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Getting to know the Telegram's sports editor
Sports journalism was the career that found Robin Short, but he quickly made it his own, becoming one of the most respected and talented of his field in Canada.
“It’s a career I absolutely love — a career I still enjoy. I love writing. I love out talking to sports people,” said Short, the longtime Telegram sports editor and columnist.
“I love telling good stories. And I really, truly feel fortunate and blessed to have had this career. I take a certain amount of pride in that the three greatest events in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador sports — Alex Faulkner of Bishop’s Falls being the first Newfoundlander to play in the NHL during the 1961-62 hockey season; Brad Gushue’s team winning the gold medal at the Torino 2006 Winter Olympics and Daniel Cleary , the first Newfoundlander and Labradorean winning the Stanley Cup — I feel quite blessed, privileged and honoured to be there for two of them.”
Short was only five months past his 16th birthday when he graduated high school and joined a friend going to trade school to study as a millwright. When he realized that career wasn’t for him, he went to Memorial University.
But his old softball coach Fred Jackson — then sports editor at The Evening Telegram as it was known back then — offered him a part-time job.
“I love telling good stories. And I really, truly feel fortunate and blessed to have had this career." — Robin Short
A voracious reader, Short had devoured sports magazines and tabloids, but wasn’t into writing growing up, although he excelled in English and spelling.
“Sometimes I speak to school groups various career days and I often tell the kids this was a career that found me. I did not find it and I am very fortunate for that,” Short said.
The job involved compiling sports scores for a daily roundup.
When a full-time position came up, Short said he was nervous but decided to give it a chance.
“And Freddy talked it over with the publisher at the time — Steve Herder — and they elected to give me a chance and that was way back in 1985,” he said.
His first writing assignment was to go down and cover the high school hockey championship at the old Memorial Stadium — back in an era when the Catholic-Protestant rivalry was huge and the stands were packed.
In very early days, Short dug through the archives for clippings written by Telegram sports reporters such as Joe Walsh and Bernie Bennett and emulated the sports journalism format before coming into his own unique style.
Early years at The Telegram also gave Short another gift — it’s where he met his future wife, Kim, now a teacher and then a student working in the front office part-time while she attended Memorial University.
In 1991, Jackson moved over to news and then Telegram publisher Steve Herder called Short into his office and offered him the sports editor position.
Short said he was floored and flattered because he’d only been on the job five or six years and after some thought decided to take on the challenge.
Sports writing has changed over the years from the onetime habit of reporting on goals scored, and the play-by-play of the game.
But with technology making that information instantly available to all, journalists are on the hunt for the back stories and other fascinating tales.
"When people complain I look at it as this: No. 1, I want to hear what people are saying. If they are complaining, the fact they take the time to pick up the phone or send me an email to complain about something that is not in the paper, it shows they care.” — Short
The Telegram is the only mainstream media outlet in Newfoundland and Labrador with a full-time sports department.
“We receive a lot of feedback on our coverage. Some of it good. A lot of it not so good. When people complain I look at it as this: No. 1, I want to hear what people are saying. If they are complaining, the fact they take the time to pick up the phone or send me an email to complain about something that is not in the paper, it shows they care.”
He was tempted to leave when the Montreal Gazette was looking for someone to report on the Montreal Expos.
Short said he was encouraged by then publisher Miller Ayre and was to have been flown to Montreal for a face-to-face interview after his initial phone interview, but they went with someone whose work they had already been using.
“And looking back on it now, thankfully I didn’t get it because the Expos only lasted a couple years after that,” Short said.
1. What is your full name?
Robin John Short
2. Where and when were you born?
East-end St. John’s, January 1965.
3. Where do you live today?
St. John’s. I am a true-blue townie, which always makes for good folly when I joke with the baymen in the newsroom (Glen Whiffen).
4. What’s your favourite place in the world?
My mother in law has a place in St. Petersburg, Fla. Kim and I and Cameron, our son, we love to vacation out there. We love just walking the beach and hanging out by the pool. It’s nothing special, but it’s our little piece of paradise.
5. Who do you follow on social media?
Mostly sports people, other sports media, teams and stuff.
6. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
When I am outside the office, I appreciate when people come up to me at a bar or a restaurant and strangers come up to me. It does happen a lot. They will talk about the Leafs or the Canadiens, what do you think of the NHL, or Mile One or talking sports. I really appreciate that because it tells me they are reading. That said, people who know me know that when I am outside the office and not working, I don’t necessarily enjoy talking sports. I love talking politics, I love current affairs. Contrary to what people may think, I am not sports 24/7.
7. What’s been your favourite year and why?
The year Cameron was born 2002 – he is our only son; 1996, the year we were married; 2006 covering the Torino Olympics; 2010 Vancouver, the only thing better than covering the Olympics is covering them a second time.
8. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Just recently our little dog, Luna, we had to bring her out to be put down. That was tough.
9. Can you describe one experience that changed your life?
The day Freddy offered me the part-time position.
10. What’s your greatest indulgence?
Any sweets with sugar in them, regrettably.
11. What is your favourite movie or book?
No question "Hoosiers," about a high school basketball team.
12. What is your favourite sports book?
Favourite sports book is called “Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud” about Joe Pepitone, a former ballplayer with the New York Yankees. He did a lot of carousing with Mickey Mantle in the Yankees.
13. What’s the most memorable story every reported on?
There’s no question the greatest highlight of my life, the greatest story that I have ever reported on was Brad Gushue’s gold medal in Torino. Brad Gushue’s curling team scored six points in the sixth end of the gold-medal game against Finland to break open a 4-3 game and effectively end the game then and there. I remember turning to Dave Perkins of the Toronto Star seated next to me, and asking: “Did he just score six points?” I remember saying ‘That’s it, he won the gold medal. There’s no way he is losing it.” And that was something I will never forget.
That and Sidney Crosby’s golden gold in the 2010 Olympics. I was there reporting for Transcontinental Media. And Daniel Cleary, the first Newfoundlander to win the Stanley Cup. I covered that entire final between Detroit and Pittsburgh. After the game was over, they allow reporters and photographers on the ice and I was on the ice talking to Cleary. They are skating around holding the Stanley Cup and I am there next to him.
13. What are you reading or watching right now?
The book is “Matterhorn” A Novel of the Vietnam War.”
15. What’s your greatest fear?
Heights, which is ironic given I am 6-6.
16. How would you describe your personal fashion statement?
Thankfully, I have a fashionable wife to assist me in that regard.
17. What is your most treasured possession?
I have got a Guy Lafleur hockey stick signed by the entire Montreal Canadiens team from the late 1970s.
18. What physical or personality trait are you most grateful to a parent for?
My height. (his father was 6-2).
19. What three people would join you for your dream dinner party?
Maurice Richard, Babe Ruth and Muhammad Ali
20. How do you like to relax?
Down in my shed having a couple of beers and listening to Frank Sinatra