Former Global News and Toronto Star journalist Paul Dalby has died at the age of 73.
Paul worked as a news reporter at Global Television in Toronto between 1983 and 1996. He and I sat across from each other for almost a decade.
As a younger journalist, I was in awe of his writing talent and his ability to make reporting look easy—which it rarely is.
Lean, handsome, prematurely gray and typically donning a smile, Paul was a consummate television reporter equally capable of telling a story about a tragedy or the latest pop culture fad with ease.
“He entertained me with wonderful stories of London in the late sixties,” said Doug Gamey, a senior Global News camera operator who worked frequently with Paul, describing Paul as “charming, witty, and the epitome of debonair.”
Paul was born in Leicester, England. At 17, he became editor of the Nottingham Observer magazine, according to his resume. Later, he received his journalism education through the National Council for the Training of Journalists.
At 27, having never been to Canada, Paul moved to the prairies from Britain in search of work.
He got a job at Calgary’s largest newspaper, the afternoon daily, and later described his appointment this way:
“Became a desk editor on the Calgary Herald when (my) predecessor dropped dead on page one layout,” he wrote on his LinkedIn biography.
Paul moved to Ontario in 1976 and worked at the Toronto Star, spending seven years there as a reporter and writer.
“Beautifully dressed in suits, the elegant Mr. Dalby outshone his drab Canadian coworkers,” said Trish Crawford, a former Toronto Star staff reporter and current freelance contributor with the newspaper, in an email.
“He was all Fleet Street—angling for the best stories, making outrageous puns, going for nutty angles and with no story too whacky.”
“Of course, he was a serious, talented journalist covering the day’s news. He just wasn’t a big blowhard about it. He radiated calm self-assurance, a good trait in our business,” Crawford wrote.
Richard Brennan, another retired Toronto Star reporter, also praised Paul.
“He was a stand up journalist and colleague,” Brennan posted on Twitter.
Paul made his move to Global Television in 1983 on the strength of recommendations from journalists at the Star.
“We hired him without an interview, we just said ‘join us anytime you’re free,’” said Raymond Heard, who was vice-president of news and current affairs at Global Television until 1987.
“He was very careful of the facts, he cared about the underdog, and he had a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humour.
“He was one of the best reporters I had at Global.”
Elaine Loring, an entertainment anchor and reporter at Global for 18 years, wrote about Paul on her Facebook page.
“Paul always seemed so at ease, serious when he had to be but with that notorious comic edge, both in person and on air,” she wrote.
“He had such an impact on me. I aspired to be a reporter of his caliber.”
Paul was one of the four “News Brothers” in a video parody of the Don Henley song “Dirty Laundry” in 1985. It was an instant hit. The video has garnered more than 2.2 million views on YouTube.
Dressed in trench coats and wearing fedoras, Dalby joined fellow Global News reporters George Wolff, Vic Phillips and Hamlin Grange. The video was part of a friendly contest between competing broadcasters.
In his final story on Global, Paul offered his “top 10 tips on how to be a TV reporter.”
The tongue-in-cheek tutorial included advice like: “conduct yourself in a responsible way…only do socially-significant stories…never work with animals…never take any risks…be respectful to politicians…never drink on camera.”
Paul frequently sipped a scotch or lingered over a lager in a stand up for a story and broke or amended most of the “tips” he offered.
“Dye any gray hair, keep a young look,” was his number one piece of advice. Paul never coloured his hair and always appeared dapper.
Paul could occasionally be the subject of a prank. In 1993, when assigned to cover the Reform Party in Kingston, a prank on Paul included unexpected wake-up calls from other members of his news team.
“Paul brought his wife (Wendy) to make a little vacation out of it,” said Devin Keshavjee, a longtime Global News producer who travelled with Paul and camera operator Frank Mahon for the overnight trip.
Devin told me that he and Frank had several drinks after the broadcast and, to poke fun at Paul, repeatedly telephoned the couple in their room at a nearby hotel.
“He wasn’t amused,” said Devin, who now works at CBC News.
Paul left Global in 1996 and moved to England where he became bureau chief for Anglia TV network. He and his wife returned to Canada two years later.
After coming back to Canada, Paul quickly established himself as a full-time freelance writer, working on documentaries and writing articles for a variety of publications.
He settled in Warkworth, Ont., about two hours east of Toronto.
His daughter Melissa said Paul encountered illness later in life and “faced it bravely with a degree of positivity and optimism and wonderment.”
“But that was Paul’s way: He knew no other way than to face life head-on, put on a smile, look at the glass half-full and to get on with it.”
Paul’s outlook would come as no surprise to anyone. All who knew him will miss him.
Paul is survived by his wife Wendy and children Samantha, Melissa, Genevieve, and Eric. He is also survived by his sister Mal and brother Peter.