Arriving from Jamaica, Star columnist chased his dream in Canada – Metro US

Arriving from Jamaica, Star columnist chased his dream in Canada

Growing up in Jamaica, Royson James devoured the Jamaican Gleaner newspaper every day. When he moved to Canada in 1969 at age 16, he had a pretty good idea what he wanted to do with his life.

“I couldn’t do math and I couldn’t do chemistry, so medicine and sciences were out of the question. I gravitated towards things I could do — literature and history. I figured that might be a good career,” the Toronto Star’s city columnist explains.

He landed his first journalism job with Contrast, a Toronto-area black community newspaper. In the early 1980s, the Toronto Star began inserting community newspapers and sent young reporters to cover “the boonies,” James says. He was dispatched to Scarborough. He worked his way up the paper, starting his column in 1998.

“It’s a dream job for print journalists — for them to pay you to write your opinion, that’s pretty neat,” he says of his three-times-a-week slot. “At the same time, it’s a daunting job because suddenly your cover is blown.”

As a reporter, it’s all “He said, she said,” but as a columnist it’s “You said,” he laughs. “You’re exposed.”

The stronger comment, the stronger the reaction from the reader, which James accepts as par for the course. After all, he barges into readers’ homes every morning with his opinion. He doesn’t hesitate when asked what topics draw the most reaction: Race and policing.

His background sometimes gives him a different take on events. An example is his Jan. 19 column on earthquake-hit Haiti.

“For most of us, Haiti is a metaphor for misery and despair. For me, Haiti is a symbol of freedom — a mysterious lost brother, loved from afar, inscrutable, unfamiliar and cherished,” he wrote of the Caribbean country born in a slave revolution.

“Every now and then I stray away from my regular beat … and I get this because I may have a different perspective from most of the other writers at the Star. I take responsibility to present that view point,” he told Metro.

James figures his next career step will be retirement. That might him a chance to pursue a long-held ambition to write a novel or perhaps a children’s book.

“I’ve been threatening to write one since my kids were babies,” he says, noting three of his children are adults and the fourth is in Grade 9.

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