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Sunday, June 16, 2024
Columnist Jaime Watt reflects on highs and lows in new book
Toronto Star columnist Jaime Watt signed copies of his book “What I Wish I Said” for friends and readers during Sunday’s release party. (JULIA SACCO)

For Toronto Star columnist Jaime Watt, the hardest part of the job is the hindsight of what he could have said, or written, differently – usually, the day after his column comes out.

“I often wake up on Saturday morning thinking of what I wish I had said, so I just decided, ‘I have over 400 columns, so I’m gonna go back and have a look,’ ” Watt told The Lake Report. 

However, in Watt’s new, debut book, “What I Wish I Said: Confessions of a Columnist,” he gets to revisit 48 of his past columns through a retrospective lens of what he did right and what he wishes he could change.

Watt, a NOTL resident and member of the Shaw Festival board of directors, also is executive chairman of Navigator, a major Canadian communications and crisis management firm.

He held a book launch and signing Sunday at the home of Lyle Hall on King Street property.

Watt’s book looks critically at the way he tackled past issues in his column, including topical sections focusing on COVID-19, Trump politics, human rights and more.

His portfolio of columns includes around 400 different works. Watt’s publishing team, which included working journalists and his friends, went through hundreds of his columns and hand-selected what would work best in the book. 

“I wanted to bring particular issues forward,” said Dean Baxendale, president and CEO of Optimum Publishing International, who helped with the selection process.

“Especially around Donald Trump, some things around civil liberties, specifically around COVID, LGBTQ rights issues,” he added. 

One column that stands out for Watt is his piece on a certain president’s impermanence. 

“I wrote that Trump would be a hiccup, that he was nothing. I told everyone to calm down,” he said. 

Watt said that initially, he didn’t understand how the many judges Trump appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court  would change the power dynamic and just how lasting Trump’s influence on the North American political sphere would be. 

“We’re seeing it now, the attack on women’s rights with dominion over their body,” he said. 

The book is not just a collection of regrets, though. It features some of Watt’s career highlights and pieces closest to his heart. 

For example, a column showing Watt’s early reporting on the severity of the opioid crisis compared it to the AIDS epidemic. 

“The one closest to my heart is about my transplant,” he said. 

Watt explained that he waited much less time than the average person for a kidney – because he received one from his partner.

“Most people have to wait 11 years for a kidney,” he said.

These personal touches are what make a good columnist, along with strong opinions and unpredictability, he said. 

“Adrienne Clarkson said I was the only columnist that she couldn’t predict what they were going to say next. That was an amazing compliment to me,” Watt said.

The book is now available in stores and online.

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