An ‘Unpretentious Publisher’ Who Always Put The News People In Niagara Needed To Know First

By Joan Wiley, a former St. Catharines Standard reporter

Despite the family wealth and the powerful position he held in the community
as publisher of the local newspaper, Henry Burgoyne was a thoroughly unpretentious, decent and grounded individual. He insisted on being called Henry, not Mr. Burgoyne.

Henry Burgoyne with restired editorial page editor for The Standard, Tom Nevens, enjoying a game of golf. Photo courtest of Merv Cripps

Henry gained the respect of the newsroom ‹ never an easy task ‹ when he
endorsed the publication of controversial stories, knowing full well that by
doing so the paper would lose advertising revenue. His principles regarding
the news probably cost him personal friendships as well. I believe  the newspaper was more than a business to Henry  (it was a tangible expression of the high value he placed on professional and personal integrity, an
example of the respect he held for the citizens of Niagara, and a venue to
continue the legacy of his family¹s good name in the community.In the mid-80s, I wrote a three-part investigative series about two separate
families who were certain that their daughters had been sexually abused by
the same man. Police basically had dismissed the investigation before it
really started and never laid charges. That was the culture back then. Sex abuse was just a dirty secret that should be kept in the family closet. Except that then-managing editor Murray Thomson and Henry believed the issue should be forced out of the closet.

Because there were no charges, we could not use the suspect¹s name, and to protect the families, we couldn¹t use their names either. The day the first part of the series came out, The Standard switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree, mainly from people
accusing the paper of smut-mongering. In the end, police admitted their
shortcomings and a new organization was formed with a goal to protect
children from sex abuse.

Many years later, the one family was awarded compensation from a victim¹s fund, a decision entirely based on the strength of the news stories. If not for the courage of Henry and Murray, those controversial stories never would have run, and nor would there have been any of the positive outcomes.

This is just one of the journalistic risks encouraged by Henry. Sure he sold
papers, but informing the community he held so dear to his heart was more
important than an extra run on the printing press.

Finally, I¹ll never forget the day that Henry came to our home to present a
gift to our first baby. We still have that musical plush elephant, a memento
from a wonderfully decent man. That¹s just the kind of guy he was.

Joan Wiley a resident of Niagara, Ontario and a former reporter with The St. Catharines Standard

(Share your thoughts on the passing of this great Niagara newspaper publisher below and visit Niagara At Large at http://www.niagaraatlarge.com for more news and commentary on matters of interest and concern to our greater Niagara region.)

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2 responses to “An ‘Unpretentious Publisher’ Who Always Put The News People In Niagara Needed To Know First

  1. Nicely done, Joan. That was Henry.

    Like

  2. Pingback: The Tragedy of Losing Our Locally Owned New Outlets to Corporate Chains | Niagara At Large

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