Biography

Pioneer

Hunter, Jim

(1901-1949)

Jim Hunter was the first big name in news broadcasting in Toronto. A newspaper man, Jim doubled as a radio newscaster, doing complete news broadcasts daily from the editorial rooms of Toronto newspapers.

His radio career was launched with a nightly newscast on CKNC for the Mail and Empire morning newspaper and read from news written in the newsroom of the Toronto paper. The broadcast was initiated by the Mail and Empire's managing editor to compete with a nightly newscast by Andy Clark on CFRB from the Globe, then the other Toronto morning paper.

The Mail and Empire let their staff know that they would audition employees for the job. At that time, Jim Hunter was selling advertising for the paper. He told them that he had had previous experience reading news on the air at a small Indiana station and had freelanced on weekends on Chicago's WBBM.

Jim beat out Owen McGillicuddy, the Mail and Empire's police reporter who also had gained some experience at the Toronto Star's station CFCA which had closed down a few years before.

When George McCullagh, the publisher of the Globe, bought out the Mail and Empire in 1936, Jim moved to the Telegram to write a radio column. That was also the time that he took over the morning and evening newscasts on CFRB which he broadcast directly from a special booth in the Telegram's editorial room.

Listeners to CFRB soon became familiar with the musical introduction to Jim's two daily broadcasts which came from an English record by Ray Noble's orchestra - the old familiar tune "A-Hunting We Will Go", preceded by a post horn.

A man with a quick step and of ruddy complexion, Jim used adjectives freely in his newswriting and seldom injected his personal comments. He often featured police news. Old timers remember that one of his tools was a form letter which he would hand out and which invited people to call him, day or night, if they had a story. He always took the call and, as a result, picked up some amazing tips and inside information that no one else had.

He made a name for himself when he climbed on a government plane in 1936 with a Telegram reporter and a photographer to cover the gripping story involving three Toronto men trapped in a mine cave-in at Moose River, Nova Scotia. One of the trio was a famous doctor, D. E. Robertson. One of the men died before rescue miners dug through after managing to drive down a pipe to supply air.

Jim Hunter stayed night and day close to the lone telephone line in a mineshaft office. The whole of Canada was tuned-in to his live reports on CFRB or the CBC broadcasts by Frank Willis. Jim was on the air every 20 minutes and said afterward that he had made 100 updates. He was credited with a world scoop when the two men were brought out alive.

Retired CFRB station manager Jack Dawson who had listened to the radio broadcasts in Alberta and later worked at CFRB with Jim, said in 2003 "I believe Jim Hunter was the most influential news broadcaster on the Toronto scene, today included".

Jim was born in Aberdeen, Scotland and was educated in schools in Simcoe, Hamilton, Goderich and Toronto, and worked at a myriad callings in the depression years, before breaking into radio in the USA.

Jim died on June 6, 1949, at the height of his popularity - the most listened-to newscast on CFRB. Jim had been off the air for only two weeks when a liver ailment hospitalized him and he died suddenly. At the time, he was radio editor of the Telegram and wrote a daily column for the paper, as well as doing his morning and evening newscasts at 8 am and 6.30 pm on CFRB from the Telegram office.

Written by Jocko Thomas - April, 2003

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