Catching up with Bill Haugland

Anthony Abbondanza
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From rooftop cleaning at his “old, wickedy-wood” Lakefront home in Vermont that dates back to the American Civil War to writing mystery novels and short stories inspired by his 45-year career as Montreal’s “Most Trusted Newscaster,” Bill Haugland is alive and well.

Bill Haugland, formerly anchor of CFCF and CTV News, signs his fictional novel, ‘The Bidding,’ at Pointe Claire’s annual spring luncheon.

The Chronicle caught up with the soon-to-be 72-year-old Montreal-native at last week’s Senior Spring Luncheon in Pointe Claire – his retirement, the changing landscape of journalism, and technology on the agenda.

Retirement

After a 45-year career as reporter and anchor of Pulse (later renamed CFCF News and CTV News), in which he became known as “Montreal’s most trusted newscaster,” dealing with the likes of the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, former prime minister of Canada, and former Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau, and covering the historic FLQ Crisis and countless elections, Haugland retired at the age of 63 in 2006.

His lasting legacy is omnipresent; a handful of strangers approaching him to wish him well during the two-hour luncheon supporting Pointe Claire’s Aid for Seniors program.

“I never really thought about it while I was in the business,” said a humble Haugland when asked about his profound impact on local Montrealers who tuned in every evening to watch Pulse news. “It was always a great pleasure to meet people on the street to recognize that they seem to know and like me. That’s always good for someone’s ego.”

According to the Vermont resident, he and his CFCF colleagues “were treated like old friends.” The news crew were a fixture in people’s living rooms, said Haugland, and as such, “they treated us like they knew us.”

Eight years since he officially retired, Haugland is still a fixture in Montreal households; his mystery novels, ‘Mobile 9’ and ‘The Bidding,’ and the recently-published collection of short stories, ‘After it Rains,’ a product of his new-found, free time.

“My writing has occupied a daily couple of hours for me,” said Haugland. “Sitting at the keyboard requires a certain discipline. It provides more in terms of catharsis.”

And when he isn’t writing fiction, the 71-year-old is submersed in what he called “country-living” chores, whether splitting wood for his fireplace in the winter or tending to his garden in the summer.

Journalism and technology

A lot has changed in the last eight years in the journalism industry, some of which has Haugland concerned.

Media mogul Pierre Karl Peladeau’s foray into Parti Quebecois ranks and his subsequent influence on Quebecor-owned news outlets like Journal de Montreal is among the more concerning, said Haugland. 

“I think there’s a danger of editorial influence on the part of the owner…We have to worry about and stand against this as journalists for the independence of free thinking,” he said.

What about the growing use of social media as an outlet for journalism?

With the advent of Facebook and Twitter, where stories, at times, are condensed within a limited 140 character space, questions surrounding journalism in the face of social media have surfaced in recent years.

As a journalist in an era with relatively little dependence on technology, including a stint in which he read stories without the help of a teleprompter pre-1981, Haugland, who doesn’t ‘tweet,’ sees nothing wrong with journalists using Twitter as a vehicle for their stories.

“I think journalism has the tendency to become a professional’s ability to whittle things down to get the message across anyway,” he said.

Regardless of the growing social media movement in the Internet Age, journalism, said Haugland, is still journalism.

Follow @AAbbondanza1 on Twitter!

Organizations: CFCF News, CTV News, Parti Quebecois Quebecor

Geographic location: Montreal, Vermont, Pointe Claire Canada

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