Jack Webster (1918-1999)

Jack Webster

Year Born: 1918

Year Died: 1999

Year of Induction: 1989

Pioneer – Member of CAB Hall of Fame

Webster, Jack (1918-1999)

Jack Webster – the son of a Clydeside ironmonger – was an abrasive Scot whose life was shaped in the crucible of the industrial slums of Glasgow. In those rough Glaswegian streets, the young Jack Webster was remembered for his bright personality and a mischievous nature. Upon completing his schooling, he took-up several newspaper jobs on Fleet Street and in Glasgow, spent seven years with the British army in the Second World War, and developed his style of hard-hitting journalism that he took to Canada and which captured the attention and respect of millions.

After finishing the war in the Sudan Defence Force as a Lieutenant-Colonel in Khartoum, Jack returned to his family in Glasgow and went back to reporting, first with the Evening News, moving on to the Scottish Daily Mail and to the Daily Graphic in London where he became night editor and shared a desk with foreign editor Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond.

In 1947, Jack brought his wife and children to Canada, heading straight for Vancouver where he was hired immediately by the Vancouver Sun. He covered the labour beat, exposing communist influence in the trade unions and gaining a reputation as the champion of the little man.

In 1953, Jack took his hard-hitting reportorial style to radio, joining station CJOR (then owned by George Chandler) as a reporter and doing two daily broadcasts – Spotlight at Noon and City Mike at 6.10 pm. He and his family returned to Glasgow in 1957 where he wrote a column for the Sunday Dispatch and went to work for a short time at Roy Thomson’s Scottish Television. However, he soon happily came back to Canada to his old daily grind of City Mike, Spotlight and ten capsule weekend comments. His next move was to New Westminster’s radio station, CKNW, who had made him an attractive offer while he was back in Scotland, and where in 1963, he became a Talk Host, initially from 6.30 pm, but later doing two shows-a-day, the first from 9 am to noon and a second show in the evening from 6.30 to 7.15. Jack also served as the CBC’s Vancouver correspondent for the controversial TV program – This Hour Has Seven Days, and he started to appear as a regular guest panelist on CBC-TV’s popular long-running network feature – Front Page Challenge.

In 1972, Jack returned to CJOR, which had been acquired by Vancouver industrialist Jimmy Pattison, and continued his Talk Show success. On October 2, 1978, Jack left CJOR, a momentous event in West Coast media. BCTV had offered a lucrative contract, which gave him four months off during the summer months. Simply called “Webster,” the first program began with Pierre Trudeau, and he recalled it as his most difficult interview. Initially slotted Monday-through-Friday from 9 to 10:30 am. Jack also made appearances on News Hour, BCTV’s popular supper-hour news.

During his colourful career, Jack received 3 CanPro awards, an ACTRA award and a special award for his role in helping to settle the prison riots of 1963. He received honorary law degrees from the University of British Columbia and from Simon Fraser University. Sparked by a Canadian Club dinner in 1986, the Jack Webster Trust Fund was created “to reward excellence in reporting via print and electronics”.

In 1988, Jack Webster received the Order of Canada and following his induction into the News Hall of Fame, in 1989, he was inducted into the CAB Broadcast Hall of Fame. Declaring himself “bushed” after 40 years of print and electronic reporting in Canada, including 27 years of open-line broadcasting, Jack decided to retire.

His final program, lasting 90 minutes, was broadcast on BCTV May 1, 1987, and then Jack headed for his farm. In 1990, he wrote his autobiography “Webster” which was published by Douglas and McIntyre in Vancouver.

Jack Webster – the Master of Talk Radio and Talk TV – died March 2, 1999.

Written by J. Lyman Potts – July, 1999