Journalist John Furlong dead at 63

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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Former ‘Fisheries Broadcast’ host was recently diagnosed with cancer

One of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most well known journalists and broadcasters has died.

CBC journalist and radio host John Furlong died Wednesday at the age of 63.

John Furlong, former host of CBC Radio’s “Fisheries Broadcast” and most recently the voice behind the microphone for “Radio Noon,” died early Wednesday morning in St. John’s at the age of 63.

According to CBC, his death comes mere weeks after he was diagnosed with cancer. His last day hosting “Radio Noon” was March 3.

A St. John’s native and brother of retired NTV news director Jim Furlong, John Furlong worked as a print journalist for the St. John’s Daily News in the 1970s before moving into his career with CBC.

Retired CBC producer Bob Wakeham first got to know Furlong as a reporter while writing for a competing daily newspaper, The Evening Telegram. As a producer for the “St. John’s Morning Show” in the early 1980s, Furlong hired Wakeham to cover the provincial legislature. A few years later, as an executive producer for CBC-TV, Wakeham brought in Furlong as a producer for the documentary program “On Camera.”

Wakeham said Furlong’s death leaves a void in both local journalism and the lives of those who knew him. Wakeham calls Furlong the best journalist he ever worked with.

“John was a remarkable journalist, a man of profound principle, and he had a backbone like no one I’ve ever known,” said Wakeham, now a columnist for The Telegram. “He was an even better person — an even better friend.”

Furlong also worked as a producer for “Here & Now” and “Soundings” before moving into the host’s chair for the “Fisheries Broadcast” in 2005. Speaking with The Telegram in 2011 as the show marked its 60th anniversary, Furlong commented on its sustained relevance.

“It might be even more relevant now than it ever was,” Furlong told The Telegram.

“People tend to congregate around their radios and their telephones in times of crisis, and I certainly hear more from people these days when things are not going well, in terms of expressions of hope, expressions of desperation and expression of ideas.

“The fishery is going through probably the biggest change it’s ever gone through, notwithstanding the moratorium, and change is always hard. People in the fishery and people in rural Newfoundland are going through incredible change, and that’s difficult.”

He continued to host the broadcast until last year, when he took over hosting duties for “Radio Noon.”

There was a mixture of emotion in the CBC newsroom Wednesday, according to Peter Gullage, executive producer for news and current affairs in Newfoundland and Labrador. Some had a working relationship with Furlong spanning decades, while others looked up to him as a mentor.

“Walking around this newsroom today, there are tears and there’s laughter,” said Gullage. “We keep stopping each other. We all have memories of John Furlong.”

As a reporter, Furlong had a nose for news, was ready to jump on stories, and “a great gauge for bullshit,” according to Wakeham.

“He was afraid of nobody. He was afraid of no institution. He was unintimidated by anybody in authority. He was never hindered by political correctness, that’s for sure. He would take on the most sensitive kinds of stories and just plow ahead, and invariably the kinds of questions that everybody thought they might like to ask but were awkward to ask, John would ask.”

Gullage backed up that assessment, noting Furlong was always willing to ask uncomfortable questions.

“He had this reputation for being a crotchety guy (with) an acerbic wit, but John Furlong had a giant heart and a deep soul, and he cared for people. He understood the underdog and he fought for those people.”

Wakeham had his own battle with cancer 10 years ago and says Furlong was there to lend support, rarely leaving his bedside. He talked with Furlong often in recent weeks.

“I told him at one point about a week and a half ago, I said, ‘John, I can’t put a spin on this,’ and he said, ‘I know.’

“He knew he was going to die.”

arobinson@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: CBC Radio, The Telegram, Daily News

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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  • James Gill
    April 19, 2014 - 10:21

    John Furlong you will missed greatly. Always looked forward to and enjoyed the various shows hosted by John Furlong. A great loss indeed and with a heavy heart my sincere sympathy to family and friends of John Furlong may you rest in peace.

  • sarah maher
    April 17, 2014 - 15:19

    My sympathy and prayers go out to family and friends of John Furlong. May he Rest In Peace.

  • Donald Lee Matson
    April 17, 2014 - 08:01

    RIP John, thanks for being there, will miss you!

  • Bill Westcott
    April 16, 2014 - 23:04

    Whatever I wanted to say has already been said about John. The tributes that are coming in are a testament to this great Newfoundlander and wonderful human being.. I had the privilege to work around both John and Jim Furlong during my 40 year career in the print media and in broadcasting with CBC. Both of them are remarkable journalists who have contributed so much to the heart and soul of the Newfoundland story. We are sad today for John's family. He will be sorely missed. For now John, to coin one of your signature closings- it's "cherry-o" dear friend..

  • Gary Hebbard
    Gary Hebbard
    April 16, 2014 - 17:39

    Words are insufficient to express my sadness at the news that John Furlong has left us far too soon. I respected John for his professionalism and dedication to his craft and flatter myself that he returned the sentiment as a friend and colleague. But my best memories of John are of his quick, sometimes politically incorrect but always biting and unerringly aimed wit. Godspeed my friend.

  • Julie Huntington
    April 16, 2014 - 16:30

    I think journalists have a huge important role in our lives. They should find out what is really happening. They should ask the hard detailed questions because this is their role in a democratic society. Thank you John. You will be missed and hopefully I will have the confidence to incorporate your honest and to the point type of questions in my life….

  • Jennifer McCreath
    April 16, 2014 - 15:56

    John was one of the best of all time at what he did. He always knew how to cut through the crap and get to the point, but he always found a way to ask the tough questions in a manner that kept the conversation full of respect and dignity. His dry humour always put a nice touch on things as well. He always brought out the best of me every time I was on his show to be interviewed. I was a loyal listener to radio noon over the past year that he took over the show. I am heartbroken and shocked at his sudden passing. and send condolences out to his family, friends, co-workers, and fellow fans who will miss his great work.

  • Doug Greer
    April 16, 2014 - 14:51

    I was part of that great herd of cats that John helped round up every morning and point in the direction of putting together a newscast by suppertime. He was my producer - my boss - on Here & Now. I always counted myself lucky - sometimes the word "blessed" came to mind - that it was John on the other end of the phone line. He had an understanding, a gut feeling for news and for people. And he was willing to let you tell a story your way. Make it right, make it fair but make it yours. For many years he went over each and every news story I wrote. And this was when I really felt the blessing of being one of John's cats. His operating principle was NOT "What can I change here?" but rather "Is there anything here that needs to be fixed?" There often was. Thank-you, John, for being so gentle in letting me know. I also knew John in recent years the same way thousands of other people knew him - as an on-air host. CBC has many good people and nothing I say here is to take anything away from them. But there was something about a John Furlong interview. If there was truth to be had, John would get it. If truth was concealed or denied, he would have that too. Or his questions would expose the concealment or denial for what it was. And when there was an inconvenient or unpopular truth, it found its voice in John. Others knew John better than I did, lived closer, certainly saw him more often. But I never had a phone call or a message from John that I didn't feel came from a friend, trusted and true. My heartfelt condolences to all who hold you dear. You will be missed. You will be remembered. Doug Greer

  • Don Lester
    April 16, 2014 - 14:22

    I'm not big on journalists but I liked John Furlong's style of reporting. As Bob Wakeham, "John was a no B.S. man." John reported the facts as he and many others saw it except he was never worried about any backlash. He will be missed. R.I.P. John.

  • Peter Miller
    April 16, 2014 - 12:48

    John Furlong was a great friend and colleague. When people write the history of his time in the media, I hope the historians will have the good sense to realize that Newfoundland's success in the Confederation was 'forced to succeed' by people like John Furlong - asking the tough questions and constantly digging to make politicians especially, responsible for their actions. John was a work of art - and deeply respected for his work and his life.