Profile of a Digital Journalist: Marcus Hondro's many arts

Posted Mar 18, 2015 by Michael Thomas
Whether it's been opening on Muddy Waters' last tour, exchanging lines in a movie with Al Pacino or writing plays of his own, Marcus Hondro has enjoyed a circuitous path to journalism.
Marcus Hondro
Marcus Hondro
Marcus Hondro
Born in Victoria, B.C. and currently residing in Vancouver, Hondro is a familiar face on Digital Journal — he's written more than 3,000 articles since he joined the news network in December 2011. He's tackled a wide variety of topics, from crime in Canada to the latest in the fight against Alzheimer's. What may not be as well-known to Digital Journal regulars is that he led (and still leads) an actor's life. He also has some pretty funny stories to tell about music legend Joe Cocker.
Though broadcasting was something Hondro was interested in as a kid, music was one of his main passions and early on in his life he was a blues drummer. But before then he worked at VITA Community Living Services in Toronto as a support worker for developmentally disabled people.
"Our mandate was to care for and keep safe and try to teach some work skills," Hondro says.
Eventually he began gigging as a blues drummer in the Ontario area with his first band, the Rockin' Devils. Hondro says the band would play songs at the types of places where "people were throwing bottles at you."
He found more success with his work in Uncle Wiggly's Hot Shoes Blues Band, based in Victoria, BC. He recorded two albums with the band and toured with some big names in the rock business.
"We did two nights with Joe Cocker, which was really quite wonderful," Hondro says. "He was an odd duck." Cocker was apparently not allowed to drink, leading to some funny incidents throughout the night, like having to ask his management if he could bring a girl home.
Hondro also admires Muddy Waters — his band opened for the blues great on a leg of his last tour.
"That was a real thrill," Hondro says. "You couldn't meet a nicer human being. Fantastically, wonderfully humble."
Hondro earned a degree in journalism and history from the University of Victoria, and while there wrote for the school newspaper, the Martlet. Besides writing general news and about soccer, he also penned a column under the pseudonym Dr. Dashoway, because columns were generally frowned upon in the paper.
"In the cafeteria the column would sometimes come up as a topic and people wouldn't know I was Dr. Dashoway; that was fun," Hondro says.
After graduation, he left Victoria to pursue a career as a playwright, but he soon caught the acting bug.
"(I) took a class to see how the actor works and at the end the woman who taught it asked how many of us wanted a career in acting,” Hondro says. “Everyone but me said they did and later she took me aside and said I was the only one who could act, and that got me thinking."
Marcus Hondro in 2008
Marcus Hondro in 2008
Marcus Hondro
He is acting up to this day, and has been on TV shows and movies as varied as Da Vinci's Inquest and The X-Files. He even acted alongside Al Pacino in the movie 88 Minutes (Hondro calls the film Pacino's worst ever.) He also acted in several plays, including some of the first few SummerWorks festivals in Toronto.
Often, Hondro says, he ends up playing "homeless guys who tell the cops which way the bad guy went, drug dealers, cab drivers and people who shoot other people or who themselves get shot." In fact, he was twice cast as a character called "Mental Patient."
One of his favourite roles was a two-episode stint as a character called Babbles, in a TV show with Tom Berenger called Peacemakers. Hondro says Berenger and his crew were looking all over Vancouver for the character, and Hondro was told later, after Berenger saw Hondro's audition: "He stood up and said 'That's my idiot!'"
Despite Hondro's tendency to play these kinds of roles, he finds them fun and challenging. "I like to play characters who are on the edge of the world," Hondro says. "Not necessarily successful — but finding the warmth is what really interests me."
Though Hondro still acts (one of his most recent gigs was in a commercial with a squirrel co-star) he eventually started writing for a site called Suite 101 before moving onto Digital Journal. He says he used to write articles on more positive topics, and for a while he wrote quite a few stories on Justin Bieber. Before writing about the pop star, he saw a lot of "fluff" stories and decided on a different approach.
"I was tempted to write stupid things, but I wrote a lot of issues that happened with him as a news stories," Hondro says.
He has broadened his range to reportage on crime and Canadian news, and he especially focuses on breakthroughs in Alzheimer's treatments. He also has a keen eye for which of his stories get higher pageviews and builds off of that knowledge.
He also believes in the idea of keeping stories short. "If you try to give a succinct, accurate account of what's going on, then you're contributing," Hondro says. "Online journalists need to be accurate and fast, two traits that normally don't work well together."
When he sees a story about a funding drive for someone with an illness, he often writes about it. His ideas about this type of story neatly align with why he believes journalism is important.
"They're trying to do something and you go on board to do your part," Hondro says. "A sizable portion of people might not have been aware at all."
See previous profiles of Digital Journalists:
Karen Graham
Justin King
Jonathan Farrell