Profiles

ON THE RECORD: On a lunch break with Question Period’s Kevin Newman

NEWMAN STARTED AS A SPORTS REPORTER and rose through a variety of anchor jobs at Global, on Good Morning America, and now at CTV. And yet, after years of success and getting mobbed in New York state shopping malls, Newman dropped the business in 2010. Every six years, he gets an itch, a restlessness, a jolt that scares him into action. Or, in this case, inaction.

He says he wasn’t sure why he needed to break away but describes the process this way: you get an inkling it’s time to go, it grows, it’s undeniable, and eventually it propels you. “The world was a warped, unhappy place,” he said. “I hadn’t realized just how much sadness I’d absorbed.”

And so he did what the Buddhists do when faced with untenable, incomprehensible situations: nothing. He went to the cottage and “slept my ass off.” He flew to Italy with his wife to rediscover how to enjoy things. He buzzed his head and grew a goatee. “I was euphoric,” he says. “I lost a percentage of that need to know. Now I don’t need to know all the time. Now I smile more.”

But it’s also quickly apparent that Newman is not the kind of man who can be content with nothingness for long. It’s surprising that he sits still for an entire newscast: his ideal day is spent on water, but “just for a while.” He’s also a workout addict who checks his hands for calluses when talking about the old-school way of lifting weights as the great “equalizer.”

Now the 52-year-old wants to pioneer online news and reinvent the way people consume quality journalism and believes that real power is in social networking. He’s also a thinker for whom Twitter is a modern Distant Early Warning system for political hot potatoes, a science fiction geek who watches Battlestar Galactica because it’s brilliant political and social commentary, an ambling talker who conducts words with his hands as though he’s pointing them out as they leave his mouth. A “capital W” work type who has a soft spot for the underdog. An anchorman who starts by feeling the news because body language communicates truth better than do words. As Newman says: “The great journalists understand their own emotional core — not the partisan, the human.”

Storytelling, to Newman, is about tiptoeing the razor’s edge that divides technical reporting from pure emotion. “There’s the public expression of who you are, and then there’s who you really are,” he explains. “You have to decide how much you reveal of yourself. If you’re interested in someone, journalism lets you walk right into their lives.”

Suddenly, it feels as if the interview is coming to a close as Newman talks about his wife, Cathy, a “really, really good-looking woman who is tapped into the natural world in a way I’m not,” he says. “She sees the rhythms of nature, which is closer to what life’s really about.” And just as Newman is turning into a sentimentalist armed with a teenage crush, the Afghan vet comes back and makes another heroic save: a joke. And this time Newman’s pattern changes — from the engine-starting ha has to a tenor eruption of laughter that splashes against the ceiling.

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