Tuesday, January 20, 2009

644th Post - Interview with Radio Newsman and Author Chris Mills!

Chris Mills Interview -- January 9, 2009; January 15, 2009.

Chris and Patricia and I met at the Lion's Head Tavern on January 9th. It was a very fruitful meeting. However, my digital voice recorder failed me, so I went out and bought a much better one. Chris was kind and gracious and agreed to meet with us again on the 15th of January at a local Tim Horton's. The following interview is a combination of the two meetings.

In my next post, I'll announce a special contest whereby you can win one of Chris' books!


You are a radio newsman, a coast guard person, a writer, and a light house aficionado. Do you think of yourself as a renaissance man?

Chris Mills: No. I am a desperate man. I need to make a living. I have done a lot of things over my reasonably short career, but I do a number of things right now because I don't have a full-time job in any one mode or method of employment. I get a really good balance. There is a little bit of uncertainty at times because I don't always have work. But it gives me freedom at home to do work at home and spend time with my daughter. It gives me freedom to do two or three things that I really like. I'm also a carpenter on the side. I do photography. I write books. It's a bit of a juggling act, but... renaissance man? I don't know about that. I'm just a guy who likes to do lots of different things.

Bevboy: OK.

Patricia: Wouldn't you consider that a definition of a renaissance man?

CM: I don't feel I'm a renaissance man.

P: I think you're being modest.

CM: I mean, people, say, "Well, you're an author." I have written a couple of books. I don't consider myself an author. I think of Pierre Berton or I think of Stephen King. They're authors or novelists or whatever. I'm not. I'm a guy who likes to write books about lighthouses, so, technically, I guess I'm an author, too.

Next question [chuckles].

BB: You talked about how you do some carpentry work on the side. I'll say on a personal point that my father was a carpenter for 35 years. His specialty was making cabinets and...

P: Building houses!

BB: Building houses, and all kinds of stuff. I can't do any of those things whatsoever. I have scars all over my hands from trying to saw things, and cut things, and pound things. I'm surprised I've lived as long as I have. That's why I went into the field I'm in now. I wonder if you wouldn't mind talking about your carpentry work a little bit?

CM: I started as a manual labourer, a landscaper, a gardener, back in my teenage years. I started mowing lawns, and it developed into building wharves, and doing landscape construction. So, mostly retaining walls, and wharves. I was living in St. Margaret's Bay at the time; I think the biggest wharf we built was 100 feet long. We built them with railroad ties, so we were fairly husky young lads back then. We were out at night having fun at the bars and stuff, and working very early mornings doing really hard work. It was really hard work. I ended up having a problem with the creosote, because it's a toxin. I had some inner ear problems, so I gave up the creosote work but continued with that type of construction/carpentry work off and on until the present day. I have a friend who has a contracting company based out in Portugese Cove. I do manual labour for them.

It's funny. For instance, about three years ago, I was digging post holes (I'm quite a hole digger as well, apparently!) in the North end of Halifax in the morning, and I was doing C100 news in the afternoon.

BB: My God [chuckles]

CM: So, it's a weird juxtoposition. Two weeks ago I was spreading gravel in a driveway for my friend. I've also laid floors and that kind of stuff. I do my own carpentry at home.

BB: That's really hard work, laying floors.

CM: It is. It is, indeed. I do trim work in my own home, which has just been renovated. I help the carpenters work on that. So, in a nutshell, I am not a finish carpenter, but I do my own work. I do well when I can take my time and I am not rushed. I'd just as soon keep it that way because I think if I was forced to rush, I probably wouldn't do a very good job. I appreciate the work I'm able to do at home.

BB: Well, my father is happily retired, but he loves to talk, so if you ever need any carpentry tips, you can give my dad a call.

CM: OK [chuckles].


You have worked for both the CBC and private radio stations. Which do you prefer and why? Can you compare and contrast the CBC with private radio?

CM: How much time do you have?

BB: As much time as you want. I have hours of tape [actually, digital flash memory] left here.

CM: I had a great time working at CBC. I started in 2000. I was in the one year Bachelor of Journalism program at Kings. They came to me and offered me a part-time job doing the arts report for Carmen Klassen, who was doing the arts report at that time. It was a two minute, fifty nine second Arts round up from around the region. I enjoyed that. I also interned at Mainstreet, which was pretty cool. They offered me a job, and I started working in the news room in the news pool as a news reporter. After I had been an associate producer, fledgling, with the morning show, with the noon show, and with the afternoon show. So, starting with the afternoon, that's Mainstreet, Maritime Noon, and of course, Information Morning. So, I worked for all of those shows and then in the news pool.

