I was a consumer affairs reporter with CBC in the early 1980s when I did the most memorable interview of my 60-year journalism career. It was with Ralph Nader, the well-known American customer-rights activist, author, lecturer, lawyer, and occasional presidential candidate.
He was in Halifax for a speaking engagement, and I wanted the interviewed, but a colleague had already gotten the assignment. I was disappointed, because I had a lot I wanted to ask him that related to my consumer-affairs reporting.
I waited in the wings and, when his first interview was over, explained my situation and asked if he could give me a few minutes. Thankfully, he agreed.
I wanted to talk to him about a series of stories I’d been producing, questioning the lack of a mandatory seatbelt law in Nova Scotia. The discussion enraged many drivers, who contacted me saying (at their politest) “mind your own business.”
Nader urged me to ignore those people. He told me about publishing his noted book Unsafe at any Speed, in 1966. With the best-selling book, he helped spark the campaign for mandatory seatbelt laws, which he correctly believed they would save thousands of lives.
Half interview, half pep talk, the experience was truly inspiring, motivating me to push harder with my reporter efforts. In 1984, Nova Scotia would pass its first mandatory seatbelt law. The photo a crew member took of us talking is a treasured keepsake.
I like to think I gave Nader a memory too.
After the chat, I gave him a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies I had brought to sweeten the interview request. Later, I shared that detail with a colleague, who chuckled and said “You actually corrupted Ralph Nader by allowing him to get away without paying for the cookies.”