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Allan Fotheringham, gadfly to the nation

The Story

Allan Fotheringham's penetrating insights and stinging barbs were the bane of Canadian political figures for over three decades, from his early columns in the Vancouver Sun to his place of honour on the back page of the newsweekly Maclean's. In this 1976 clip, CBC Television profiles Fotheringham as he bangs out a column from a western premiers conference in Medicine Hat, Alberta.

Medium: Television
Program: Finlay & Company
Broadcast Date: June 1, 1976
Guest(s): Allan Fotheringham
Host: Mary Lou Finlay
Duration: 3:02

Did You know?

• Born in Saskatchewan in 1932, Fotheringham wrote for his high school, university and community newspapers after his family moved to British Columbia. After graduating from the University of British Columbia he took a job in the sports department of the Vancouver Sun in 1954. His career as a columnist began in 1968, when his target was Vancouver City Hall. But his sphere of attack soon widened to include provincial, federal and international politics.

• In 1975 Fotheringham - who soon adopted the alter-ego "Dr. Foth" - began writing a national political column in Maclean's. For many years he steadfastly remained in Vancouver despite regular offers to dispense his vitriol from Ottawa or Toronto. Fotheringham was also a familiar face on the long-running CBC quiz show Front Page Challenge, where he sat as a panellist from 1984 until the show's end in 1995. His Maclean's column lasted until 2002.

• Fotheringham married fellow reporter Sallye Delbridge in 1962, but they divorced after 17 years together. They had three children. 

• In 1998 he married Toronto art dealer Anne Libby at a ceremony in Bermuda.
• Just weeks after his second marriage, Fotheringham was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He underwent surgery and took three months off work, and was declared cancer-free by the following year.

• In 2002, to mark Fotheringham's last column for Maclean's, his friend and former editor Peter C. Newman wrote that Fotheringham had been sued for libel 26 times in his career. He won all but two of those cases.
• Fotheringham also wrote a number of books and collections of his columns. Among them were Malice in Blunderland, or, How the Grits Stole Christmas (1982), Last Page First (1999) and Fotheringham's Fictionary of Facts and Follies (2001).

• Fotheringham took his seat on the Front Page Challenge panel in 1984 after the death of founding panellist (and fellow crusty columnist) Gordon Sinclair.
• Even though he was employed by the CBC, Fotheringham satirically referred to the broadcaster as "the Canadian Broadcorping Castration." This was not an invention of his but a reference to an apocryphal on-air gaffe variously attributed to Max Ferguson, Peter Gzowski or Lorne Greene.

• "I write about what other newspapermen talk about in bars. If you know it, write it. That's the No. 1 rule in journalism." - Allan Fotheringham



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