I think the thing I was most nervous about was working in news because hard news at that time really wasn't my forte or my interest. To answer the question, though: I've enjoyed the private radio experience. I've been working in private radio for five years now. It was two and a half years with the CBC. I absolutely love private radio. I don't always love the product at private radio in general. I am not speaking specifically about where I work now. It's changed over the past few years, not necessarily for the better. But I have learned so much more. It's hands on. I get to op the board. I get to record things. I get to send them places. I get to interact with other hosts.

At CBC, especially when I was in news, you do your one minute ten second voicer. You go to four or five news events in a day. You write script clips. You write scripts. You write the voice reports. Once in a while, you do a tape talk, a live thing with the host. But mostly it was the one or two different things. And, really, I didn't enjoy going out to news conferences for minor things. It's stuff that could have been got much more easily by phone or other methods.

And, now, I'm surrounded by the music which is really cool. And co-hosting, which I really like because I then I get to interact. And, to me, that is what radio is all about. It's about the interaction between the host and the co-host and it's the way a song is introduced. It's the way the whole package works together. I have seen that in private radio. I always wanted to play music, and I will some day. I see more of that in private radio, and I really enjoy that.

BB: Cool. So, you find the CBC to be constraining or you're put into a pigeonhole and that's it?

CM: Well, it was when I was there. I think they're multitasking more now, but there wasn't a lot of hands on in terms of operating the board and that sort of thing. [There are] Some great folks there. I'm an avid CBC listener and I'm a an avid radio listener. I love the weekend shows. You know what I'm talking about. Weekend Mornings is just a fabulous show. There are some super people there. I keep in touch with a few, but it's not my gig. They have asked me to come back and do some freelance, which I have done over the years and may do some more. But I don't want to be on that treadmill anymore. I'd rather be on the treadmill that I am now, which is one that I'm really enjoying. Even though this can be stressful, and I'm still learning, and I still screw up once in a while (not in a big way, but a little stutter or a fumble or whatever), but I still go in there thinking, "Man, I want to be there!". I don't go, "Oh, God. I can't wait until the day is over". I'm always looking forward to going in there. It's a rare thing. I have not had that feeling since I was a lighthouse keeper. That's a whole different story.

BB: We'll get to that later on.


P: When I first met you, I made the comment about how radio people don't appear to me the way they actually. I hear the voice, and I envision how they actually look like. Of course, the two never seem to meet. What I was getting that is that Bev told me you have a background as a lighthouse keeper, so I had this romanticized vision of someone a little more seafaring, someone a little more grizzled. That's what I was getting at.

CM: I used to have a beard.

P: Did you?

CM: Yep. I didn't have a wooden leg.

P: A wooden leg or a parrot or anything like that?

CM: The parrot died.

P: [laughter]

CM: I was pretty gnarly looking as a young man. I had a huge beard, and I used to grow a beard every Winter. I needed one where I worked because it was so damned cold. I've cleaned up a little bit in my older years.


You're human. You're going to make a mistake once in a while. I also know you're a professional, so you're going to keep those mistakes to a minimum. What has been your biggest on air gaffe?

CM: I guess a couple. The first one I remember was when I first started working at Kool and Q104. The very first time what happened was I was reading the news at Q104 and somehow I flicked the mouse and... we read all of our newscasts off the cast editor on the computer screen. And I didn't have a paper back up with me. And somehow I must have flicked the roller ball in the middle of the mouse. The screen started spinning so I stopped and I started reading and I stopped and I just lost the screen. So I just looked at Tom [Bedell] and went like this [forefinger across his neck, cutting motion]. I did the kill sign, and instead of saying something witty or "Give me the sledge hammer on this machine." It was my first week there on the air, and I was scared shitless basically. It happened again on Kool, and this time it wasn't my fault. The system just crashed. So I had absolutely nothing, So the third time, I started bringing paper, and I figured that at the very least if I didn't have to read the paper, I could use it to wipe my [butt] if I made another mistake.

The other gaffe was more recently because I've been there five years now. I was reading the weather. I was co-hosting with Deb [Smith] on CJ[CH]. It was "patchy fog" in the forecast, and I did a spoonerism and said "potchy fag". I said, "No, no. Potchy fog! Potchy fag!"

