Robert Lewis

Robert Lewis

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I am a native of Waterloo, Quebec, a former Editor-in-Chief of Maclean's and was a member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery for more than a decade. My book, Power, Politics and the Press, was recognized on the long list of 10 for the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction: "A timely and welcome reminder of the importance of a free and challenging press in times of political change." ( Journalist Tim Harper, writing in LRC, called it a “meticulously researched” chronicle of “the often cliquish and sometimes adversarial relationship between this nation's leaders and those whose calling was to record ‘history on the run.’ " ( The book, also now available in audio format, read by Richard Clarkin, traces the lively stories of the men and women who covered the 23 prime ministers of Canada – from Sir John A. Macdonald to Justin Trudeau — over the past 150 years, and made some history of their own. The Riel Rebellion, the Pacific scandal, two world wars, the Depression, Quebec separatism, and terrorism are all part of the sweeping background to this lively account of how the news gets made, manipulated, and, sometimes, mangled. So are stories about the bootleg booze in the press gallery, the all-night parties — and the time they called for an ambulance and a doctor. Journalist and author Geoffrey Stevens writes that in the current assault on journalists, the book "restores a measure of sanity as it takes readers inside the craft of political reporting." It is both "a history lesson on the great issues of the day" and "serves up a combination of education and entertainment." Even when I was in grade school, I knew I wanted to be a journalist. In high school and college, I spent more time in the newsroom than the class room. I took a summer job as a cub reporter after graduation at the Montreal Star at $50-a-week. In nine months I had a dream assignment as an Ottawa correspondent for the paper, covering the fractious minority Parliament and getting a sense of writing history on the run. I had two other stints in Ottawa, with Time magazine and as bureau chief for Maclean’s, my time roughly embracing the coming of Pierre Trudeau, his going, and his second coming. What I learned in the halls of government was that democracy thrives on information and truth. Years later, during a panel discussion in Ottawa hosted by the Canadian Journalism Foundation, which I chaired at the time, the topic of discussion was, Does the Press Gallery matter? The evening sparked my interest in exploring that question at book length. Power, Prime Ministers and the Press: The Battle for Truth on Parliament Hill, my first book, is the result of four years of research in the archives and dozens of interviews. What I have concluded is that in the age of the tweet and the clip, and amid declining fortunes in print journalism, the press gallery — and all the men and women who cover government everywhere —are more important than ever before. I hope you enjoy my journey. In the motto of the Canadian Journalism Foundation, as journalism goes, so goes democracy.
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