Burnett, James Robertson

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Burnett, James Robertson

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James Robertson Burnett was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1871. He began his career in journalism in his hometown as a reporter for the local paper, and later he became editor of The Dalkeith Advertiser, another Scotland-based newspaper. By the turn of the century, Burnett was employed as assistant editor, and eventually editor, of The Weekly Argosy, a weekly newspaper located in British Guiana. During his nine years in the British Colony, he successfully turned the Argosy into a daily newspaper. He then returned to Scotland, where he received an offer from Senator William Dennis of Canada to become editor of The Guardian in 1912. Burnett, then having twenty-four years of journalism experience, made the journey to Prince Edward Island, where he experienced great success with The Guardian, increasing its readership from 3,000 readers in 1912 to over 13,000 readers in 1952.

J. R. Burnett made several other improvements in the operation of The Guardian while acting as managing editor. He made great strides in improving the system of delivering his paper to the public. He enlisted the help of delivery trucks, and eventually airplanes, in a successful attempt to deliver the newspaper to all Island citizens, regardless of location, on the morning that it was printed, a feat which had never been attempted before. He even began his own transportation company, Provincial Transport Inc., which he eventually sold to Canada Post. Also part of his legacy is his coining of the phrase "Covers the Island Like the Dew", a phrase that is still used today as the sub-heading of The Guardian. Burnett is considered to be one of the pioneers of the Canadian Press, acting as one of its founding directors.

Besides being a successful business man, J. R. Burnett was also a dedicated family man. He married Flora Hope Trotter in 1909 in Scotland, after which they had five sons; Ian Allan (1910), William Robertson (1911), Niall Hope (1913), James Evelyn (1916), and George Mathieson (1919). His sons eventually became vital components of the operation of The Guardian, each holding positions of authority within the newspaper, except for Niall Burnett, who was killed in action during the Second World War.

J. R. Burnett took interest in several other associations other than the newspaper to which he was so dedicated. He was very dedicated to his church, Kirk of St. James Presbyterian Church, with himself and several of his sons becoming active elders in the church. He was also very involved with the Boy Scouts of Prince Edward Island, and he received the Scout's Medal of Merit for his volunteer efforts with the group.

James R. Burnett died on 12 June 1952.


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