National Newswatch

TORONTO — From the host's chair to the boardroom, Patrick Watson left an indelible mark on Canadian news, shaping the country's conception of its current events and history, say contemporaries and admirers.

His son, Chris Watson, said Monday that the former CBC chair and journalist died the previous night of natural causes. He was 92.

Over more than a half-century-long career, Watson brought bold ideas and time-tested values to his various roles — including TV host, producer, executive, actor and author — playing a pivotal role in such cultural institutions as "This Hour Has Seven Days" and "Heritage Minutes." 

News of his death brought a chorus of online tributes from his fellow broadcasters, including CBC Radio's Tom Harrington and CTV host Evan Solomon.

Steve Paikin, anchor of TVO's "The Agenda," said in an interview that Watson was a "hero of mine," and he strives to emulate the legendary host's thorough yet humane interview style.

"You can just count the number of legendary figures in Canadian journalism … on the fingers of probably one or two hands," Paikin said by phone Monday. "He's at the top of the list."

Born in Toronto on Dec. 23, 1929, Watson started his broadcasting career as a teen actor on CBC Radio's children series "The Kootenay Kid."

After earning a master's degree at University of Toronto, Watson dropped out of his doctoral studies at University of Michigan to work at CBC.

He became a household name — and provocateur to the powerful — soon after the 1964 debut of "This Hour Has Seven Days," which he co-created with producer Douglas Leiterman and co-hosted with Laurier LaPierre.

During its 50-episode run, the weekly news magazine show became a hit among audiences for its blend of hard-hitting interviews, documentary deep dives and irreverent satire.

The program, however, rattled the staid sensibilities of network executives, and was cancelled less than two years into its run in 1966.

Watson went on to host several other CBC shows, including the eponymous "The Watson Report," from 1975 to 1981, and the business news show "Venture," from 1985 to 1987.

He broadened his scope beyond the Canadian headlines of the day with TV projects such as "Witness to Yesterday," where he interviewed actors portraying historical figures, and the documentary series "The Struggle for Democracy," in which he examined the state of representative government across the globe.

From 1989 to 1994, Watson served as chairman of CBC, shepherding the public broadcaster through budget cuts and calls for privatization.

He was also part of the creative team that developed the "Heritage Minutes," a series of 60-second TV spots on Canadian history.

Watson was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 1981, and then promoted to a companion of the order in 2002.

Watson leaves behind his wife Caroline Bamford; sister Mary Green; children Chris Watson and Boo Watson; grandchildren Sarah, Paul, Ruby and Sam; and great-grandchildren Sadie and Nico.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2022.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press
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