Editor’s Note: Interim editor Paul Tuns interviewed journalist and broadcaster Michael Coren, who recently released a collection of columns, As I See It.
The Interim: How did you become a columnist? What did you want to be growing up?
Michael Coren: Growing up I wanted to be soccer player, then a rugby player, then an RAF pilot, then a jazz musician. At university, I was told by a professor that I was a gifted writer and very lazy – “You should be a spy or a journalist.” MI-5 seemed dull, so I drifted into journalism. I had some lucky breaks, had two books published by the time I was 24, found quite a bit of work. Columns came along later.
The Interim: What are some of the challenges facing a faithful Christian working in the media? What is the greatest difficulty you have ever faced (in your career)?
Coren: The most obvious is the problem of holding Christian moral beliefs on life and sexuality and thus being excluded from some of mainstream media. It’s not as bad as some would have you believe, but it can be difficult. I’ve lost jobs, one quite recently, because of my views.
The Interim: You write for the Toronto Sun, National Post, Catholic Register and, of course, The Interim. Is there a difference writing for a daily – and secular – paper and the weekly or monthly religious/social conservative papers?
Coren: Actually, I’ve just signed an exclusive agreement with the entire Sun chain, so I won’t be in the Post anymore. It’s a shame, but it means every Saturday, I’ll be in a large number of newspapers with a massive readership. There is a difference, of course, between secular and Christian – language, the assumptions of the audience, the subject matter.
Interim: Do you ever have “writer’s regret” – perhaps a column you wish you hadn’t written?
Coren: Oh yes. But not many. There is the inevitable looking back on earlier work and knowing it could have been better, but also the change of mind. Not that I’ve changed my views on moral issues, but I have evolved as a Christian and as a thinker.
Interim: Do you have a “favourite” column (from your own work)?
Coren: Difficult. I wrote some columns about my late parents and also about being a father that seemed to have moved a lot of people and that is always rewarding. Also some of my arguments for the unborn, for genuine marriage, against euthanasia in the mainstream press – when readers e-mail and say you’ve changed their minds on these subjects, it makes it all worthwhile.
Interim: What journalist do you always read?
Coren: None in particular. I go through a good six or seven papers each day, but no single journalist. There are authors though – Belloc, Orwell, Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Waugh.
Interim: How did this collection of columns come together?
Coren: I’ve done three other collections over the years, all from major publishers – Random House, Stoddart, Fenn. This time I thought I’d go with a new, small house and Freedom is just that. Canadian, conservative and ambitious.
Interim: Did you republish all of your columns or did you select favourite or representative ones? What years do they cover and what percentage of the columns you’ve written make it into the book? Describe the selection process.
Coren: I left out some that I simply don’t like anymore and some others that were too specific to their time of publication. The ones I included complied to theme – morality, politics, Middle East, religion and so on. I tried to form a balance of subjects. I didn’t edit them, because I think this is unfair – like changing the results after a game. What I wrote has to stand.
Interim: Thanks, Michael. Always a pleasure.