By The Canadian Press on February 8, 2018.
TORONTO – John Valorzi, a tough-talking, big-hearted 32-year veteran of The Canadian Press whose boundless enthusiasm, fearsome work ethic and exacting standards helped to shape an entire generation of journalists, has died at the age of 65.
Valorzi – an experienced editor and supervisor whose zeal for his work was matched only by his ambition for instilling similar values, sometimes with a tough-love approach, in those who worked for him, retired in 2012 from a company he adored.
He kept his hand in journalism – most recently as a columnist for the Peel Daily News – but was best known for casting a larger-than-life shadow as a tough but fair boss with an encyclopedic knowledge of history, sports and politics.
Scott White, CP’s former editor-in-chief who worked alongside Valorzi as a political correspondent in both Toronto and Washington, remembered his friend as the hardest-working journalist he’d ever known.
“John was relentless in all aspects of his work,” White said.
“He never accepted what business leaders or politicians said at face value. He would always dig deeper to find out the real story.”
Valorzi was a committed team player who routinely arrived at work before dawn and left the office well past dusk – and, to the consternation of some, demanded a similar degree of commitment from his reporters.
He refused to sugar-coat criticism or coddle new employees. Instead, he espoused blunt, stinging reviews – sometimes held in the office he affectionately dubbed “the crying room” – as the most efficient and beneficial path to building a better reporter.
In an emotional retirement speech in CP’s Toronto newsroom in 2012, Valorzi, a rabid football fan, credited famed Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi for the never-say-die philosophy that carried him through recent health issues and the day-to-day challenges of journalism.
Valorzi said he identified with the Brooklyn-born NFL legend the first time he saw the Packers coach on TV, at eight years old, because he, too, was “an ethnic kid from an Italian neighbourhood.”
“He said, ‘Compete every day, strive every day, build leaders in your organization. If you fail, use that as a springboard. If you lose a game, focus on the next.'”
Valorzi said he was proud that some Canadian journalists give him credit for influencing their careers but deflected that praise to his football role model.
“I didn’t think of it that way,” he said.
“I was really applying Vince Lombardi’s rules to young people, because young journalists are very insecure and success breeds confidence, confidence then breeds a hard edge in journalism, which then makes you better than others, and gets you victories.”
Valorzi died unexpectedly on Tuesday at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga as a result of complications after surgery.
He joined The Canadian Press in 1980 as a temporary reporter-editor but was hired on full-time later that year. He moved to the business department in 1981.
In 1987, he became CP’s Washington correspondent and went on to roles as Ontario news editor in 1991, Halifax bureau chief in 1993 and Toronto business editor from 1996 until retirement.
“He left an indelible mark on everyone who came into contact with him,” said Sunny Freeman, CP’s current business editor and a former Valorzi protege.
“Whether you loved him or feared him, there is no doubt he shaped you into a better journalist.”
Valorzi had the respect – “and sometimes the fear” – both of those who worked with him and for him, said Patti Tasko, a peer and former boss who now oversees Pagemasters North America, CP’s editorial production division.
Some would complain Valorzi worked them too hard, but they also admired his own tenacity, Tasko said.
“John had an informed opinion about just about every news story, beyond his own responsibilities at CP, and our news meetings were livelier with him there,” she said.
“The CP newsroom wasn’t the same after he left.”
Valorzi’s ability to inspire fear extended beyond the newsroom to public relations agents who would try to convince him to cover their clients, recalled Hugh Mansfield, who met him soon after setting up his own public relations company in Toronto 24 years ago.
“Everyone was fearful of him. He was very direct,” Mansfield said. “It was always, ‘Don’t waste my time if it’s not newsworthy.'”
Mansfield said he appreciated that attitude and they became good friends, talking for hours about sports and politics.
Valorzi is survived by his daughters Deanna and Kara-Lane, wife Heather, mother Gliceria and sisters Sandra (Michael) Tedesco and Lillie (Al) Loduca. He was predeceased by his father Gino.
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