Your readers across the country must have been bewildered by Allan Fotheringham’s column of persiflage directed at Jerry Goodis in The Flack Who Brought You Hush Puppies (April 16). They must have wondered why, at this moment in our history, he would want to devote a whole column to picking on a man—how he combs his hair, his physical stature, ability to put ideas together—who simply runs an advertising company in Toronto. What your readers don’t know, and Fotheringham certainly wasn’t going to tell them, is that Goodis wrote a long and thoughtful essay about the failures of political reporting in this country, and cited Fotheringham as an example of a writer who is driven by the demands of a rhetorical excess which push facts to the side. Why I feel I should write you about this piece is that Fotheringham dragged me into it: “Michael Callaghan ... son of Morley, brother of Barry.”
Ironically, Fotheringham’s column about Goodis proves the point. Despite the attractions of his vituperate turns of phrase, there are at least five examples of simple factual mistakes that I am aware of in the column:
1. George Elliott did not invent THE LAND IS STRONG.
2. Goodis never admonished a reluctant job-seeker with the question “If you don’t want to prostitute yourself, how come you’re looking for work in a whorehouse?” (check the Goodis book).
3. Michael Callaghan did not write the Toronto Life article.
5. Cross-your-heart is a Playtex slogan, not a Wonderbra slogan.
5. Goodis traded in a Chrysler Imperial, not a Lincoln, on his new Cadillac.
Once again, Fotheringham has been a little lazy about his research. Not only has Fotheringham never met Jerry, but he was wrong about me: I am not a chief servant, as described, of the MacLaren household. I am not even at MacLaren Advertising, haven’t been since 1969. I do reside in the same building in Toronto, however, as do the CBC and a dozen other companies. I am president of Macall Communications Incorporated, an independent company wholly owned by its employees.
There was a mere scintilla of truth in Fotheringham’s piece: I am a friend of Jerry Goodis and months ago he did tell me he was distressed about the state of political reporting in Canada and that he intended to make a speech about it. He talked to me because of my background in news services, the old Telegram newspaper, and as a CBC producer. I have many stories to tell, it is true, but
I have been away from the business for a while. I suggested Goodis call Larry Zolf, an old friend of mine, to see if Zolf, a great gossip in his own right, would provide some first-hand illustrations of Jerry’s points.
Larry wrote pages of what he supposed would be material for Goodis. However, Goodis felt that only a couple of paragraphs were of use.
The copy Zolf wrote was not, as it turned out, the speech that Goodis gave. Since that time, as Jerry expanded on his ideas, Zolf has been telling all who will listen that Goodis didn’t write the speech, Callaghan wrote it. I did not. I talked to Jerry from time to time, Jerry talked with others with experience in journalism. The result was that Jerry wrote an excellent piece in Toronto Life ticking off writers—like Fotheringham—who masquerade as reporters, but who merely churn out gossipy nonsense.
MICHAEL CALLAGHAN, TORONTO
Mr. Callaghan is superb nitpicker.
1. It is generally accepted in Ottawa and Liberal circles that George Elliott, as the MacLaren executive in charge of the 1972 campaign, was responsible for THE LAND IS STRONG slogan. An obscure copywriter may have “invented” it: he was responsible for it.
2. In his book (page 74), Jerry Goodis cites with approval how he could screen out job-seekers by sending them to aide Al Blugerman who would test them with the “prostitute-whorehouse” question.
3. It was never stated in the column that Michael Callaghan wrote the article. Guilt complex showing?
4. It was never implied in the column that cross-your-heart was a Wonder-
bra, or Playtex, slogan. The phrase was applied to Mr. Goodis’s ethics, not his breast.
5. I apologize to Mr. Goodis if I mistook his Chrysler for his Lincoln, before he switched to a Cadillac—for ethical reasons.
Mr. Callaghan is mistaken. I indeed have met Mr. Goodis (neither one of us was impressed). Also, if he will examine the Toronto Life article which he did not write, he’ll find there is not a single example cited of Fotheringham’s writing, political or otherwise.
ALLAN FOTHERINGHAM, VANCOUVER
The old shell game
Bravo to Ken Timlick in For the Budget Funeral, Say It With Cardboard (March 12). I, for one, do not want a wad spent on my funeral. A cardboard box may not reflect “an appropriate degree of respect” but an empty shell of a body is all that is left.
E. BARTLETT, RICHMOND, B.C.
I was shocked to learn from the article Taking a Long Constitutional (March 19) that the federal government was paying Georges Forest’s legal fees. As I see it, Forest’s refusing to pay a $5 parking ticket because it was not printed in French as well as English is nothing but a schoolboy prank. If he thinks he’s striking a foray for Quebec or Winnipeg’s French heritage, he’s wrong. I think he should get off his bureaucratic loophole philosophy and focus his time and energy on a real issue that may be even too late for him — national unity.
D.H. SLOAN, FORT ERIE, ONT.
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Other voices, other drums
I beg to differ with Allan Fotheringham’s declaration, “Sick of the election before the first week of the blather is over?” in Politicus Interruptus . . . (April 9). Perhaps due to Fotheringham’s vocation he is inundated with banalities from Ottawa far before the unexpecting electorate has this pleasure. The voters, however, being privy to only some of our representatives’ schemes before the call to the electoral post, will now consider seriously their varied proposals for the first time in five years. Considering this 57-day “blather” that has finally surfaced and the political pundits soliciting our votes in order to control our country’s future, the twomonth election campaign is the least to which Canadians are entitled. My eardrums will not be hibernating, but catching every promise.
RONALD N. LOCH, TORONTO
I offer a toast to Judith Timson on her well-tempered article Maggie in the Marketplace . . . (March 26). It could be Margaret’s loss that she lacked the foresight to question release of an autobiography at age 30; her book may leave little room for her to surpass her fame in the future. As a Canadian attending a U.S. college, I am horrified, but not surprised, that in the U.S. Maggie’s uproar is more newsworthy and conversational than Canada’s forthcoming federal election. To cover my embarrassment for Maggie, I have frequently called attention to the point that “Canada has Margaret Trudeau and the States have Billy Carter.” This generally evokes a guffaw; it does not, regrettably, erase Margaret’s indiscretion from anyone’s mind.
GAIL REITENBACH, NORTHFIELD, MINN.
The national scream
In his column Blood, Flesh and Tears a Perfect News Story Make, but Where's the Brains? (March 19), William Casselman lashes out at The National for its in-depth coverage of tragic events while overlooking one major factor: what is The National supposed to do? Most people want to be shocked or held captive by unusual events. Even though it is the news, it still must be entertaining. And remember, The National does have to compete with other stations at 11 p.m.
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