Evan Solomon’s rise and fall at the CBC

TORONTO — Among the dwindling stars at the beleaguered CBC, it seemed the public broadcaster could bank on at least one: Evan Solomon.

The boyishly handsome anchor of CBC News Network’s daily political series “Power & Politics” and Radio One’s flagship political program “The House” had long been a rising luminary and was widely considered to be a possible successor to Peter Mansbridge as host of “The National.”

His marquee status was backed by everything one would look for in a CBC personality: a long resume of TV and radio hosting gigs; field experience extending to federal elections, budgets and foreign stints around the world; and a polished confidence in interviews with prime ministers, world leaders and U.S. presidents.

“It’s not who I admire (and there are many, many great journalists working today who I could name), but it’s what I admire,” Solomon told the Ottawa Citizen of his professional drive in an April 24 article available online.

“I admire journalists who break stories, make news and don’t follow the pack. One thing that isn’t going out of style: good journalism.”

The long-and-lean marathoner was also a bestselling author, a children’s book writer, a magazine publisher and family man — his rise from CBC golden boy to established figurehead seemed assured.

Until Tuesday.

CBC severed ties with Solomon barely an hour after the Toronto Star alleged the 47-year-old took advantage of his position to broker lucrative art deals between a friend and wealthy interview subjects. Power and politics, indeed.

Solomon has denied any wrongdoing and has turned to his union, the Canadian Media Guild, to examine his options.

But it’s undeniably a blow to what had been a relatively unblemished career, and certainly to his post as a watchdog tasked with holding decision-makers to the fire.

“I have had the opportunity to interview and debate many political leaders, and I never take the opportunity for granted,” the self-described political junkie told the University of Calgary’s online magazine UToday in a post dated March 26.

“It is a privilege to have two hours a day on CBC News Network and on CBC Radio One to hold our leaders to account.”

Solomon, who came to his Ottawa post as successor to veteran host Don Newman, launched into the spotlight as co-founder of the tech-and-culture magazine Shift. He was the editor-in-chief from 1992 to 1999, during which time he also carved out a role as a public speaker and digital pundit.

From there, he went on to helm several youth and tech-oriented shows for the CBC, which capitalized on Solomon’s youthful energy as TV newsrooms chased younger viewers and underwent infotainment-influenced makeovers.

Solomon’s shows included CBC’s six-part writers-and-thinkers series “The Changemakers,” Newsworld’s technology show “Futureworld,” the PBS co-production “Masters of Technology,” and Newsworld’s culture and ideas show “Hot Type.”

He shifted to broader news fare when he was named co-host of the weekly news and current affairs shows “CBC News: Sunday” and “CBC News: Sunday Night,” platforms that took him on reporting stints across the country and around the world.

Solomon’s first novel was “Crossing the Distance.” He also earned acclaim for writing and editing the 2004 business book “Fueling the Future: How the Battle Over Energy Will Change Everything.”

After attending high school in Toronto, Soloman studied English literature and religious studies at McGill University, a reflection of his interest “in myth and ritual,” as he explained in an interview with January Magazine about his first novel.

“It strikes me that storytelling has always been a sacred thing. The act of literacy was an act of power and through stories we conveyed all of our moral meanings and our power structures and who we were,” he said.

“Being a journalist you’re telling a story. You’re purveyors of story. That’s our job as journalists.”

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

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