BB: [laughter]

CM: And it was such a silly little thing. I started to laugh. I lost it. About half way through the weather, I said, "Excuse me!" And I started reading again, and I lost it. It's like when you're in the library with friends and you start laughing and it just kinds of builds on itself.

And that went all through the building. I guess Ian Robinson was listening on the way in and he thought it was hilarious. He just about drove off the road. It went all through the building. "You've got to watch out for that potchy fag!" [laughter] But that one we can laugh about. In fact, I took it off the logger and I listen to it at home once in a while. So, it's kind of funny. It wasn't meant to offend anyone. It is just one of those honest mistakes. It turned out to be kind of funny. Deb thought it was funny. But I'd rather not do that again.


What is the best piece of professional advice you have ever had? I realize you work in different contexts. I am thinking of broadcasting, but maybe some coastguard guy gave you some really good professional advice, too, so however you want to take it.

CM: Don't screw up! Relax, and have fun. Rich Horner, who's the news director at Newcap said,"Have fun." when I first went on air for him. I trained and he wanted me to do more stuff, and I went away to CKDU and did some stuff there and came back and he put me on his shift for a week, which is the day shift. That involves Kool, Q, and KIXX. And he said, "Have fun". I mean, there'd been lots that had come before that. He was training me. He is very constructively critical and very supportive and so after all that he said, "Have fun".

BB: So, that's your answer? Your professional advice?

CM: Oh, the other thing was that I have also given myself some advice, and that is "relax". Slow down. There is a lot going on. Like yesterday [January 8, 2009] we had a bunch of cancellations, and I noticed that I was started to read faster. When you read faster, you tend to stumble. So, slow down. Be accurate. Relax. Have fun. Three pieces of advice from two different people, one of whom was myself.


Yours was the last live voice on 920 CJCH. What was that last morning like, on May 30, 2008? What was going through your mind, especially during that very last newscast at 8 o'clock?

CM: I go back to the previous question by saying, "Don't screw up!". It was a really emotional morning. Deb [Smith] was really emotional.

BB: I heard her crying, yeah.

CM: Yeah. Her attachment to the station goes back a lot farther than mine. She worked there for ten years. I only worked there for five months, but I grew up listening to CJ and I loved CJ and I still love CJ even though it's gone now for all intents and purposes.

It was a tough morning. I kept my emotions more-or-less in check. But then Deb would get kind of emotional and I would get kind of emotional, and just before 8 o'clock when I did my very last newscast we both kind of lost it a little bit. I was starting to tear up a little bit and ... it was amazing. I went through the cast. I did a pretty good cast, a ten minute news and all that kind of stuff. And then I had scripted just a little goodbye which I read at the end. And I said, "I'm Chris Mills. For the last time at AM 92 CJCH."

BB: It was very sad.

CM: And I pushed the off button on my mic. I was kind of numb. I finished up and I said, "I'll talk to you later, Deb", I walked out of the building and I walked over to get a coffee over at Timmies across the road here. My wife called me on the cell phone and asked me, "I heard that. How do you feel?" I said, "I don't know." I felt empty, and a sense of loss. And, you know what? I feel that to this day. I still do.

CJ needed to be revamped. It had to change. I understand that. Things had to be stirred up a little bit. I think what they did was kind of just let it die because it was going to change, and there was no sense in programming it more effectively or put a better song in or whatever, But, I still love that station. It was around for 64 years. It was a powerhouse top 40 station. It was a news leader before CBC was. The legion of personalities like Brian Phillips and Randy Dewell and long before them. The list is too numerous to mention.

I don't consider myself a real news professional although I'm learning all the time. It's not that I don't want to do a good job, but I see so many people who [are] more experienced than me. But I am so proud, intensely proud, of being the last voice on CJ, for what it's worth.

BB: Well, I mean, it was an honour, I guess in some sense to be the last live voice there. I, uh...

CM: It was! It was an extreme honour. And, you know what? It kind of happened. Because Brian [Phillips] was off. Deb was doing Brian's job. I was doing her job. Otherwise, it would have been her.

And, really, the big thing about the loss of CJ was the loss of Rick Howe. It was the Hotline. That was the biggest loss because the rest of it had kind of been put on the back burner. And that was a very emotional day as well. I ran that as a new story on C100 that afternoon because I was working C100 afternoons and that was kind of weird, too, because I was shifting gears and getting into the FM mode and I was reporting on what had happened that morning.

