Mary Campbell possesses that quick, cutting sense of humour that seems particular to the place that was once called Industrial Cape Breton. Most importantly, she can tell a story against herself. However, Mary also happens to be a serious, seasoned (not old!) journalist who has worked in Halifax, Prince Edward Island, Montreal, Toronto and the Czech Republic’s capital city of Prague. She was in Prague for several years.
In her story, she recalls in detail flipping her car into a snowbank in rural P.E.I. and then taking a photo of it for the newspaper she worked at, fainting while covering a surgical procedure in Montreal and being caught by the anesthesiologist, and getting hired as an English teacher by a Zimbabwean man in Prague because she was wearing a Cape Breton T-shirt.
Eventually, Mary returned home and in 2016 founded the online newspaper called the Cape Breton Spectator. On the publication’s site, she writes, “My needs are not great—my only extravagances are quality paper and cat antibiotics—so it won’t take too many subscribers to keep this enterprise afloat. Anything I earn beyond the bare necessities will pay freelance writers and photographers: I’m fond of the sound of my own voice, but not that fond.”
Mary also happens to be one of the “Highlander Campbells.” Her parents John and Dolores, several uncles and aunts, and a number of “non-Campbells” published the radical Cape Breton Highlander newspaper in Sydney from 1963 to 1976. Its prospectus stated, “There will be no hesitation to become involved in controversy if the outcome holds promise of constructive achievement for Cape Breton.” Mary, who was born in 1964, recalls growing up in that environment and the influence it had on her later life and work. That could well be the prospectus for the Spectator.
In her story, Mary mentions Tim Bousquet, publisher of the online Halifax Examiner newspaper, which like the Spectator is independent, adversarial, subscription-based and advertising-free. The two publications now offer a joint subscription. Bousquet writes, “Campbell is everything a journalist should be: inquisitive, dogged, and unafraid. Even better, she’s wickedly funny.” That describes Mary Campbell—and the Cape Breton Spectator—to a T.
This is only a short introduction to Mary’s much longer story.
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