When I was fresh out of Carleton journalism school and a cub reporter on the Montreal Star in 1976, I seized on the decision of the Gillette Corporation to introduce a new way to market its razors and blades. Constantly changing designs and shaving technologies in order to open new markets for its products, the corporation celebrated the invention of the “throwaway razor” to ease the way for customers tired of replacing just the razor blades and not the whole razor. Men and women could now pitch the whole razor into the garbage, a new and novel approach at that time.
I was assigned to cover what was expected to be a routine story for a rookie. I took it in an entirely non-promotional direction, beginning a lengthy piece of research that showed tons of extra plastic (with blades intact) would be ending up in landfills. The unflappable city editor, John Yorston, who had hired me, was patient with my calculations, and when the paper finally published my report, Gillette was not amused. They kept the throwaway product in their arsenal but seemed to realize it was unwise of them to market it as “the new best thing”. The fact that some landfills are not full of these disposable razors today can perhaps in some way be attributed to my precocious concern for the environment and my obsessive response. Investigative reporters, even young, keen ones, deserve to have some relief from the grind of seemingly endless searches for stories.