But to answer your question: It was tough, it was really emotional, but I'm intensely proud of the time I spent at CJ, and I will always be.

On January 15, 2009, we met for a second time, because my original digital voice recorder failed me and I had lost a portion of the first interview. Chris graciously met us at a nearby Tim Hortons. He fleshed out some earlier comments, and provided new material.

BB: I cut you off the last time you were talking about the CJCH last voice thing. I do apologize for that.

CM: It was a shortened morning. My last news cast was at 8am. Normally I was finished at noon. But that was going to be it, and at 10am the station was going to switch to FM. And it did. In fact,I have tape of "Sweet City Woman" being chopped off, and then you hear the static and it's gone.

As we approached 8 o'clock, it was a difficult morning as I said when we talked previously. It was an emotional time for both Deb and myself. I wanted to make sure I did a good job on my last newscast. I kept it going as I normally would, and at the end, when I did my final weather, I said, "Our very best to all of you. I'm Chris Mills. For the last time on AM 92 CJCH." That's all I said. I was thinking of doing something a little bit more, and I said, "No. Keep it simple. Keep it short. But emphasize, "for the last time on AM 92 CJCH". And then they went to that little jingle that they were running about change being good and all that kind of stuff.

P: Sniff!

CM: And that was it. And the rest of it, you have on tape. But that was my last few moments on CJCH.


What sparked your interest in radio?

CM: Birth. Two big interests: Lighthouses and radio. Lighthouses developed right away ever since I can remember. Radio? Not right away consciously, but I used to pretend I was d.j.'ing music. And I did that off and on until I was quite a bit older. I won't say how old. It's a little embarrassing to think about it.

I grew up in a household that listened to the CBC. My dad was a ham radio operator. BBC World Service was in a household full of radios and radio, and I think that sparked or at least nurtured the interest. I grew up not only listening to CBC but CJCH and then C100 when that was album radio for Atlantic Canada. I still remember when C100 played "Dream Street Rose", the whole album, by Gordon Lightfoot back around 1980. So, I remember all those things. And I remember hearing on the radio when John Lennon was killed. I just remember so many things associated with radio. But I've always been interested. It wasn't until I was in my thirties that I realized I wanted to work in radio. It was a life long passion, but unrealized until later years.

P: How does one in your thirties just walk into a radio station and say, "Hey, I want to be an on air personality"?

CM: Well, no. I was kind of at a loss for what to do after lighthouse keeping and I was going through kind of a rough patch in my life and I had a new child and there was all kinds of stuff going on in my life and I decided to go to journalism school. Whether it was to write or be on the radio I didn't know. I really liked radio and journalism and I was told I had a good voice. I won an award called the Golden Cobden which was a beer bottle painted gold that was named after one of the professors there, Michael Cobden at the journalism program at Kings. Two of them for the most sultry radio voice...

BB: Sultry?!

P: [laughter]

CM: For what it's worth, it was all fun, but ... um, what was the question?

BB: What sparked your interest in radio? You were born and...

CM: I like to talk! [laughter] Anyway, so I got out of journalism school and I started working at CBC and I realized that I loved the medium and that there was a magic about pushing that button and the on air light coming on and projecting. Not just the sound of your own voice, but it's everything from the tradition of radio to sharing information to touching people to having social intercourse as well. It's all wrapped up into one package. "Intercourse" meaning not Howard Stern, ok? And the biggest magic for me now is I have so much respect for announcers who know how to talk just the right amount over a song and how they mix the music and how everything comes together. It is easier to do that now with RCS and the automation systems and computer systems. And to me that is pure, unadulterated magic.

BB: Chris, are there a couple of people in the pretty pink palace on Agricola Street that you work with whom you particularly admire and respect?

CM: There's a lot of good people there who work really hard for the jobs that they do, but in the news department I talked about enjoying working around the music, and that's a big thrill to be in the mix so to speak. But, Stephanie Woodin who works as the morning news person at 780 KIXX has been in the business for a long time. [She's] worked on both coasts and is absolutely amazing. She started out in radio out west for a while in Port Alberni of all places. That was before she was working in news, but I've worked with her in the mornings and for her and she's amazing. She's like a one woman newsroom. She is really the glue that holds the news run together in the morning because she is collecting and disseminating so much information that other people can't get because they're in the various control rooms doing the work that they do.

