The best blog in Canada. Probably the best blog there ever was. Comments are my own and not necessarily those of an employer. Because I am retired and do not have one.
Saturday, March 31, 2012
Post 1950 - The First Day
Well, I did go out to my car and clean it out. I found something like 8 empty jugs that once contained windshield washer fluid. In less than an hour it will be April 1st, and I hope I will soon be able to move way form buying the Winter stuff and making my own summer washer fluid. Instead of paying 4 or 5 dollars for one of those things, the home made stuff costs just a few cents.
In cleaning out the car, I found many back issues of Cottage Life magazine, given to me by a friend at work, and which I forgot to unload from the car, and which have been lugged around by my car all this time. Sorry about that, Elliott.
We watched 2 episodes of the latest season of Spartacus this evening. We will watch episode 9 through on demand on Sunday just in time to watch the season finale Sunday night, or at least to record it. The finale has already run in the States; I guess somebody dies. Don't know who. Probably not Spartacus, though.
Oh, did I mention that we slept in this morning? And we will again on Sunday? Will wonders never cease?
I have given thought to remaining up very late tonight to try to watch the Horror Writer's Association webcast. Their annual awards gala is this evening, starting in about 40 minutes. But I looked through the list of the nominees and only recognize a few of the writers. It would be cool to see what Robert McCammon sounds like, though.
Newbie just looked up at me as if to say, "Get off the computer already! I want to go to bed!" Who's boss around here, anyway?
I'll be along in a minute, buddy.
See you tomorrow.
Friday, March 30, 2012
Post 1949 - Vacation Is Here!
Come Sunday night, or Monday morning I will grab Newbie and take him with me to my mother's, there to stay for a few days, likely Good Friday. Before then, though I will do some Spring cleaning around the house and clear the crap that's accumulated in my car over the last few months. The car gets pretty grody during the Winter.
I am looking forward to the next 10 days off. I will have extra time to work with my hair to make it even better. I will have time to comb Newbie's fur as well. Just imagine how good the pictures of him and me together will be after this vacation. We will be an unstoppable combination!
My adventures await me, and they start tomorrow!!
See you tomorrow.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Post 1948 - One Day To Go
I have been taking pictures of Newbie and putting them up on my Facebook this evening. Within moments, comments started to flood in. I am starting to think that he is the star attraction in this household. I am a little miffed. A little bitter.
I am writing this blog post on my netbook. I have noticed that the battery on this machine, the one that came with it 3 years ago when I bought it used through kijiji, is finally starting to wane. I get perhaps an hour out of it now; it used to be a good 2 hours. I do have a spare battery for the machine, though. Don't worry.
I continue to get interesting comments from folks about my hair. I can't help it, folks. My hair is beautiful and gains beauty by the passing day. I have accepted this burden. You should, too.
Because I love you so much, here's a new picture of me, taken moments ago, using the netbook's webcam.
As you know, I have decided to take next week off work. I am looking forward to the break. There is much to be done, here in Halifax, at my mother's, and in my car. It will be a working vacation.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I should turn in. Long day tomorrow.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Post 1947 - Well, That Was Fun
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Post 1946 - Late Night Blogger
Frigging cold day today. Last week, we were spoiled by the record-high temperatures. It was back to reality today. It was so cold this morning.
How cold was it?
It was so cold that I saw the premier walking down Barrington Street, and he had his hands in his own pockets.
That's pretty cold.
I would normally have this Friday off work. However, I need to work that day, so I have postponed that day off until Monday. Since the following Friday is Good Friday, leading into the Easter very long weekend, I can complete next week off by taking a mere 3 vacation days, so I put in for that time. Truth to tell, I had nearly the full allotment of vacation hours from the current fiscal year to carry over to the next fiscal year, starting April 1st. I will only be using 1 hour of next year's vacation entitlement by taking the 3 days off next week! It's meant to be.
When I became a civil servant back in 1993, I looked at the people who had been around for years and years. Among other things, I wondered how they could possibly use 5 or 6 weeks of vacation. Now that I have 5 weeks of vacation, I struggle not to use that much in the run of a year. When I eventually get 6 weeks of vacay, I will probably fly through that time as well and wonder how I got by with a mere 3 weeks when I started. Maybe we should petition for 7 weeks of vacation in our next contract!
Well, one can always hope.
I'll spend the bulk of next week at my mother's. There's some stuff to be done there. I will spend the remainder of the week here at my abode, where there's even more stuff to do.
Newbie will be with me at my mother's. When I don't take him, Mom always asks me, "Where's Newfie?" When she sees him, her face lights up and she smiles. Or, maybe, she has gas. But, in her own way, I think Mom has come around and come to care for Newbie.
When we had a cat, the one who found us back in 1980, we had to keep him downstairs away from Mom. I'd sneak him upstairs some evenings to be with me. I don't have to do that with Newbie. I'm grateful that he has the run of the house, although Mom doesn't really appreciate him being in her bedroom.
Anyway, even though I'll be off next week, I promise to update the blog every day, maybe more than once a day if you're nice to me.
See you tomorrow.
Monday, March 26, 2012
Post 1945 - To Do List - Update
I did not complete everything on my list this past weekend.
I did wash enough pairs of underwear that it wouldn't become necessary for me to borrow some of Patricia's. Thank goodness. I'm told that a woman's undergarments should always match the clothing she wears. I'd be lost, trying to pick out something to wear.
I did more than prepare for the publication of the Shane Wilson interview. I managed to publish it. Yay!
