Former news anchor Hudson Mack is a familiar face to Vancouver Island residents, now he shares his own story with the book Unsinkable Anchor.
When Mack moved to Victoria in the mid-1980s, to take over the role as anchor at CHEK TV, he didn’t expect to put down roots.
“I assumed it would be part of a two- or three-year track, moving here, moving there, to a bigger market, into a bigger pond if you will,” he says. “I fell in love at work and met Patty. We got married in ’88. We love the Island. I’ve never been anywhere in the world where I haven’t been glad to get home.”
Mack was born in Calgary, the youngest of four children, to parents Clarence and Murdene. Clarence set the path for Mack, himself a career broadcaster, gaining notoriety as the morning man and program director on the number one radio station in Calgary at the time, CFAC.
“He was the inspiration to seek out this broadcasting career,” reflects Mack, whose father died of cancer when he was 14. His brother Gary, older than Mack by a decade, became his idol.
“My brother was kind of a north star for me in terms of career path and the importance of integrity and good writing in broadcast and giving back to the community and doing good,” he says.
Gary set the gold standard for the broadcasting family. Under the name Byron MacGregor, he rose to fame in 1974 with a recording of Gordon Sinclair’s commentary, The Americans. MacGregor broadcast the opinion supporting the United States’ willingness to offer aid to other countries facing crises, but being often left to face disaster at home, alone. It became so popular, MacGregor recorded the piece with America the Beautiful playing in the background. The single hit #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“My brother had a terrific career and was such an inspiration,” says Mack. “He really was my idol. The stuff they used to do at CKLW in Windsor, and later his experience with The Americans was really, pretty cool stuff.”
Mack’s career began in 1980 in Kamloops and continued in Prince George. By 1985 he was ready to leave the logging town and was offered a job at the CBC in Edmonton – which he turned down.
“I’ve always had a kind of an instinct. I’m a Pisces for what that’s worth. They say that people who are born under that sign are intuitive. I’ve always told our kids to listen to your gut and your gut instinct and it won’t steer you wrong, and … it just didn’t feel right,” he says. “The Edmonton example, it was for the dumb reason of the animosity between Edmonton and Calgary. I was still a recently transplanted Calgarian and the thought of moving to Edmonton just stuck in my craw. When I told Dennis McVarish at the CBC that was why I wasn’t taking the job, he was incredulous that would motivate me to make a career choice that could have ended disastrously.”
Mack was lucky though and Victoria’s CHEK-TV made him an offer shortly after.
Unsinkable Anchor offers a look into the politics of broadcast journalism, including Mack’s unprecedented move from a solid career at CHEK to take over the faltering New VI as news director – a position he failed to achieve during nearly 20 years at CHEK.
“It was a chance for me to achieve my long-held goal of leading a news department as the news director and kind of reinvent myself at age 44, and to strike out and try something new and challenge myself without having to leave the Island,” he says.
Ten years later, Mack was unceremoniously dropped by the station.
That firing is where he begins his tale, but its backbone is stories of family, insight into life at the anchor desk and surprising behind-the-scenes moments with local and international celebrities.