BB: So, they're co-hosting, and she helps gather the news for them?

CM: Yeah, she's kind of like the mainstay of the newsroom. She has a very important role to play in the way that building runs in the morning. And that trickles down through the rest of the day.

Also, Rich Horner, who's the news director for Newcap, who hired me initially there. As I mentioned before, he is constructively critical and always concerned with accuracy, and as I said before, having fun as well. Which is a nice thing to hear from someone who's very serious about what they do, yet he wants you to have fun. He's been absolutely amazing.

And, of course, Rick Howe, who I worked with on the CHUM side. Rick has a career spanning 30 years. He's done a lot and is kind of a legend I guess you'd say. He's certainly well known in certain quarters.

And there are other fine people, like Ian Robinson on the music side, who is just a joy to work with. We have almost too much fun when we're together. We have to be careful [chuckles].

BB: You guys were amazing on those days leading up to Christmas on Kool FM. Especially December 24th. You sounded like you were having a wonderful time.

CM: It was fun, and you have to be careful that you don't get too giddy and let things get out of control because I'm also doing the news, right? I can't be an idiot. But he is so much to have fun with and he is such a pro. He is such a great guy.

And, there's lots of other people in the building, but these are people I've worked with quite a bit that they bear mention because of their professionalism, and because they're really fine human beings.

BB: They make it look easy, don't they? It looks easy until you're behind the mic and you start stuttering. And you think, "My God! What am I doing here?"

CM: When I go in and do my KIXX shift I op my own cast at six, and I'm sitting at the board and I have to make sure that I'm on program, and I have to make sure I have my screen up and my clips are ready. And I have to make sure my KLZ (which is the news program) is up, and of course I have to put my own button on and make sure that the machine is online and on assist or manual so that it doesn't blast right through my cast. When a spot comes up, I have to push the button.

BB: In the first interview last week, my digital voice recorder failed me just as you were talking about how you operate the 780 KIXX news broadcasts. I'd like to hear a little bit more about that.

CM: The first broadcast of the day, you op yourself. After that it's Frank, because Frank is the morning show host, so...

BB: Frank Lowe.

CM: That's right. When a spot comes up (a spot being a commercial), I have to push the button. That's the green button which says "next" on it. That takes you to the next element on the logger. You've read your news. You've done your sports. Then you say, "When news breaks near you, call the 780 KIXX Country News Hotline at 453-3777. Weather's next". You hit , pot your ear mic down, and wait for your 30 second spot. The machine is in live assist or manual, so it doesn't keep running through automatically. It stops after the spot is done, so you open up your mic and say, "780 KIXX Country Sky Watch Weather: Blah, blah, blah. Right now it's 5 degrees in metro."

BB: I wish!

CM, P: [laughter] I'm Chris Mills. Classic Country 780 KIXX. And you put the machine back on again, pot your mic down...

BB: Pot?

CM: Potentiometer. Sliders. Just pot it down, turn it off. And then you have to make sure you put the machine back into automation, because if you don't, it'll stop after the little i.d. that comes after. Then you have to push again. But if you're fast enough, and used to it, you just push to get back in, and Frank, of course, is back in controlling the system.

Again, maybe for people who've done it, it's not a big deal. But to me, it's neat to see how it works. This takes me back to what I told you about CBC. I didn't have the same hands on experience [there]. This is what I'm learning. It's not rocket science, but it involves a certain amount of thinking on your feet, and knowing the board and...

P: Timing.

CM ... and timing. And it's fun. It really is. It's very interesting.


What caused your abiding interest in lighhouses?

CM: I guess the interest in lighthouses started from the earliest I can remember. My folks had been travelling around coastal areas. My dad was an oceanographer; my mom laterally was a biologist. So, they spent time in coastal areas. When I was in utero, they climbed the Cape Hatteras light in North Carolina, which is the tallest light in North America, actually. It doesn't matter if it's tall or short, but I like to think the seed was planted then.

What I'm saying is that from the very first that I can remember I was interested in lighthouses, starting with our summer cottage in Brier Island on the end of Digby Neck. There was a lighthouse just down the road. There were 3 lighthouse keepers living on the station with their families. There was a traditional rotating Fresnel lens. There was a big old fog horn there as well. I was really frightened of that, but I could use the term "fearfully fascinated" with this horn. I remember going with the lightkeeper, who had a false leg by the way. It's almost like, "This is too good to be true". His name was Wick Lent, and he was a marvellous man. I still correspond with his daughter.

He took me up and showed me the fog alarm building. He went to turn the light switch on, and I thought he was turning the horn on. I flew out the door, and fell flat on my face down the side of the bank. That's how scared I was. But it sparked me to build my own lighthouse at the age of 7 or so. It was just made out of drift wood and pieces of broken up lobster traps and stuff, with a red trouble light. I still have that. It still works, too.

P: Oh!

CM: It's down to our cottage in Brier Island. And it [the interest] went from there to looking for a job and when I was 16 I went to Manpower [the old name for Canada Employment] and applied for a job. They didn't have any, which was not true. Ironically, it turned out that automation and de-staffling led me to working in stations because they were looking for fill-in people for short periods. That led me from Cross Island off Lunenburg to Seal Island off Cape Sable to Machias Seal Island off New Brunswick to Gannet Rock and then all the way across the country to 7 Lights on the North Coast of B.C, in what is called the Central Coast, based out of Prince Rupert. That lasted from the beginning of '89 to the end of '97. That's almost 9 years. 11 lighthouses, 2 coasts, 3 provinces.

BB: Would you go long periods of time without seeing other people other than your immediate family?

CM: On the rotational lights: Month on, month off. 28 on, 28 off. Then you were home for 28 days. Most of the lights here that were rotational, most of the ones I was on, the lights out West you were on full time. The longest I was away from the mainland, away from civilization was about 7 months.

BB: Seven months without seeing potentially another human being?

CM: Well, there was the principal keeper and myself. And his wife, and laterally, my wife plus the dogs, and the cats, goats in some cases, and chickens, and turkeys. Depending on who had what.

BB: And did you have supplies brought in?

CM: Supplies were mostly brought in by helicopter, by Sikorski S-61N based out of Prince Rupert. It is like a Sea King but extended. And it's more reliable, apparently, because we certainly never crashed! That brought a tender, which we ordered by radio phone every month. We'd phone our order into a grocery chain called Overwaitea in Prince Rupert, and they would send it out to us in boxes every month.

P: These lighthouses were basically situated on a small island far from the mainland or...?

CM: On an island or mainland, but on the North coast of B.C. there is very little population up there -- a few aboriginal communities and some fishing camps and lighthouses and bears. That's it. So, whether you're on the mainland or an island, it's the same thing.

P: Very remote.

CM: Very isolated. There was only one that was near a large community and that was Dryad Point, which was our last one we were a 2 mile boat ride from Bella Bella, which had a population of about 1000. So, that was what I'd call a "downtown" station.

BB: And how did that end, the lighthouse keeping?

CM: Well, it ended here first because de-staffing was cutting down on the number of keepers, and there was very little opportunity for me to work. I found out they were still hiring keepers out West, and they still have keepers to this day (27 staffed stations in BC, and there are some in Newfoundland, and Machias Seal in New Brunswick). Anyway, to make a long story short, I applied as a casual to work on the lights out there and arrived in B.C. in early 1994 and within 5 days I had a job on the northernmost lighthouse which was Green Island, which was about 18 miles NW of Prince Rupert, so it's 10 miles South of the Alaskan Panhandle. That's where it all started out West, so that was my second kick at the lightkeeping can.

That ended in '97 when my lighthouse was supposed to be de-staffed, My wife had a job here that she didn't want to lose. She had taken a leave of absence, so we came home. Subsequently, they hired all the part timers on as full timers.


What is it like, to write a book? How much time does it take you to write one? Who was your editor and what was it like to work with this person?

CM: I love to write. It's liberating. It's catharctic. To me, it's about creation and communication and sharing ideas. And I just like sitting and writing. I enjoy it.

The first book I wrote, it was kind of piece meal and I found it difficult to focus. It was hard because I just didn't know how to get into the flow even though I was interested in the subject material because it was lighthouses and me. I was younger at the time. The second book came more quickly. I wrote one chapter in one weekend. The others came more slowly. The first book took two years. The second one took a year. Granted: In between I'm working and raising a family, hanging out with my wife occasionally and doing that kind of stuff. I certainly couldn't have done it without her support because it took a lot of time away from other things I should have been doing.

I had a couple of editors. At Nimbus Publishing, I had Sandra MacIntyre and Penelope Jackson. They were super to work with. The only problem I had, was not with them. It was with an outside editor. I wrote a chapter on women and lightkeeping, because women were the mainstay of lighthouses but they really don't get a lot of credit for what they did. It's mostly because it was their husbands who were being paid, and they weren't. They [women] did the lion's share of the work. The lighthouses wouldn't have survived without them. They also rescued mariners as well. They did all sorts of stuff. It must have been some young, idealistic new age editor who wanted to know how women dealt with various "bodily functions" and "nudity" .

I mentioned this to one of my lightkeeping friends who grew up on one of the lighthouses. She said, "They just did what they had to do and got on with life – just like every other woman (on an island or not) had to. And nudity? How did they handle it? Guess like everyone else – enjoyed it when they could and threw clothes on when necessary!"

Pardon my crudity, but there was no need to get into the nitty gritty. It was more important to get into not various bodily functions but in dealing with the situation of kids getting sick, of lack of church, of lack of social links, of lack of other women.

P: Other support.

CM: Other support. Exactly. That's what I got into in the book, as opposed to that. That's the only issue I had in dealing with an editor, but that was an outside editor. It was not Penelope or Sandra.

P: Was that book published?

CM: Both were published. It was a good experience, working with the editors. They were very supportive. So far, it's been a pretty good thing,

BB: How well have your books sold?

CM: The first one sold about 6000 copies. It was out of print, but it's back in print since last year in April. The second one, which came out in 2006, has sold between 2500 and 3000 copies so far. It's not huge sales. I'm no Stephen King. I'm no Pierre Berton. But for a local, niche interest, it's done really well. Nimbus tells me that a regular book launch has about 40 people, with 20 books sold. I had in excess of 220 people and 112 books sold.

BB: That's amazing.

CM: It had an acclaimed start and it continues to sell reasonably well. I'm not in it for the money. I'm in it because I love lighthouses.


You were interviewed by Rick Howe just before Christmas, December 24th I think. What was it like to be interviewed by him, given your history with him (he hired you at CHUM). What was it like to be on the other side of the mic?

CM: It wasn't so strange. It was nice to see Rick again. I hadn't seen him in some months. But it wasn't so strange because while I was working there although I wasn't physically working at that moment he had interviewed me at least twice on the Hotline.


CM: Once in person; once on the phone. And he had also interviewed me for his column in The Daily News. So in that way it wasn't strange. It was just really nice to hear him again. And it was almost like a flashback to the Hotline days. I would do my news at 10, 11 and 12, and I'd be coming and going as the Hotline was coming and going. And people would be moving in and out of the studio. It was always crazy. And, of course, I listened to the show a lot then, too, so it was like a flashback. It was great to talk to Rick again, but it wasn't that strange to be on the other side of the mic because I had done that with him and I had done that with other people.

BB: Do you listen to that Rogers station very much?

CM: No. I don't like All Talk stations per se. And I don't necessarily like the format there. I don't like... I think it's Mitch Craig out of Memphis who does all that voice stuff. I think it's the same guy who did the Oldies 96 stuff.

BB: I think so, yeah.

CM: His name is Mitch Craig, anyway. He is based out of Memphis, Tennessee. It's way too big and it's [effects a Mitch Craig voice] "The Weather Guarantee". [laughter] It's like, enough already! And I find there's too much emphasis on all those posts than there is on the news itself. Because, to be quite honest, I could be wrong because there are some great people there. Greg Morrow's really doing a great job for them. Of course, Doug Reynolds is incredible. I wouldn't say anything bad about any of those guys, but I just don't think the format allows for a lot of creativity. And they don't seem to do a lot more original news than we do.

BB: Yeah. 30 minutes of a news wheel, and there are stories that Caroline Parker will talk about in a 3 minute newscast that they don't bother to mention. I don't know why.

CM: We seem to have breaking news more than they do, sometimes. They'll be running an old story, and say, "This just in" type thing, and I don't know why that is because they have some excellent expert people there.

BB: They have lots of staff. They're not hurting for staff.

CM: They have staff who can actually go out and go to accidents and go to newsers. We don't, unless it's huge. We don't send anybody because we don't have the resources.

But, I'm not a talk radio fan per se. I like elements of it, but I could never listen to it all day.

BB: I wish they didn't have all that sports crap at night.

CM: I was not a fan of the Team [Chum's ill-fated venture into a Canadian radio all sports format that lasted from May 2001 until late August, 2002]. And I'm certainly not a fan of any sports radio. I have nothing against sports, but [when you get someone like] Jordan Staal of the Pittsburgh Penguins who got a four year contract extension. Sixteen million bucks? I don't care! It's way too much, and I don't give a [darn]. I'd rather hear about local dory rowing because it's something more associated with Maritime tradition. I'd rather hear about something local than that stuff.

BB: Well, their ratings aren't that great, so I'm not sure how many people really want to hear what they're putting out.

CM: And it's syndicated stuff, right?

BB: Yeah.

P: Do you think it's so much what people want, or what people are told that they want?

CM: I don't know. I think it's a mixture of the two. But I'll bear a lot of it because I'm fed it. And I think that's the case with a lot of people. All the people who don't want it, who don't care about it either listen to CKDU or the niche station they like, or don't listen to the radio at all. So, I think it's a bit of both. But there is a huge machine feeding us stuff whether we like it or not, and the only choice we have is to turn it off. Either tune to another station, or turn it off.

BB: In the run of the day, I listen to five or six different radio stations. I'm not a typical listener at all. I like Kool FM for Griff and Caroline; I think they're hysterical. Some of the music is starting to get on my nerves, I listen to the Q. I like Bobby Mac and the morning crew there at Q104.

CM: Edgy stuff, yeah.

BB: Yeah. Edgy stuff there. I'll listen to several stations. If there is a station that plays a song I don't like, I switch to another station. You know that, Patricia.

P: Oh, Yeah.

CM: It must drive you crazy.

BB: Yeah, yeah.

P: Especially if it's my radio.

CM: [laughter]

BB: But I'm not a typical listener at all.

CM: I listen the same way you do. I'm a dial whore. I listen all over the dial. I listen to stuff I don't like, too, because I want to hear how the breaks sound. I want to hear how their jingles sound like. Working in radio has kind of spoiled radio for me in a way. I can see the system. I can see how it works now. Some of the magic is gone.

BB: You can see the zipper!

CM: Yeah. I can see all the songs and the spots on the computer screen. But in another sense I think, "OK, he's pushing the button now. I know what he's doing. He's got the pots down. He's doing this." That's kind of cool, too.


Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Pretend this is a job interview.

CM: Still employed. I think I'd like to work full time in radio. I enjoy my coast guard gig. It certainly pays better than radio.

BB: Really?

CM: I'd like to do more voice work. I'd like to some voice overs, I've only done two or three commercials. I really enjoy that kind of stuff. I'd like to do more radio work. I'd like to do more broad-based stuff. I'd like to play music. Not necessarily where I am now. I don't know. But for now I'm really happy with what I'm doing. But as long as I am able, as long as I can talk, and can put two words together, hopefully in the right order, then I want to be in radio.

P: Do you want to do radio, or do you want to go coast guard? Or do you see a combination?

CM: The desires and skills I have probably are stronger in the radio department but I have a lot of respect for the guys I work with in the coast guard. I really enjoy the work there, too. My love is radio.


Wrap Up:

BB: Chris, thanks very much for your time. We really appreciate it. We appreciate your patience and good humour. And, uh, spread the word of the blog! [laughter]. That's all I'm saying. The blog is getting out there. I have a regular reader in Northern California.

CM: Do you?

BB: I have people in other parts of the country who read the blog. Mostly it's people at my work. I love them and everything, but I want a bigger audience

CM: Well, it's been a great place for me to read your other interviews. I haven't read them all yet, but I've read a fair portion of them. And anything to do with radio I love to read about, and your blog is a great... You're a radio nut, let's face it (in a good way), But I like that because I'm a bit of a nut myself that way and your blog has made for some very entertaning and insightful reading so I thank you for that as well and I thank you for today.

BB: And does anybody else in your building read my blog on a regular basis or what?

CM: Well, all I know is that J.C.Douglas [Program Director at Q104] said today, "Oh, I hear Bev's interviewing you. Have a good time!`[laughter] So, I`d say: Probably yes!

BB: All right. Excellent! Well, th
anks again.

CM: Thank you.


For more amazing interviews, keep checking out Bevboy's Blog! A couple more are in the works!
For my past interviews:

If you want to read my interview with Deb Smith, click here.

The J.C. Douglas interview is here.

The Dawn Sloane interview can be found here.

And don't forget about the Jeff Cogswell interview!

The previous interview was with Rob Johnson!


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