DePoe was a pioneering figure in Canadian television news reporting,
one of the heroic figures of front-line journalism. He was among
the first of CBC-TV's high-profile television correspondents and
helped to establish the traditions of television journalism in Canada.
In the 1960s, he was a national institution, his gruff voice heard
in almost every major news report on CBC-TV, when the public broadcaster
dominated Canadian television news.
began his broadcasting career with CBC Radio in 1948, moved to the
fledgling television service in 1956, joined the CBC-TV parliamentary
bureau in 1959 and was named chief Ottawa correspondent in 1960.
He became the first television reporter admitted to the Parliamentary
press gallery and helped to provide legitimacy to the handful of
broadcasters (five in 1959), whose attempts to gain admission to
the gallery had been strenuously resisted by many newspaper writers.
As media historian Allan Levine has put it in Scrum Wars: The
Prime Ministers and the Media, "DePoe was the first television
journalist who could compete on an intellectual level with the other
stars of the gallery." He was well read and a skilful writer. Years
after he had left the air in 1975, DePoe's hard-edged reporting
style continued to set the standard for broadcast journalists. Politicians
were quicker than print reporters to identify DePoe as a key player
in the gallery and to foresee the dominance of television news in
physical features were assets on the screens of the 1960s, but in
a way that would make him ill-suited to the glamorized television
newsroom that came later. Raspy-voiced and rumpled, wrinkled and
weary, DePoe cut an oddly romantic figure in the Bogart mold. He
possessed a prodigious memory and a healthy disregard for those
in power, whether they were in political offices, government bureaucracies
or the management suites of the CBC. DePoe was famously contemptuous
of producers and was not above criticizing them on air. For him
political reporting was a solitary exercise and at times a splendid
joust with those he covered. His contributions to national newscasts
were much-envied models of economical incisiveness.
during his spell as the principal reporter on national affairs,
DePoe was assigned to cover significant political stories in the
United States and elsewhere in the world. An unabashed patriot,
his comments about U.S. politics could be biting. The visibility
afforded by foreign assignments only added to his reputation as
an authoritative commentator on politics for the English- language
television audience in Canada. For many Canadians in the late 1950s
and 1960s, especially rural audiences served by few other national
media, he was perhaps the most credible authority on political affairs
in Ottawa and elsewhere. It is estimated that he gave some 5,000
television news reports, including coverage of 31 elections, several
leadership conventions, and other major political events.
DePoe was widely revered, there was another side to his career.
He led a romanticized life in journalism full of the kind of carousing
bellicosity often stereotyped in American cinematic treatments of
newswork. According to a successor in the Ottawa post he was visibly
inebriated during a live stand-up on at least one occasion, and
the memoirs of contemporaries are replete with candid anecdotes
or unmistakable hints about his rough-edged lifestyle. With respect
to gossip about his drinking, he once remarked that "ninety percent
of the stories are just not true." He fell out of favor with assignment
editors in the early 1970s and in 1975 returned to radio news, finally
retiring in 1976.
the time of his death in 1980, DePoe was remembered by Knowlton
Nash, another of the CBC's well-known correspondents and one-time
head of CBC News as "the most memorable reporter of our lifetime
.... the most enjoyable, most charismatic, most effective electronic
reporter Canada has ever seen, with a colorful, irrepressible style."
He was regarded with wary respect by the political leaders of his
standard of integrity, toughness and incisive reporting that has
been hard to match.
J. Fletcher and Robert Everett
Photo courtesy of the National Archives of Canada
DEPOE. Born in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A., 4 May 1917. Educated
at the University of British Columbia, 1934-38; University of Toronto,
1946-49. Married: 1) Madeline Myra, 1942, seven children; 2) Mary
Elizabeth, 1974. Served as Captain in the Royal Canadian Signal
Corps, 1938-46. Reporter in CBC's overseas unit, war and post-war
reports, 1939-52; joined CBC's News Department in 1948; news editor,
Graphic, 1956; CBC television parliamentary correspondent,
1952-69; host, The Public Eye, 1965-69; interviewer, Weekend,
1969-72; host, Newsmagazine (later CBC Newsmagazine), 1973-75;
retired from CBC in 1976. Died in 1980.
The Public Eye
Levine, Allan. Scrum Wars: The Prime Ministers and the Media.
Toronto, Canada: Dundurn, 1993.
Charles. A Funny Way to Run a Country: Further Memoirs of a Political
Voyeur. Edmonton, Canada: Hurtig, 1986.
David. The Newsmakers: The Media's Influence on Canadian Politics.
Toronto, Canada: Nelson, 1990.
Troyer, Warner. The Sound and the Fury: An Anecdotal History
of Canadian Broadcasting. Rexdale, Ontario, Canada: John Wiley,