The Current·From the archives

How veteran reporter Joe Schlesinger found the heartbeat in every story

Joe Schlesinger, one of Canada's most prominent journalists, died Monday at the age of 90. Anna Maria Tremonti spoke with Schlesinger in 2009, and we listen back to their conversation.

Schlesinger spoke with Anna Maria Tremonti in 2009

Joe Schlesinger, the veteran CBC correspondent, in Washington D.C. circa 1980. (CBC)

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Joe Schlesinger, a longtime CBC foreign correspondent and one of Canada's most prominent journalists, died on Monday. He was 90.

The respected journalist was on the ground for some of the most significant events of the 20th and 21st centuries, from the Vietnam War to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In the stories he told, he was known for "finding the heartbeat," and bringing the humanity to the fore.

In 2009, he sat down with The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti to discuss how he did just that.

"Let me tell you the story of an earthquake in Italy," he said in the 2009 interview.

"I've covered earthquakes before and after, and what you do is you have wide shots of a town, you have more medium shots of the ruins, and people crying or being dug out."

Like a newborn baby ... this kid was born all over again.- Joe Schlesinger

This time, he told Tremonti, he saw a group of people gathered around a hole in the ground, where a little boy was trapped.

"You could hear his voice, [but] you couldn't see him," Schlesinger said.

"I decided to forgo all the rest of the day, and just stay with that little boy."

He watched as the locals worked most of the day — without tools — to get the boy out. When they eventually managed to pull him out, Schlesinger was transfixed.

"They lifted him out of that hole, like a newborn baby ... this kid was born all over again."

Listen to the full 2009 interview near the top of this page.


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