Jeffrey Simpson, say it ain’t so!
After three decades and untold hectares of dead trees, the Globe and Minion national affairs columnist is about to hang up his Underwood.
It’s been in the works for months. Simpson planned to pack it in after his wife, Wendy, retired, but editor-in-chief David Walmsley coaxed him into staying on through the election. Simpson, who said he’d never again do anything special for the paper, even wrote an opus on Tom Mulcair.
Indeed, he seemed happily re-engaged and prepared to stick around indefinitely, thanks to his warmish relationship with Walmsley—a welcome change after feeling massively underappreciated by previous editors Eddie Greenspon and John Stackhouse.
A Stackhouse supporter in the early going, Simpson had grown disenchanted, as revealed by Stackhouse in his recently published Mass Disruption: Thirty Years on the Front Lines of a Media Revolution.
“I opted to fly to Ottawa for the day  to ask Jeffrey Simpson, the cornerstone of Globe political writing for nearly thirty years, to move from four columns a week to three. I thought it might be a blessing. He would be free to write longer political features and profiles, something he was exceptionally good at, and to shift some of his efforts to a digital audience.
“Simpson was livid. He was a newspaper columnist, he explained, four times a week. As if to stress the point, he had taken me to a food court in the building of our Ottawa bureau, for a quick lunch, directing me to an outlet that served a ‘Jeffrey Simpson’ soup. He went on to vent about all things digital. As a father of well-read young adults, he knew the medium’s reach and influence. It was just that in his experience, his digital readership paled in influence and engagement to the readership of his print columns.
“As we finished our soup, I urged him to consider a regular digital column, and perhaps host a video program on politics, as he had once been an outstanding member of CBC The National’s political panel. I even suggested that like Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times or our own Rob Carrick, the popular personal finance writer, he might find an entirely new and large audience on Facebook, or take on Stephen Harper on Twitter.
“Social media was ideal for intellects like Simpson, whose thoughts and reference points would be lapped up by serious political audiences. At least that’s what I had thought. ‘Twitter!’ he exclaimed, his face reddening. He stood and walked away.”
But Walmsley mollified Simpson, consulted with him, and gave him the impression he was back in the inner circle.
Then last month, without so much as a by your leave, Walmsley appointed Bob Fife as the Globe’s Ottawa boss.
Never a Fife fan, Simpson was apoplectic.
It’s a matter of breeding. Simpson, the pompous patrician from well-to-do Upper Canadian stock vs. Fife, from the Northern Ontario side of the track, a former Toronto Sun hack–a trash tab striver.
Certainly not the right stuff for Canada’s newspaper of record.
As one Globian put it: “Jeffrey sits at 45,000 feet and looks down at the world. He’s old school journalism. Fife sits on the ground and actually tries to figure out what’s going on. Neither fear nor favour.”
Now they’re in the same office.
Exit Simpson, harrumphing.