was just a guy I always looked up to. I’ve been lucky enough to have won a few other awards, but the Webster means a lot.

Some TV stations are now moving into anchorless news. How do you feel about that?

When I first heard about it, I thought, “This is crazy.” I just couldn’t comprehend it.  I was watching Citytv a few times recently and I think it’s actually an intriguing idea––it’s a very smooth newscast. And it has been obviously really well planned. It’s not nearly as different as I thought it would be.

After your retirement, you launched a consulting firm, Headline Strategies. What is that about?

I give media training, media advice and help companies get their message out. I work, I don’t know, 30 or 40 days a year. And I use the income from that to finance some fairly exotic travel, so I’ve had three or four years of really good travel since I started the company. It gets me out there and keeps me involved in the community.

How do you feel about the future of journalism?

I remain an optimist. I know it’s a tough time for journalists and journalism. But it’s an important time. It’s probably more important now than it has been for a long, long time to have good journalism.

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