Niagara Gazette — Just as it should have been, the death of Pulitzer prize-winning movie critic Roger Ebert was announced first in the Chicago Sun-Times, the daily newspaper for which he wrote for more than four decades. Of course, this being the era of digital reporting, the paper’s website got the scoop.
But Roger wouldn’t have cared about that. He embraced the new writing and reporting technology with everything he had. He believed in the future of newspapers regardless of the way people read them.
Ebert, from Urbana, Ill., wrote his last column on April 3, literally 46 years to the day that he began working for the Sun-Times. Even though Roger was 70 years old, the hopeful column was full of the promise of youth. He wrote about new plans for his hugely popular website, about the film festival in his hometown, and about the recurrence of the cancer that would end his life a day later.
Ebert, and his PBS and syndicated movie reviewing partner Gene Siskel of the competing Chicago Tribune, took film criticism into a new area when they sparred on their popular television show, giving a thumbs up or a thumbs down to new movies. Eventually, Ebert would appear on television for 31 years, until the cancer that was first diagnosed in 2002 silenced his voice.
I’ve known Roger since the mid-1990s, when he, upon seeing my press credentials, asked me how far Buffalo was from Toronto after he sat a couple of seats away from me in a nearly empty balcony theater space of the old Uptown 3 during the closing days of the Toronto International Film Festival. I told him that Buffalo and Niagara Falls were just an easy hour-and-a-half ride down the Queen Elizabeth Way. We then discussed WNY, Chicago, and the movies we had seen at the festival.