Clive Jackson grew up in England in the 1950s without a television and yet he went on to be one of the most influential newsmakers in British Columbia’s television scene.
On Monday night, the long-time West Vancouver resident received the Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award at the Webster Awards, B.C.’s most prestigious media awards.
The fact that Jackson’s career was made in a medium that was foreign to him as a child gives him hope that, despite massive changes to the news world since the advent of the Internet, something new will come along to support journalism.
“I’m really positive and got to believe that something that we don’t know about will come forward that will actually help journalists develop their skills and become a money-making enterprise – I have that sense of optimism,” he said. “Now more than ever, when we see what’s going on around the world, society needs journalists.”
Jackson said he was thrilled to receive the award, partly because of his friendship with Jack Webster, with whom he worked in the 1970s and 1980s.
“It’s the one award that means a tremendous amount to me because I knew Jack Webster… we were quite good friends,” Jackson said.
Jackson credits his success and the success of Global’s news coverage to his early years in Fleet Street’s “dog eat dog” world of journalism and a great team at the station, which was called BCTV when he started there.
The day before the Webster Awards, Oct. 28, marked the 50th anniversary of when Jackson entered journalism, first working in local papers, and then moving on to Fleet Street.
Jackson spent 10 years at the Daily Mail, where reporters were expected to “shock and amaze on every page” as they competed for eyeballs with a dozen daily papers in London.
“I cut my teeth in Fleet Street and I was determined to win everything,” Jackson said. He later transferred this aggressive determination to breaking stories with Global.
After a decade working in London, though, Jackson left the U.K. with wanderlust. After spending a year in Los Angeles, he was visiting Vancouver on his way to Alaska, when he met his wife on the second day here and stayed. He went to work first at the Province and then moved to BCTV as a reporter.
Going into television from newspapers was a “sea change” he said, as TV is so much more complicated than it looks – his news director even made him take elocution lessons to lose his English accent.
As the news manager, working the assignment desk for 25 years, on the “front row of history,” Jackson said he was backed up by a good team of reporters, producers, and other newsroom staff.
“I felt like the conductor of an orchestra actually – these were the soloists,” he said. “I felt that we aggressively pursued news in British Columbia and the province was well covered by us, especially in the earlier years when there was more money.”
But staying competitive and beating the other media outlets was ingrained into Jackson.
“What I’m really most proud of personally is that, in the 25 years I was in the hot seat, our ratings were phenomenal,” he said. “I don’t think we ever lost a single night to the competition, every night we were number one, and number one by a mile.”
Jackson attributes part of the reason for the award to the fact that Global, during his tenure, gave back to the community. The TV station raised $5 million, an effort led by Jackson, to restore Stanley Park after the 2006 windstorm and another fundraising campaign netted $500 million for a new B.C. Children’s Hospital.
Jackson said there were many highlights in his long career, including early memorable events like taking the Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul - a slow and dirty “journey from hell” which included farmers loading their livestock onto the train, far from the glamour of the Agatha Christie novel – to travelling to world fairs in Hong Kong, Seville, Spain, and Australia, to having the first interview with Clifford Olson’s wife Joan Olson after he was convicted. But the story he’s most proud of came when, on a whim, he went with a film crew to check out the polygamous community of Bountiful. He remembers touring the home of a man with six wives and 66 children, named with letters of the alphabet – all the children of the first wife were named starting with an A, the second with a B, and so on. The story resonated across North America and Jackson said he doesn’t think anyone ever got into a polygamous home again.
Jackson retired three years ago and now runs a consulting company, Headline Strategists, which does media training. After retiring, Jackson has travelled a lot, helping him bridge the gap after leaving his job. He said he does miss the people and camaraderie of the newsroom. His home in West Vancouver has always been a refuge for him after a day at the office – he said he always felt like he was coming back to the forest when he drove up “the Cut” back on the North Shore.