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Longtime CBC Radio Producer Michael Finlay Dies After Random Assault in Toronto

Michael Finlay was an exceptional storyteller, documentary maker and editor, CBC says

Longtime CBC radio producer Michael Finlay died Tuesday from medical complications following a random assault in Toronto’s east end, his family has confirmed.

In an email to CBC staff, Cathy Perry, executive director of newsgathering and operations, said he will be remembered as an exceptional storyteller, documentary maker and editor.

Perry said Finlay travelled the world to produce radio documentaries for a number of programs, including Sunday Morning.

“If you worked on a documentary with Michael, you were experiencing the pinnacle of the craft,” the email said.

He was also a driving force behind Dispatches, a documentary program that featured the best of CBC’s foreign correspondents and freelancers. The program, which aired every week for 12 seasons, promised listeners it would “bring you the world.”

He was later an editor for World At Six, where he was famous for his knowledge of the news.

“He pushed journalists and producers to tell great stories and they knew he always had their back in the field,” Perry wrote.

“Michael had strong convictions about writing, story and structure. Every reporter he ever worked with said their story was made better because of Michael.”

Finlay retired from CBC in 2010 after working at the public broadcaster for 31 years.

In the afternoon of Jan. 24, Finlay was assaulted by a stranger as he walked along Danforth Avenue, a busy thoroughfare known for its many shops and restaurants, Toronto police say.

Though they did not identify Finlay by name, police said in a news release that the victim in the attack fell to the ground and suffered serious injuries as a result. 

They described the suspect as a man in his 20s, about six feet tall with a slim build. He was last seen wearing a red paper mask with flames on it, according to police, as well as a black sweater and black pants. He left the area on foot following the attack.

‘He knew what good journalism was’

Frank Koller, a former foreign correspondent for CBC who worked with Finlay on Sunday Morning, said he had a “laser-like sense of what might be important news anywhere in the world.”

In a Facebook post, Koller said it had been a dream of his to work alongside Finlay.

“I wanted to work with him because he understood better than most what ‘good radio’ required, he knew what good journalism was — and he was a stickler for good grammar and pronunciation and the music and cadence of well-spoken English,” Koller wrote.

“He wasn’t always the easiest guy in the world to get along with … irascible, sarcastic, a human chimney as smoking waned, sometimes a titch cranky, a human browser on virtually everything+anything, years before the Internet … what’s not to like?”

Laura Lynch, a veteran CBC journalist who now hosts the climate-focused radio program What on Earth, commented on Koller’s post to say that Finlay was a steadfast supporter of his colleagues on assignment.

“He was on the other end of the line for me many times. He knew the story, knew what it was like in the field and supported me and others in getting the job done and doing it well,” Lynch said.

Arrangements for a memorial for Finlay have not been released.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact them at 416-808-5500, or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477).

Police have released these images of the suspect:

The suspect is described as male, six feet tall, in his 20s, with a slim build. He was last seen wearing a red paper mask with flames on it, a black sweater and black pants.

Toronto Police Service

Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation