James Gordon Dickinson is an Australian journalist born on November 13, 1940. He grew out of what he remembered as a “Huck Finn” childhood in Burnie, Tasmania. There, he was among three or four boys who frequented the docks and waterfront dives of the island state’s third-busiest seaport, exploring domestic and foreign cargo ships and talking with their crews, often at the expense of school attendance.
In 1957, Dickinson’s grandfather, a nationally eminent architect and city alderman, Iliffe Anderson, got him his first job in journalism as an apprentice at the Hobart Mercury. His persistent fascination with ships and sailors drew him to that city’s waterfront in his off-duty hours.
Unsuspected by him at the time, Dickinson’s explorations led him in the actual footsteps of his great, great grandfather ─ also named James ─ who 110 years before had been transported to Hobart as a convict from Liverpool, England for his involvement in the theft by others of a bale and two bags of wool.
Ironically, the first James Dickinson was also a writer, authoring the colony’s first gardening guide, The Wreath, a popular manual for planting and nurturing northern hemisphere vegetables and fruits in Tasmania.
Making A Name In Journalism
In 1960, Dickinson moved to a higher-paying job on the Australian mainland at the Melbourne Age, where he experienced a life-evolving epiphany moment as a young police reporter stationed at Melbourne’s police headquarters. The incident transformed his attitude to governance and the power of the press. He began to witness increasing examples of corruption in high places that went unreported – and unpunished due to Australia’s punitive press and libel laws, leading to his emigration to the U.S. thirteen years later in 1974.
In 1964, Dickinson moved on to the city’s afternoon daily Herald, followed by radio 3AW’s newsroom and television station ATV-0. In 1970, he became the first journalist to be appointed editor of the 50-year-old Australian Journal of Pharmacy, owned by the pharmaceutical profession. He transformed this dowdy monotone monthly publication into a colorful modern medium of news, opinion and contributed scientific articles, drawing the attention of contemporaries in international pharmaceutical publishing. In this position, Dickinson became founding secretary of the Melbourne Press Club in 1971.
In 1974, he emigrated with his young family to the U.S., where after brief assignments with the National Association of Retail Druggists in Chicago and the American Pharmaceutical Association in Washington, he joined the independent publishing house of FDC Reports Inc., publisher of the Pink Sheet and other trade newsletters.
This rapidly transformed his career from pharmaceutical journalism to the far broader field of regulatory reporting, covering the drug, biologic, cosmetic, medical device, and veterinary medicine interests in politics, regulation, law, manufacturing, distribution, and marketing.
Dickinson’s energies and exploding family expenses in their new country led him to accept additional writing assignments from other publications. He soon supplied his analytical reports about FDA and related Washington activities to a dozen U.S. and international trade publications.
Meanwhile, he became Washington Bureau Chief for Medical Economics Inc.’s Drug Topics magazine in a contract that allowed him to maintain multiple outside writing assignments. These years were Dickinson’s most productive. As an admiring contemporary, American Druggist editor-in-chief Stanley Siegelman observed in a letter, “Words come so easily to you ─ sometimes, I think, too easily.”
Dickinson’s Challenges & The Establishment Of Ferdic Inc.
However, the stress of that productivity brought terrible consequences. In 1981, Dickinson’s marriage foundered in a messy divorce, and he collapsed into acute and chronic stress-induced asthma. He lost all of his writing assignments and had two out-of-body experiences and near-death emergency medical resuscitations. His youngest son, Peter, was killed at age 16 by an Amtrak train while photographing a sunset from a railroad trestle in Springfield Park, Virginia.
Amid this turmoil, Dickinson married Sheila Laraine Ferguson and helped her for a year, as his fluctuating health permitted, in her work as a health insurance agent. That, however, involved a lot of time on the road throughout her territory in West Virginia, so together, they formed a new publishing company, Ferdic Inc. (a combination of her surname and his), to exploit Dickinson’s unrivaled sources within the Food and Drug Administration.
In 1984, Ferdic Inc. launched Dickinson’s FDA, a twice-monthly subscription newsletter for the drug industry. It was an immediate hit and, through several iterations, grew steadily into today’s all-digital Ferdic properties, Dickinson’s FDA Webview, a daily online news service, and Dickinson’s FDA Update by Fax, a weekly compilation of the top news highlights based on Dickinson’s exclusive FDA sources.
Rejection’s Legacy: The Memoirs Of James Gordon Dickinson
Rejection’s Legacy is James Dickinson’s autobiography, outlining his life as a banished boy and his life-long pursuit of vindication. The book revolves around the deeply hidden harms that psychological trauma in infancy can bring and some compensatory benefits in later life.
As Dickinson looks back over his life, he realizes that all that has happened has been due to a subconscious rebound from parental rejection in Australia at age six when he was unfairly banished to shield him from sexually precocious playmates in a Tasmanian wilderness settlement. He is abused in an out-of-state boarding school for 18 months until his family retrieves him. Those long-ago 18 months in exile are present, deep down inside, underneath everything he does for the rest of his life.
However, he pursues rejection to his advantage, providing him with inner defenses against his parents and further rejections as he completes his education and grows up with a drive to prove his worth and gain vindication in life as a journalist, first on the Australian mainland and then in Washington USA.
The stress breaks his marriage and health but not his quest for vindication until he meets and marries Sheila, the forty-year love of his life who dedicates herself without reserve to him. She lifts him out of acute, chronic asthma into a new career as a trail-blazing investigative reporter, editor, and publisher with an international clientele. Later, the worst happens, revealing his dark fate and transforming the readers’ perception for as long as they read it.
Today, Dickinson is a semi-retired resident of Ocala, Florida. He continues as Editor, Publisher, and President of Ferdic Inc., publishing FDA Webview daily and FDA Review weekly, both online. A Marquis Who’s Who in the World honoree, he is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists.