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Lloyd Robertson: A Great Captain of the Ship

Lloyd Robertson and I go back a long way.  He was the top news specials anchor at both CBC Radio and CBC Television in 1970 when I was just starting at the CBC Northern Service radio station in Fort Churchill, Manitoba.  I was 21 years old that year when Lloyd and the big "network" crew arrived from Toronto to cover the Royal Tour of that year - the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne.  But they wanted me to be involved on the network radio broadcast, and I'll never forget how nervous I was.

Nervous, that is, until I heard Lloyd's calming voice introducing me - it was a kind of stress relief!  And in I went, "live" to the full network, ad-libbing my way through the next ten minutes or so and loving every minute of it.  I wasn't great, and I had a lot to learn, but Lloyd encouraged me and we stayed friends over the years. First, when he became anchor of The National, and I was a correspondent for the program in Saskatchewan, and then on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.  They were heady days, and Lloyd was a great captain of the ship for us.  But then in 1977, he left for CTV and it was a shock to us.  But it was also good for the business.

Lloyd left for a few reasons, but one was the fact the CBC and the unions had deemed that anchors weren't journalists. It was ridiculous, and after some lengthy negotiations, the rules changed allowing first Peter Kent, then Knowlton Nash, and by 1988, me into the anchor's chair with all the rights that should be attached to the position: writing, editing, and a role as one of the top senior editors of the program.

Lloyd's move did something else, too.  It helped raise the pay scale for top anchors.  A lot of us will never be unhappy about that!

Last year, a few days after he announced his intention to step down, Lloyd came to his hometown of Stratford, where I now live, for a few days.  We had lunch at one of my favourite spots, the York Street Diner.  We'd only been sitting there for ten minutes when a photographer from the Stratford Beacon Herald came bursting in to grab our picture.  News travels fast in small towns!  But it's a great picture, and it sits on my desk at home.

Lloyd's iconic stature on the landscape of broadcast television has been extremely well-earned.  He's done it all, and he's done it with unmatched class.  When he signs off tomorrow night, we should all be watching.  It's history.

Watch Ian Hanomansing's feature report "Lloyd Robertson retires" from The National on August 31 at