About Mark Richardson

Who I Am

I was born in the U.K., near Windsor, but came to Canada at 18 years old with my parents and I’ve lived in the Toronto area for most of the last 40 years.

I’ve been a journalist since learning the craft at Toronto’s Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. I went to work in 1989 at the Ottawa Citizen as a general assignment reporter and feature writer in the newsroom, but left after five years to become an aid worker in Africa. CARE Canada needed a media relations officer to be on the ground in Rwanda and Zaire after the genocide there, and I spent 18 months travelling around the various hotspots of Central Africa before hankering to be a proper journalist again. I spent a couple of years in London as a TV producer for Worldwide Television News, then came back to Canada in 1998 to work as an editor at the Toronto Star.

At the Star, I started writing a freelance column for the automotive section about motorcycles, and when the job came up to be editor of that section, I jumped at it. Weekly deadlines, not daily or hourly, and nobody ever dies badly. Well, not that badly. Back then, the Wheels section was probably the biggest automotive publication in North America, with at least 36 pages to fill every week, and often 48 pages or more.

In the summer of 2004, I was able to take a couple of months off to recreate the journey of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a seminal roadtrip made by author Robert Pirsig and his son Chris in 1968. I rode the same roads as a Pirsig Pilgrim and met many of the same people along the way; my book, Zen and Now, was published in 2008 by Knopf. You can find out more about it elsewhere on this site.

It was a great job at the Star and I quit in 2012 just before turning 50 years old. I had no faith in the paper’s management and wanted to make my own decisions, and I’ve never regretted this. After I left, the section diminished to just a few pages and the editor who replaced me found himself outsourced to a central copy desk.

I spent that summer of 2012 driving across Canada on the Trans-Canada Highway, and I kept a daily blog along the way that was published in Maclean’s Magazine.  It was important to make this trip: I was born on the exact day that the Trans-Canada was opened to the public, so it seemed right to celebrate my 50th birthday on the highway, at the site of the ribbon-cutting. That blog was published the next year as a book, Canada’s Road, which you can find elsewhere on this site.

Dipping the wheels into the Atlantic to start the journey at Petty Harbour, NL
The Camaro dips its wheels into the Pacific in Victoria with my son Tristan.

I freelanced for a few years for the Star’s automotive section, travelling the world on all-expenses-paid trips to cover new vehicles. When the Star laid off all its freelancers, I went over the street to The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, and carried on covering vehicles for its automotive section without missing a beat.

I’m still there, writing about cars and trucks and motorcycles. Weekly deadlines are a thing of the past, though – the Internet changed all that.

  

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