Friends and former colleagues of Malcolm Baxter are this week remembering the veteran northwestern B.C. journalist who passed away in the early evening hours of May 3.
His newspaper career spanned more than 30 years beginning with the Kitimat Northern Sentinel in the mid-1980s before moving over to the Terrace Standard in 1988 and back again to Kitimat where he served as the editor of the Sentinel from 1995 until retiring in 2012.
After his retirement he wrote columns for those two newspapers, using his intimate knowledge of the region in casting a perceptive eye on local and regional political events and industrial activity.
Baxter, 71, was born in Winnipeg, of English parents, and his youth was divided between Kitimat and England where he finished his schooling.
He held a variety of jobs in Kitimat before seizing on his love of newspapering as a career choice.
“Malcolm was proudly the face of the Kitimat Northern Sentinel and the voice of the Kitimat community for many years,” said Lorie Williston, the president of Black Press North. “He had ink in his blood and was so committed to his craft.”
“The newspaper world has lost a great journalist but more importantly, so many have lost a great friend.”
Williston said Baxter will be remembered for a welcoming smile and charismatic laugh.
“It was an easy decision to lure Malcolm away from the Sentinel,” said Rod Link, former editor and publisher of the Terrace Standard which started publishing in 1988. “He knew what was news and what wasn’t, and approached it all with wit, wisdom and humour.
“When Malcolm was working on a story, you knew it would come with good research and a depth not easily found had it been assigned to anyone else.”
Kitimat mayor Phil Germuth knew Baxter’s approach very well.
“I always enjoyed his columns and opinion articles. He was very knowledgeable on subjects he wrote about and always called it as he saw it,” said Germuth.
“He truly loved Kitimat and its people and always had our best interests at heart. Sincere condolences to his family.”
As an editor, Baxter served as a teacher and mentor to young journalists, many of whom are now working at publications scattered across the country.
“He gave up his time, often hours, to share his immense historical knowledge about Kitimat, the greater region, and also his journalistic deftness, with me,” said Richard Macedo, the editor of the Calgary-based Daily Oil Bulletin who arrived in Kitimat in 2001 for his first-ever newspaper job.
“I’ll never forget our daily discussions and weekly editorial meetings, which were rich in lessons about everything from the strategy of interviewing, to insights about the journalism business.”
Jeff Nagel, another reporter who got his start in the northwest at the Terrace Standard, also described Baxter as a mentor who became a friend.
“I could not have hoped for a more entertaining and inspiring elder reporter to soak up knowledge from in the newsroom and hoist a pint with afterwards. He felt like a brother to me, and I am going to miss him dearly,” said Nagel.
Away from work Baxter was an avid gardener, who kept a detailed diary each growing season, and an equally devoted angler. Because he was born in Winnipeg, he closely followed the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Winnipeg Jets.
And as a resident of Kitimat, Baxter’s roots were deep in the community. His father, Basil, sat on the first Kitimat municipal council and there’s a Baxter Avenue in Kitimat.