Meet Sally Reardon.

Sally had a magic number – 70, used various typewriters, and had some chutzpah, not too much, just a bit, but enough to matter.

All three helped launch a distinguished journalism career – sometimes travelling to foreign shores, meeting seminal personalities, her sardonic, wry, droll, pointed, but subtle sense of humour, helping her along the way.

Sally was born in Halifax – home to a lot of Reardon’s since 1850.

Along the way she spent some time in Moncton, New Brunswick and Ottawa.

She had an undistinguished academic career or as she puts it – “none to speak of.”

But she sure could type, spending many years in secretarial careers, skills unbeknownst to her, eventually leading her to a great journalism-broadcasting career.

In 1980 she moved to Toronto, no job.

And that’s when – often it happens in life – things happened.

Someone advised her : “Go to the CBC. They’re always looking for typists.” So I went to the CBC Employment Office (no kidding) and when they asked how many words per minutes I could type, I picked a number out of the air. “Seventy,” I said. I did the typing test and two astonished looking women returned, one holding the piece of paper on which I’d typed. “So how’d I do?” I asked. And one of them said: “You typed exactly 70 words a minute.” So impressed were they that they sent me to….sit at a desk in a hallway of 790 Bay Street to answer phones and type letters for a guy named Starowicz.”


Sally now was secretary to Mark Starowicz, broadcasting wunderkind of the CBC

Mark Starowicz

Starowicz, the anointed one, was tasked with creating a new creative, ratings winner, eye catching, TV public affairs program for the CBC.

“The show he was putting together didn’t have a host, or a budget, or a name. Eventually it got a host, and a budget, and a name – The Journal.”

The show – consisting of in-depth news interviews, and documentaries – turned into a prime-time, powerhouse, ratings success for the CBC.

After a stint as Mark’s secretary Sally moved into a new area – producer-journalist.

Her first gig – chase producer at the Journal’s daily unit, tasked with getting newsmakers to come on the show to be interviewed by Barbara Frum.

Barbara Frum (left) With Sally Reardon On The Journal Set

She moved on from that job, doing research for the Journal’s documentary unit.

In both cases – her assessment- of how she did in those roles: terrible as a chase producer, even worse as a documentary researcher.

Typical Sally – always modest, self deprecating.

After that she became editor of the Journal Diary, a quick video compendium of human interest, offbeat, and people, stories, each as short as 30 seconds, up to a max of 90 seconds.

Then she became a producer at Journal Arts, a Friday look at the arts.

Finally in 1990 she got the job she always wanted, working at the main Journal desk, the hub for putting the show together.

Eventually she was promoted to daily editor – one of the most senior staffers, after Starowizs.

In 1990 – after 10 years the CBC brass killed the Journal, replacing it with a one hour news program, Prime Time News, that never gained a ratings foothold.

It was an unhappy place to work at and when she was offered the job of senior producer of the CBC’s supperhour news show, First Edition, in Halifax, she jumped.

Beyond that Sally alternated between moving back to Toronto and Halifax, working on various public affairs and news show.

Finally she ended up as senior producer and executive producer of the CBC’s flagship investigative program, the fifth estate.

Under her tenure the program won a slew of national and international awards.

As a producer she met the well-known and the unknown, all of them memorable for their own reasons.

Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

Her recollection.

Nelson Mandela, Sally Reardon On The Extreme Right

“I  still get shivers when I recall the moment the door opened and Mandela stepped into the room; very tall, very slender, with a preternatural calm that filled the room. Everyone, suddenly, was on their best Sunday school behaviour. I thought: this is what it must be like when you meet God. It was an extraordinary moment for me as I’m sure it was for all of us there that day. Here was history, in human form, a game changer, a influencer in the truest sense of the word, standing before me and who shook my hand and smiled at me.”

Another one making an impact – the musician Eric Clapton, exhibiting some of the same characteristics as Mandela.

