Neil Macdonald licks his lips and pats his hair
gently into place. Sporting a slick navy suit, rose-coloured tie,
and shiny brown shoes, he paces the room reciting his lines.
Macdonald is taping intros and extros for CBC Newsworld's
Face to Face, a show that features
interviews with passionate American politicos such as
conservative queen Ann Coulter. When he's ready for his standup,
he crumples the script, stares into the camera through his
black-rimmed glasses, and barks, "Let's start."
"Um, can you walk forward while you
talk?" asks Ian Hannah, the cameraman.
want me to walk? Are you serious?"
a few paces."
Macdonald rolls his eyes and shakes his
head. "What the fuck is this?" he shouts. "It fuckin' doesn't
Marcella Munro, the producer, and Hannah
start laughing. So does Macdonald. It all has something to do
with a running joke about a missing jib, a portable camera
"Jesus fuckin' Christ," he grunts.
"Piece of shit."
After his first standup,
Hannah nods, "Okay, that's pretty
"Pretty good?" Macdonald smirks. "It
wouldn't be a problem if we had a fuckin'
The crew is shooting in the decaying
Crystal Ballroom of Toronto's King Edward Hotel, which offers a
panoramic view of the city, so Munro suggests filming Macdonald
in front of a Catholic church that stands in the
"Ha!" he laughs and in a cartoonish
voice says, "Then the Catholics will
At the end of the shoot, Macdonald
comes up with a new title for the show: "It's called, 'Fuck Off,
with Neil Macdonald!'"
"It'd sell," he shrugs, to more
The 48-year-old Washington
correspondent for CBC Television News often cracks up his
colleagues. Friends claim he's even funnier than his famous
comedian brother, Norm. He can also be intimidating - he's
six-foot-six, with a brawny build, a baritone voice, and a
penchant for liberal use of expletives. "Being my size, all you
gotta do is growl at people," he says. Fellow reporters once
dubbed him "Jaws."
"He likes to stick pins in
big, fat, balloon egos," says Garnet Barlow, his longtime friend.
Since his start in journalism in the mid 1970s, Macdonald has
angered everyone from prime ministers to media moguls to
religious communities. In December, for instance, the pro-Israel
lobby group HonestReporting Canada (HRC) awarded him an "Israel
conspiracy award." Yet none of it has hurt his career. Many of
those who despise Macdonald admit he's good at what he does. His
fans are even more laudatory. "He has an aggressive, trenchant
style of reporting," says David Halton, senior Washington
correspondent for CBC News.
And it's that
relentless style that gets him into trouble. It's also, some say,
what makes him a great journalist.
To read the rest of this story, please see our ebook anthology: RRJ in Review: 30 Years of Watching the Watchdogs.
It can be purchased online here.