Toronto star John handerich died at the age of 75


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John honderich

Known for his trademark bow ties and imposing six-foot-two presence, John Allen Honderich was an old-fashioned newspaperman with ink in his veins and a hearty lust for life.

The Canadian businessman, who was the publisher of the Toronto Star from 1994 to 2004, has died.

Honderich passed away in his Toronto home at age 75 on Saturday, Star spokesperson Bob Hepburn said.

Toronto star John handerich
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Honderich, whose father was the late Beland Honderich, also a former Star publisher, was part of the Canadian newspaper industry from birth, and much of his working life revolved around the newspaper founded in 1892 and — until recently — partly owned by his family.

He accepted his role as a senior statesman and spokesperson for the industry, defending it and demanding support from government and rivals alike.

“Canada is facing a crisis of quality journalism,” he wrote in a January 2018 editorial demanding the federal government act on recommendations in the Public Policy Forum’s “The Shattered Mirror” media report released in early 2017.

“If you believe, as I do, that a vigorous, investigative press is essential for a strong democracy, we should all be very concerned.”

Recently completed book
Hepburn, also a columnist at the Star and who counted himself a friend of Honderich’s, said they met in the 1980s when they were both working at the paper.

“He loved newspapers. He loved the Toronto Star and the industry as well,” Hepburn said in a phone interview late Saturday.
Most recently, Hepburn said, Honderich had completed writing a book about the Star, which was in the editing stage.

Hepburn noted Honderich funded a number of journalism scholarships. He said he will be remembered in Toronto as a city builder.

Nationally, he said, Honderich will be remembered as someone who cared deeply about Canada and democracy

In part to avoid accusations of nepotism, Honderich started his newspaper career as a copy boy with the Ottawa Citizen in 1973.

He joined the Star in 1976 as a reporter, eventually becoming chief of the Star’s Ottawa and Washington bureaus. After serving as deputy editor, he was appointed business editor in May 1984.

In 1986, he moved to England to study at the London School of Economics. At the same time, he wrote the book Arctic Imperative, published in the fall of 1987 by the University of Toronto Press, in which he outlined the serious dangers threatening Canada’s North.

He was editor of the Star from 1988 to 1994 before becoming publisher.

His departure from the Star shocked Toronto. It was unveiled in a “sources say” article on the front page of the rival Globe and Mail that claimed Honderich was leaving due to clashes with then Torstar chief executive officer Robert Prichard.

“After almost 10 years as publisher and 28 years on staff, I am announcing I will be leaving the Star. I do so with regret,” Honderich wrote in a subsequent statement.

“However, for some time there has been a corporate desire for change. As a result, I have worked hard to bring about an effective transition, and will continue to do so.”

Three days later, he was named a member of the Order of Canada. He was appointed a member of the Order of Ontario in 2006.

He received honorary degrees from Victoria University, Ryerson University and the University of King’s College, and was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame in 2014.

He served on the boards of the Atkinson Foundation, the Michener Fellowship, the Martin Goodman Fellowship, the Mowat Centre, Seneca College and The Nature Conservancy.

He had two children, Robin and Emily, with his now ex-wife, novelist Katherine Govier.

But two years ago, the families agreed to sell Torstar — which holds an investment in The Canadian Press.

Honderich served as chair of The Canadian Press from 2001 to 2004.

Though he occupied many senior executive offices at the newspaper and at the company that owned it, Honderich remained at heart a storyteller.

In 2017, while chair of the board of Torstar Corp., he completed a mission coinciding with Canada’s 150th anniversary year to see all 45 national parks and write about the journey for Star readers.

“I’m feeling on top of the world!” he wrote from Canadian Forces Base Alert, Nunavut, in December 2017. “Quite literally, for I’m standing on the runway of the northernmost permanent settlement on Earth. Figuratively, for I have now successfully completed my 2017 odyssey.”

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