My first encounter with Ben Meisner happened when I was in Williams Lake.
I was the editor of the Tribune and it was election time. Ben called me up and said he wanted to put me on his radio show to talk about the Cariboo election races (I don’t remember whether it was a federal or provincial election).
After the radio gig was over somebody asked me what it was like. I joked I talked for about two minutes and Ben for the other eight. He was probably saving this newspaper guy’s butt because I talk better through my keyboard than my mouth.
Last fall Ben had me back on his show to talk about the 2015 municipal election with his wife Elaine and Peter Ewart. We had a whole hour and Ben let us all run.
It seemed to go by in a flash. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.
There is a hole in the entire community’s heart today as we learn that Ben died Thursday.
Cut from the same cloth as media icons like Jack Webster, Ben was a giant when it came to reporting the news. Most people, especially politicians, were trepidatious about going on his show because Ben didn’t suffer fools gladly, and he took no prisoners.
If you were straight up with him, you were fine.
If you tried to sling him a line of B.S. he would not only call you on it, he would verbally tear you limb-from-limb leaving you wondering what happened. And, if you were a politician, your career in limbo.
He was a journalist’s journalist.
He was fearless in his pursuit of the truth. Oftentimes we journalists would stand in awe as Ben refused to accept the pablum and doublespeak served up by politicians … mighty and the not-so mighty.
He was after the truth, not a quote for his story or sound-bite for his radio show.
Sadly, too many journalists these days are after the latter, not the former.
We journalists could, and did, learn a lot from Ben.
Not only has the community lost a great man, the journalism world has lost a legend.
My condolences to his family and Elaine, who is cut from the same journalistic cloth as Ben. His impact has certainly been felt:
““British Columbia lost a wise and passionate voice. For decades, Ben Meisner needed no introduction in Prince George and northern B.C. – his voice was instantly recognizable.
“Ben led more than just opinion – one of the true pioneers of new media, his willingness to adapt with the times is an example to current and future journalists throughout the province.
“Whenever you went on with Ben, you always knew one thing: be ready. He was friendly, but never failed to ask the tough questions. He knew that his listeners, and the adopted hometown he loved so much, deserved nothing less.”
– Premier Christy Clark
And at the risk of incurring Ben’s wrath for stealing, here are some comments from 250News:
• “Black was Black and White was White… You called it the way you seen it. No BULLSHIT. This city will be poorer for your loss. Hope there are jet boats up there. Good fishin’ Ben”
• “The City of Prince George has lost a man of principle, a man of conviction, a great man! But our loss pales in comparison to the loss that the Meisner family must now deal with. My condolences to Ben’s entire family at this most difficult time!”
• “Always a great and independent voice for the entire North. Proud to have known Ben and counted him a friend. Sincere condolences to Elaine and family. We shall not see his like again anytime soon.”
• “Ben always had the guts to ask the hard questions. The world would be a better place with more questioning like Ben. Cheers To a great Canadian.”
• Ben you brought us more than the news… You brought us a sense of community in your unique way that allowed for vigorous debate and diolog that allowed us to see our community from the perspective of the people in power down to relating the problems of the little guy. Our community was so much richer with your presence and will not likely find another like you any time again.”