Mary Lou Finlay and CBC have broken up and made up more times than she can recount. Still, she "couldn't imagine leaving." Then again, you never know
by Nicolle Weeks
It's a crisp and sunny Sunday afternoon and I'm standing inside the sparse lobby at the University of Toronto's Innis College. I'm looking for Mary Lou Finlay in a crowd of about 30 people. I don't see the face I've memorized from a small, frosted picture on CBC's website. But I do hear a familiar voice — that low and throaty voice — booming in the hall. Eventually, Finlay materializes from behind a large brick column. With her grey hair set in curls and wire-rimmed glasses resting on her nose, she looks nothing like her website picture. But she sounds everything like the voice of As It Happens, the CBC current-affairs radio program she's hosted for the past seven-and-a-half years.
Finlay shouldn't be that hard to pick out in a crowd. Over the past 30 years, she has hosted a number of TV programs — from her first national job in the 1970s at CBC's afternoon lifestyle show, Take 30, to The Journal, the network's pioneering television current-affairs program that she co-anchored with Barbara Frum in its early years. She also spent three years at CTV's Live It Up! in the late 1970s and has a long history as host on CBC radio. Along the way, she's earned a reputation as one of Canada's most talented interviewers.
With a resume like that, I'd think her face would be more familiar, like Frum's or Peter Gzowski's. But Finlay never took her turn in the limelight, partly because she has deliberately kept a low profile and rarely given interviews. Being Canadian and a journalist makes her more of pseudo-celebrity than the real deal — a point she herself is quick to raise.
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