Cliff Lonsdale (@lonsdalec) taught for 13 years in the Graduate Program in Journalism at Western University, after more than 40 years as a reporter, editor, producer and news executive around the world. Born in Britain and raised in central southern Africa, he began freelancing as a teenager, reporting from Elizabethville (now Lubumbashi) during the civil war that followed Congo’s independence from Belgium in 1960. He was later one of a handful of reporters who stayed on the staff of Zambia’s national daily newspaper to report that country’s transition to independence in 1964. At the age of 24, he produced and hosted a nightly radio program, Newsreel, for the Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation, in what is now Zimbabwe, and was fired in 1971 after blowing the whistle on news doctoring at the monopoly broadcaster. He was deported by Ian Smith’s government soon afterwards. In between these events, Lonsdale had worked for a regional newspaper in Britain, through a freelance agency for a broad range of Fleet Street papers and for CBC News in radio and television.
After his deportation, Lonsdale rejoined CBC Television News as a writer on The National. In succession, he became the program’s senior writer, line-up editor, producer and executive producer and, in 1976, at the age of 31, he became CBC Television’s Chief News Editor – the youngest person ever appointed to that position.
In 1980, Lonsdale moved to London, England, as CBC’s Head of Production in Europe and took on additional field work, mainly reporting for The Journal and Venture and producing a weekly program segment on European politics for CBC Newsworld. His work took him across Europe and to the Middle East, including Israel, the West Bank, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan. In 1991, he returned to Canada as Head of Production for CBC News, Current Affairs and Newsworld.
Lonsdale left CBC in 1993 and formed Black Inc. Productions, spending the next decade traveling worldwide to direct, shoot and host documentaries broadcast in Canada on The Discovery Channel and sold widely abroad. He began teaching television journalism at Western University in 2003 and continued to teach international reporting after retiring in 2012. In 2010, he was an inaugural Dart Academic Fellow at the Columbia Journalism School. He is a co-founder, with Jane Hawkes, of the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma.