Jim Travers’ life began in Hamilton, Ont. in 1948 and over the next six decades took him around the world and to the heights of Canadian journalism.
An arts graduate from the University of Guelph, Travers began his career as a reporter with the Oakville Daily Journal Record and then moved to the Hamilton Spectator, where he exposed widespread municipal corruption.
In 1978 he joined Southam News, sharing an office in Toronto with the legendary sports columnist Jim Coleman who provided him with a wealth of anecdotes. A brief stint covering Parliament in the Southam Ottawa office was quickly followed in 1982 by a three-year posting to Harare, Zimbabwe.
With a combination of extraordinary writing, deep compassion for people and rock-solid convictions about fairness, he distinguished himself as a foreign correspondent for Southam in Africa and subsequently the Middle East. Returning to Ottawa in 1988, he directed the foreign coverage of Southam News, which led Canadian print media in the number of full-time resident correspondents overseas, and then took over as the general manager.
Back-to-back stints followed as the chief editor of two major Canadian dailies — the Ottawa Citizen and the Toronto Star. After five years directing the Citizen in crusading coverage, he resigned in 1991 in a disagreement over editorial independence with Conrad Black, whose Hollinger Corp. had bought Southam.
In 1997 Travers became executive managing editor of the Toronto Star, the top position in the news room. After two years he returned to his first love, writing, and spent the last decade of his life as a highly-regarded national political-affairs columnist and commentator for the Star, based in Ottawa.
Travers’ professionalism was recognized by a string of journalistic awards — in 2003 the Hy Solomon Award for excellence in public policy journalism, in 2005 the Charles Lynch Award from the National Press Club, and last year a National Newspaper Award for political writing.
Along much of this remarkable path, Jim was joined by his beloved wife, Joan, and their two sons, Patrick and Ben. He was as devoted to his family as he was to the principles of his journalistic career and through it all, accumulated an ever-widening circle of close friends and respectful admirers.His boisterous, even raucous presence meant a life lived large and joyfully, with a healthy appreciation of bicycling, fine cars, travel, literature and even cooking. A man of huge heart, Jim Travers left us too soon on March 3, 2011.
- By Patrick and Ben Travers
- By Peter Calamai
- By Sharon Burnside
- By Norma Greenaway
- By Les Whittington
- By John Cruickshank
- By John Manley
- By Michael Trottier
- By John Watson
“…..always thought of himself first as a reporter.”
— Toronto Star editorial,
“ Jim reminded us all, in every column he wrote, what principled, high-minded journalism is intended to do: by challenging conventional wisdom, he enabled all of us to better understand our world. He was a courageous journalist whose voice shall be sorely missed.”
— Tony Burman, head of strategy
for the Americas, AlJazeera
“He started his career as a foreign correspondent and remained a passionate observer of Canada’s role in the world throughout a career that spanned four decades.”
— Angus Reid, CEO Vision Critical
“Jim was a superb journalist. His love of the craft, his dedication to quality journalism and his powerful and intelligent Ottawa column were all testament to the essence of Jim Travers.”
— John Honderich, chairman of Torstar
“He was ‘handing over’ to me [in Cyprus]. I’m not sure which scared me most, his hair-raising tales or his insistence on telling them while he was taking hairpin turns in the Troodos Mountains at 60 kph.”
— Aileen McCabe, former Southam News foreign correspondent
“He was without doubt made for journalism. He was hilarious, mischievous, witty, curious, courageous and constantly bemused by humanity’s folly.”
— Jim Coyle, Toronto Star feature writer
“He had a deep love of our country and a profound respect for the importance of our democratic institutions and traditions.”
— Bob Rae, Liberal MP
“… a passionate and serious journalist who approached life with a sense of fun.”
— Ottawa Citizen editorial, March 4
“The country suffered a huge loss when Jim Travers passed away, far too soon. He kept politicians honest — he certainly pointed out, in his extraordinary way, when they weren’t. He never let us get away with anything, regardless of party or stripe. He wanted politicians to be better and to do better. He did what he did because he wanted to make the country better.”
— Martha Hall Findlay, Liberal MP