Eric Clapton

“I do like to joke that while working at the Journal, I got to meet “TWO living gods.” Mandela and Eric Clapton. It sounds silly, doesn’t it? But Clapton, had been dubbed “God” in the over-the-top 1960s, had that same calm, a quietness, about him, a man who had been through much in his life and had emerged with a greater awareness of himself and the world around him, and did his level best in Paul McGrath’s interview to express that and why everything he’d endured was so essential to his music. He was also one of the few “famous”interview subjects I met who, without hesitation, shook the hands of everyone as soon as he walked into the room. When that happens, it always counts for something.”

But major personalities weren’t the only ones she found impressive.

“I never lost my admiration and awe for people who didn’t have acclaimed careers, but who had a deeply human story to tell or an injustice to relate. More than once in a  edit suite, I was struck by the power of what I called the ordinary voice. Ordinary in one way, but in another, far from it. I always counted myself lucky to have been part of those stories.”

Once retired travelling became a magnificent obsession – deeply rooted in her childhood.

“ When I was growing up, my parents subscribed to the National Geographic magazine. I’d pore over every issue when it arrived in our house, marvelling at the photos of far-away places, different faces, jungles, vast oceans, etc. This was my first understanding that a great big wide world was out there waiting to be seen. When I was about eight, I had a sudden revelation: Explorer, I thought. What a great job that would be. Because I thought “explorer” was a job. That sense of wonder about the wider world grew along with me and, although I hate the very idea of camping, or landing in a place without all the modern conveniences. I do like to go to places that might not be at the top of many travel lists.”

For 10 years South America has been a favourite destination of hers.

One country stands out – Chile.

Especially the seaside resort town of Valparaiso.

It’s a favourite holiday destination of Argentineans and also home to the Chilean navy.

“From the moment I landed in Chile for the first time, in 2015, I was in love.”

She has been been back to South America several times, travelling to Chile, Easter Island, Ecuador, the Galapagos, Patagonia, Peru, and Argentina. Only the Covid-19 pandemic has stopped her from returning and seeing more.

One of her most fav trips – Uzbekistan.

The year was 2019.

“ I tell you, it’s a real conversation stopper when you tell someone that you’re planning to go to, or have just returned from, a trip to a former Soviet state. Borat clearly fresh in their minds, they ask: Aren’t those places all run by demagogues? This question at the time that Trump was in the White House. Well, yes, but how can you know about certain parts of the world if you don’t go to see for yourself? Uzbekistan is trying to establish itself as a go-to tourist destination. They’ll have a tough time getting there. It’s not so much Holiday Inn right now as it is Fawlty Towers and much of the urban architecture and statuary is pure Soviet styleand propaganda, but the ancient cities are a feast for the eyes and imagination. It was one of the most fascinating trips I’ve ever taken.”

“Otherwise, I dream of continuing to travel. My wish list of places I want to see or re-visit is a long one, but the one that never leaves the top of the list or my mind, is Antarctica. I know that these days it’s hardly the place of solitude and mystery and danger that the real explorers of the past lived and died to see, but it is the one continent I haven’t set foot on yet and expect that one day I will get there.”

Six years she started writing fiction – a novel, her first, “The Spanish Boy” by C.S. Reardon. She used that name – because Sally ”wasn’t literally enough.”

Typical of Sally, never expect the obvious from her.

Sally’s Published Book

The Spanish Boy – a mystery novel of one Halifax family – received a best book award in 2017 by a Manitoba publisher.

One reviewer called it an amazing and captivating read.

“What has surprised me about retirement is that I once had time to fit work into my day. My days here fill up quickly with a regular writing schedule, reading, complaining about paying for as streaming services as I do, knitting socks, and some volunteering with a local Meals on Wheels—I love doing something really useful and absolutely love meeting the mostly elderly clients, every one of whom has a story to tell.”

“Otherwise, I dream of continuing to travel. My wish list of places I want to see or re-visit is a long one, but the one that never leaves the top of the list or my mind, is Antarctica. I know that these days it’s hardly the place of solitude and mystery and danger that the real explorers of the past lived and died to see, but it is the one continent I haven’t set foot on yet and expect that one day I will get there.”

Sally Reardon – a life well lived, the endless journey continues.

Every Wednesday journalist, George Froehlich, gets personal – sharing with you, his amazing travel destinations, his wonderful recipes, art he loves, music he enjoys.
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