‘UNIQUELY TALENTED’: Former Toronto Sun video director Nelson Branco dies at 48

“The world as a whole and the world of journalism in particular have lost a giant,” said Adrienne Batra, editor of The Sun.

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The world is calmer and much less fun today following the passing of former Toronto Sun video director Nelson Branco.

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The 48-year-old veteran journalist was found dead Monday in his downtown Toronto apartment.

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No cause of death has been disclosed.

“The world as a whole and the world of journalism in particular have lost a giant,” Sun editor Adrienne Batra said on Tuesday.

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Batra said the Winnipeg native’s passion for journalism was unparalleled and he was a cornerstone of The Sun’s video strategy. The two first met when Branco was his producer at Sun News Network.

“His dedication and work ethic were second to none,” Batra said. “In the field of video and digital, his ideas and his leadership have been decisive. Above all, I will miss him both as a colleague and a friend.

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Sun National Entertainment editor Mark Daniell recalled that Branco had an infallible sense of where public discourse was heading on everything from politics to sports to celebrities.

“Nelson had a unique talent and had amazing ability and insight into what appealed to audiences, whether it was video, digital or print,” Daniell said.

“He was also dedicated to the profession of journalism and worked very hard at it. It’s a loss for his friends and family, but also a huge loss for the industry.

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In 1993 Branco moved to Toronto, where he graduated from Ryerson University in Radio and Television Arts. Television remained his primary interest throughout his life, especially soap operas. Branco began his career at Soap Opera Update in New York before moving to the celebrity weekly In Touch, where he helped launch the tabloid.

During his career he has also worked for Weekly Scoop, Hello!, Xtra, TV Guide and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Starting in 2015, Branco became editor of the transit tabloid 24 Hours, where he spent long hours turning the paper into a buzzword for what was hot and what wasn’t. From there, his next assignment was as the Sun’s video director.

In a short time, the Toronto Sun’s videos became some of the most-watched newspaper videos in North America, with some surpassing the total audience of CBC’s flagship show, The National.

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Friend Vivian Vassos, now editor at Zoomer, was the editor of the now defunct Weekly Scoop. She called the pop culture maven “a comet.”

“Nelson’s sharp powers of observation and his fabulous view of celebrities could take a story from great to smarter, better and so much more fun to read,” Vassos said.

“But it was his smile and his kindness that revealed a shy, gentle man who loved nothing more than to be home with his pup. Nelson was a comet and a lover at the same time.

Writer Shaun Proulx and the Toronto Suns Nelson Branco.  SUPPLIED/ SHAUN PROULX
Writer Shaun Proulx and the Toronto Suns Nelson Branco. SUPPLIED/ SHAUN PROULX

Writer and podcaster Shaun Proulx, a longtime friend, said Branco meant a lot to him and they first bonded through soap operas.

“We spent hours together analyzing The Young and the Restless. He was a gifted writer and editor, and a champion of my work,” Proulx said, adding that Branco edited many of his stories and columns.

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“I will always fondly remember our trip to the Toronto Islands one summer, where I introduced him to Snake Island, and where I took his bad advice and ate too many weed gummies, passing out on the beach for three hours.”

But Proulx noted the sadness that plagued Branco over the death of his partner, who died of AIDS years ago.

“He always missed him and mourned him. He often spoke to me about him with great sadness still alive in his heart. I believe there was a sweet and beautiful reunion that took place, but meanwhile, here on Earth, life won’t be the same without you, Nellie.

Branco is survived by his mother, brother and sister and many friends.

Funeral arrangements were not available.

bhunter@postmedia.com

@HunterTOSun

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