RSJ alumni Christie Blatchford, 1951-2020
RSJ Headliner Christie Blatchford died of cancer on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020.
Blatchford graduated from the Ryerson School of Journalism in 1973, winning the Joe Perlove Scholarship for the top student in her graduating class.
During her time at RSJ, she wrote for The Eyeopener and the Ryersonian. In their statement about her death, the Eye described her as: “The only columnist The Eye has ever had. Once was enough, thank you very much.”
Blatchford remained particularly devoted to The Eye long after she graduated.
“She just always came through,” Liane McLarty, general manager of The Eye, wrote in an email. “I'd send Eye kids to her for interviews, backgrounds and advice and she'd be: ‘Eyeopener, no problem,’ and always get back to them. She could be very testy but I can not think of a time when she didn't come through, especially for the young female journalists.”
Blatchford was profiled by Barry Hertz for "The Eyeopener turns 40." The piece included a full page illustration by Orest Szposiak of her in bed with a laptop, a glass and a bottle of wine. The bottle's label read: “My wine is better than yours’.” McLarty was “terrified” of how Blatchford would react.
“She loved it, called and asked me for the original art,” McLarty wrote. “She was an excellent friend to The Eyeopener and will be missed.”
Blatchford could be critical of Ryerson and the journalism school in general, but she showed up for alumni events, guest speaking requests and even non-Eyeopener related fundraisers. Those requests just involved a little more cursing.
In Bill Reynold’s second year as a professor at Ryerson, the Ryerson Review of Journalism had a funding crisis. Originally supported by an endowment that had disappeared, the RRJ was being funded by the Dean. That support was being cut.
To save the RRJ, they put together “a team of crack telemarketing fundraisers aka [Reynolds], a former student who understood fundraising, and three Review students” to solicit subscribers “(Toronto journalists, basically)” with this pitch: 100 donors giving $100 would eliminate the RRJ’s $10,000 deficit and save the magazine.
Blatchford ended up on Reynold’s call list. He expected “nothing but aural venom because of her well-known mockery of j-schools.”
Instead, Reyolds wrote, he remembererd that they had an exchange like this:
“Hi, Christie. This is Bill Reynolds calling from Ryerson University. I’m the instructor responsible for the Ryerson Review of Journalism. We’re fundraising to raise $10,000 to cover this year’s projected printing deficit. Our pitch is simple: If 100 journalists pledge a hundred bucks each, we’re done. Would you be interested in being one of those hundred?”
“Jesus Christ, everyone’s hitting me up for money. I, shit, I have to go. The Review, eh?”
“Yes, the Ryerson Review. We need to cover our printing costs for the Spring and Summer 2004 issues. We’re about 10,000 short.”
“Shit, and you want me to pay for your damn magazines? Okay, look, I have to go.”
“Okay, look, how much do you want again?”
“We’re asking for a hundred bucks but 50 or 25 would be great, too.”
“Okay, shit, let me think—where’s my damn purse?”
“Every bit helps.”
“Okay, shit, where’s my credit card? Can you take my credit card number?”
“Okay. Shit. Will 150 bucks be okay?”
“Yeah! That’d be great.”
“Okay, well, shit, look, here’s my number. I gotta go.”
Blatchford was quoted, profiled and criticized in the RRJ many times. She was also one of the first alumni to agree to an interview for the RSJ newsletter’s then-sporadic Grads at Work feature, where she was as unvarnished in her opinion as ever.
After graduating from Ryerson, Blatchford worked as a reporter and columnist for all of Toronto’s daily newspapers. She started as a part-time copy editor at the Globe and Mail before she graduated from Ryerson, then became their first female sports columnist, where she first gained acclaim.
In 1977, Blatchford jumped to the Toronto Star. This move came after a disagreement over how one of her columns had been edited. In "Spector Sports," a collection of her columns, she described this career change as: “I went into a snit when a copy editor dared to mess with my pearls of wisdom, and quit in a huff.”
At the Star, Blatchford worked as a reporter and feature writer. She also had her first, fateful brush with court reporting, a beat for which she would become known and notorious, during her time there.
In 1982, she moved to the Toronto Sun as a columnist, first in lifestyle for several years before returning to hard news and court reporting. She stayed with the Sun until 1998, when the National Post hired her as a marquee columnist, one of their first editorial hires. She returned to the Globe in 2003, before making her final move back to the Post in 2011.
Blatchford’s work was not universally hailed, particularly her writing on Indigenous, LGBT+, and sexual assault issues, and she had many controversial moments in her career, as many, including RSJ faculty, have noted. These should not be ignored or minimized. As The Eye wrote in their statement on her passing, Blatchford: “could not give a rat’s ass what you thought of her. For this, she will be missed.”
In 2015, Blatchford was inducted as a Ryerson School of Journalism Headliner, RSJ’s Hall of Fame. Though she could not attend the ceremony, she came to the afterparty. For her Headliner photo, she sent in a picture of her holding a fish sculpture that was given to her as a thank you for a speaking engagement. The fish sculpture looks great, though she is blurry.
A more formal photo was used for that occasion. But we are using it here instead.