Martin Lynch, a behind-the-scenes newspaper legend, dies at his remote B.C. home
Martin Lynch was too modest to take the credit, but for many years the retired editor anonymously made the Alberta Report better. Since his sudden death of a suspected stroke at his home in Kaslo, north of Nelson, on December 10, aged 76, Mr. Lynch's admirers in newsrooms across the country have praised his passion for accurate and literate news reporting.
Arthur Martin Lynch was born in Saskatoon on July 10, 1924. In 1934, his father, a Canadian Pacific Railway doctor, moved the family to Vancouver. He inherited a love of railways from his dad and acquired a lifelong interest in ships and geography after wide travels during his teens as an office boy on the Empress line of ships.
After the war, he briefly attended McGill University in Montreal. He then worked as a Vancouver Sun librarian and copy editor. In 1952, after a brief stint at the Toronto Telegram, Mr. Lynch joined the Globe and Mail where, aside from a brief term at Maclean's, he spent the next 30 years as chief copy editor. Mr. Lynch, who married his wife Jane in 1959, had no children.
The last editor to handle copy before it was printed, Mr. Lynch was often amiable and joked to break newsroom tension, but sloppy reporting and grammar infuriated him. "He looked like an Old Testament prophet. He dominated that newsroom," says Beautiful British Columbia magazine editor Bryan McGill, who worked alongside him in 1967.
"He was a marvelous mentor," John King, the Globe and Mail's director of editorial production, says. "He set the highest standards for us."
"Mr. Lynch," Globe and Mail columnist Michael Valpy wrote in 1997, "brings to editing what Jascha Heifetz brought to violin-playing."
He remembered almost everything he read, and saved most of it. In the mid-1960s, fellow editor Murray Burt told Mr. Lynch that he was interested in buying a used Mercedes coupe. The next day, he gave Mr. Burt sales brochures for that model, classified ads for similar cars, and the name of the first owner of the very car Mr. Burt was interested in. "He was the most conscientious editor that I've ever worked with," Mr. Burt, former managing editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, adds.
He disliked the speeding cars and flashing lights of the big city, so after he retired in 1982, Mr. Lynch and his wife moved to Kaslo, B.C.. Most of the second floor of his house was devoted to his personal files in over 40 four-drawer filing cabinets.
He edited many of Peter C. Newman's books and did volunteer copy-editing for Beautiful British Columbia, Alberta Report's Alberta history books and British Columbia Report newsmagazine.
In 1989, after Mr. Lynch wrote letters to B.C. Report correcting factual and style errors in the first two issues, Ted Byfield asked him to help the magazine. From then until 1997, proofs of the magazine's pages would be faxed to Mr. Lynch's home as they were typeset. Our editors would then use his corrections to fix stories, as needed.
"He was indispensable," Mr., Byfield says. "He caught thousands of mistakes for us, but the amazing thing was that he would never allow us to pay him." While editing the Alberta histories, Mr. Lynch was often able to add useful material from his files.
Mr. Lynch's letters and notes, sent to friends and colleagues around the country, sometimes revealed a unique character. He was not religious. He once wrote, "In no way do I espouse Judeo-Christian values. But I tend to be kind to stray animals." Still, he liked B.C. Report's conservative values. He described himself as "pre-Burkean in my thinking."
"I am a codifier," he once wrote. "I would have everything follow systems. There is little room for randomness in the dark recesses of my mind."
He had no interest in things he considered wastes of time, such as sports, films, speculation about an afterlife and space exploration. "This was the first I'd heard of Tommy Tune," he wrote after proofing an article, "I'm not up on things of this century," he wrote. Political correctness and bending the truth also exasperated Mr. Lynch. "It's when a person starts believing his own BS that the trouble starts," he wrote.
Editor McGill thinks Mr. Lynch's example will continue to inspire those who knew him. "If you felt that you had his respect," he says, "you had a great thing."