Bryan Cantley, executive secretary of the National Newspaper Awards (NNA) and long time staff member at the Canadian Newspaper Association, has passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 67.
Cantley has been a friend and colleague to countless Canadian journalists, from students and cub reporters to senior executives, for more than 30 years. “All of us at Newspapers Canada are deeply saddened by the news of Bryan’s passing and we will be looking into developing an honorary initiative to recognize his tremendous contribution to Canada’s newspaper industry," said John Hinds, CEO of Newspapers Canada.
Earlier this month, Cantley received one of Canada’s highest awards for service to journalism, the Michener-Baxter Special Award, for “continued commitment and outstanding service to Canadian journalism and the newspaper industry.” The award was presented by Governor-General David Johnston in Ottawa.
“Bryan had a complete and total dedication to Canadian newspapers,” said Scott White, Chair of the National Newspaper Awards Board of Governors. “He believed in news and the value it brought to a stronger democratic society. He saw tremendous changes in the newspaper industry during his career, but never lost sight of the need to strive for excellence in daily journalism.”
A native of Montreal, Cantley spent his formative years in Red Rock, Ont. He worked in Toronto-area newspapers for 10 years, primarily as a Managing Editor before joining the Canadian Daily Newspaper Association (now Newspapers Canada) in 1981 as Director of Editorial Services.
In 26 years with the organization, he had an enormous impact on Canadian journalism through training sessions he led and organized as well as his role as Executive Secretary of the National Newspaper Awards. Among his initiatives was the establishment in 1999 of the Canadian Association of Newspaper Editors, which replaced the Canadian Managing Editors Conference and expanded the latter’s mandate to include editors at all levels.
When he retired in 2007, publishers and executives of the newspaper industry paid tribute to him at a luncheon during the annual Newspapers Canada conference. Clark Davey, who worked as Publisher of the Ottawa Citizen and Managing Editor of the Globe and Mail during a long and distinguished career, called Bryan “a great and giving repository of institutional memory about the black art we call journalism,” and added, “Where will we ever find his like again?” Several other speakers spoke of Cantley as a valuable mentor.
After retirement, Bryan remained at the helm of the NNAs, which he had set out to freshen and expand upon his 1989 appointment as Secretary to the awards program. Cantley was adamant that the awards should be truly national. He encouraged greater participation and devoted considerable effort to finding judges with talent, experience and passion for great journalism.
“His great legacy was felt whenever journalists sought Bryan out to thank him for encouraging them to hone their skills and bring their best effort to the duty of telling the important stories,” says Stuart
Robertson, a media lawyer who also serves as Secretary-Treasurer of the NNAs. “His focus on and regard for journalistic excellence was infectious.” In recent years, Cantley helped oversee a number of important changes to the NNAs that opened the competition to online publications as well as newspapers.
He also served as Executive Director of the Commonwealth Journalists Association, helping to promote journalism training in the neediest countries of the Commonwealth, until he retired from that role last year. He worked with the C