If I had a billion dollars, I’d try to save the world too

December 2, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, I kept getting asked to write about billionaires. First, I was assigned by the Post City Magazine to write about the Bayview Post’s “Person of the Year,” the genius philanthropist (and former eBay president) Jeff Skoll. (You can read all about him and his good works here.)

There’s not much that’s more intimidating and inspiring than interviewing a billionaire who is trying to save the world. I won’t rehash all of Skoll’s various achievements here (they’re all in the article), but it’s wonderful that someone with the resources Skoll has is doing his utmost to make a genuine difference. If more rich guys were more like him, the world would be significantly better for it.

Then, as soon as I filed my story about Skoll, my editor called me up to do a rush job on a profile of the North Toronto Post’s person of the year, Galen G. Weston. (You can read this one too, but I’m significantly less proud of it than the Skoll piece.) First of all, Weston refused all interview requests, and Loblaw wouldn’t give me anyone else to talk to, so I had to string together a story based on secondary source research. Plus, after talking to Skoll about his many impressive initiatives, writing about how Loblaws was the first grocery store to charge for plastic bags felt disingenuous. It’s not that Weston is a bad guy – he is indeed a philanthropist, and there are plenty worse corporations than Loblaw, but it was anticlimactic.

Also, I read and typed the word “Loblaw” so many times that I couldn’t stop thinking about Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog, and it is very difficult to write a proper profile of a billionaire when you are laughing your head off.

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