Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award
Vaughn PalmerLike Bruce Hutchison decades before, Vaughn Palmer's first newsroom was the Ubyssey, UBC's student newspaper. It's a good bet that the last newsroom they'll have in common will be the Vancouver Sun's.
"This is a huge honour because of knowing Bruce," Palmer says of winning the Hutch. "In looking over the list of past Lifetime Achievement winners, I get really choked up when I see the names of Patrick and Moira," Palmer says of former colleagues Patrick Nagle and Moira Farrow."
Palmer recalls his first meeting with Hutchison, then the Editor Emeritus of the Vancouver Sun and a journalist with six decades of national experience who filed his columns from a rustic home on Vancouver Island's Shawnigan Lake.
"His housekeeper ushered me into the living room, and there he was by the fire. Talking with him was like an interview - he wanted to know what you thought and he just wouldn't let you off the hook. It was like journalism school for me." Palmer would continue to meet with his friend and mentor every two weeks for the next eight years until Hutchison's death in 1992.
Palmer praises other mentors, including former Editorial Pages Editor Frank Rutter and former Executive Editor Mike McRanor from the Vancouver Sun, and longtime Times-Colonist columnist Jim Hume, another Hutch recipient.
"How did it happen that the Vancouver Sun put a rock critic in the position of provincial affairs columnist? Mike McRanor was a hell of a guy to have on your side."
What makes Palmer so good?
For people like Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason, who shared the Best Reporting award with Palmer at the second Webster dinner in 1988, it's easy: "He's really smart, naturally quick - he grasps things quicker than the rest of us," Mason says.
"He synthesizes information very quickly, and he has this amazing capacity for storing things to use later. What he gets in a scrum today may show up in a column next month."
McRanor's view: "What makes him good is the same thing that terrifies the editors who have to handle him - the next thing you ask him, you know he's going to have an answer."
He echoes Mason on Palmer's uncanny recall.
"I always knew that Vaughn Palmer would never let you down," McRanor says. "He carries that amazing archive around in that nut of his."
As for Palmer's longevity, Mason and McRanor agree again: "Vaughn's an independent operator," McRanor says. "He can go anywhere, he can touch anything or any one, and people know he's trustworthy."
"I've covered eight premiers in 22 years," Palmer says. "None of them have been around long enough for me to get bored. The stories have changed so fast, and changed so many times - what's to get bored with?"
Longtime friend and former Sun Ottawa columnist Jamie Lamb attribute's Palmer's success this way: "With Vaughn, attention is paid to the subject of the column, not the columnist. Let someone's words and actions speak for themselves, then evaluate. Build sources, and protect them. Let the reader do some thinking."
Lamb recalls the introduction Palmer wrote in the book of Hutchison's writings that he edited. "Vaughn wrote that Hutchison - the inner Hutchison, that is - was 'wise, kind, generous of spirit and truly great in his measure of the things that really matter, friendship and family, honest toil and contemplation.' "
"What he recognized in Hutchison," Lamb says, "we recognize in him."
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