During my lunch hour today, I transcribed an audio file in the Julia Kirkey interview. Still have quite a few left. Getting there!
I didn't clean out my car. The raccoon is safe for another few days.
Dishes were washed. However, a mere 2 days later, dishes are piling up in the sink again. I don't have an explanation for this. None.
I can only bring these items forward to this coming weekend. I will be at my mother's and hope to be able to steal some time away from all the chores she has in store for me to do some of my own.
See you tomorrow.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Post 1944 – Interview With Shane Wilson
November 3, 2011
Shane Wilson and I had written each other for sometime before we finally nailed down a lunch date to discuss his radio and television career. I took a half vacation day on November 3rd 2011 and lay in wait for him at the Timberlea Beverage Room.
This is the second, and much longer, part of my conversation with Shane. The first part ran in November as the lead up to Hal-Con, where Shane is the media guru. If you haven’t read that yet, go ahead. We will wait here until you come back.
Over the course of 3 hours of so, Shane and I, eventually joined by Patricia, discussed Shane’s media career from its beginnings through to leaving Z103. Where else will you learn about the time Dave Wright saved his life, his attitude toward training up and comers, and just what a Smeg Head is? Why, here of course!
Note that there have been several changes in local radio since this interview was conducted. I have added bracketed comments [like these] in the appropriate locations.
Pull up a very comfy chair. This is a long interview, and you will need it.
1. How did you get your start in radio?
Shane Wilson: It was the early ‘80‘s. I got involved in the Orange and Blue Review at the Cobequid Educational Centre. It was a recorded, half hour program that CKCL ran for us. It’s the professional radio station in Truro.
From being a part of the cast, I was tapped to be the producer of the show. As producer of the show, part of the deal was that you had to work for the radio station, because you were the keeper of the keys. When all the students showed up, you were the one that went in, unlocked things, got people together. You were responsible for the equipment. So, being an employee of the station was important.
My first on air experience as a professional was when I was 17. I was doing the Saturday night Rock show.
Bevboy: This is when radio stations were alway live?
SW: They were always live. I turned the transmitter off at midnight. That was the last thing I did before I left the station.
I worked for Dave Guy. He was the first person to hire me for a radio job, and the first person to fire me from a radio job.
BB: Did he want to fire you?
SW: He needed to fire me. He was right.
I think I was there for about 8 months, maybe a year. CKCL was the only game in town. Bill Mills was on before me; he’s now the mayor of Truro. He was the host of a Bluegrass show. There’d be the Country show in the afternoon, then Bluegrass, and then the Rock show on Saturday night. That was very exciting.
I’d always wanted to be a journalist, thanks to sitting in my bed when I was 10 years old, listening to Barbara Frum on As it Happens. So, I went to Holland College. Before graduation there, I got hired at CFCY in Charlottetown. I did News there. I was just a beat reporter.
BB: This was back in the days when radio stations had actual reporters. How would you track down stories?
SW: My News Director was Craig Ainsley. He’s no longer with us. There were 7 people working in the news room back then. It was always smoke-filled because everybody smoked while they wrote. Our News Director smoked a pipe; he’d walk in and the air would turn blue. The engineers would be in cleaning the heads on our cassette machines about once a week, cleaning the nicotine off them. We had electric typewriters with little letter balls on them. You know what I’m talking about. They had to clean the nicotine off those. Now that I think back to what it was, it was pretty gross. Working in a non-smoking environment is so much better.
That’s the way it was. You got stories by being part of the community.
BB: Would you literally be told by your News Director, “Go down to City Hall. There’s going to be a news conference.”
SW: There would be some of that. Or, you would hear about something at an event you were at. Or, you would just call cops. I was sent to the Legislature a few times. It was a hugely well-rounded experience for an incredibly green reporter and wannabe radio guy.
I also had a chance when I was there to do all nights on CKCL as a jock, which was fun and interesting and made it very clear to me that I never wanted to be a jock.
BB: Why not?
SW: It just didn’t speak to me the way reporting did. It didn’t turn me on. It was cool and nice and fun to do it briefly; but it never spoke to me the way journalism did. I always just thought, “Well, here I am. Give them the time, the song, and move it on. But, I’m not doing anything.”
I know now that it’s not true. Having worked with great announcers, you see that great announcers do a lot more than that. That’s what I was doing.
BB: It can be creative.
SW: It can be. It’s, sadly, getting less so. I think we’re going to talk about that a little bit later on.
I went from there to CKNB in Campbellton.
BB: What year was this?
SW: ‘86. It’s where I discovered that cocaine had a large part to play in some radio stations.
BB: With on air staff?
SW: I just witnessed a lot of it go down. I lost a good friend of mine because of it. Luckily, in radio, times have changed so much.
BB: Were these guys doing cocaine back then just because they felt it enhanced their on air performance, or were they just addicts? How did they justify it?
SW: I think there was some justification that this “enhances what I do”. But, it’s like every addict. You’re just an addict. I’m a nicotine addict. I can say that it helps me write, or that it helps me whatever. But it’s not. I’m an addict. I’m addicted to nicotine, period.
I can’t say I ever saw anybody be better when they were on coke than they were off coke. That was the justification, I’m sure, in their minds.
CKNB was a huge learning experience. I met some amazing people. I learned a lot about French/English relations. I was actually physically thrown from an Acadian society meeting into the snow.
SW: Well, the French reporter was supposed to cover it, and he was sick that night. Campbellton is very much a bilingual town; back then it was 80% Acadian. All I was to do was to take my little Marantz cassette recorder, go down to the meeting, set it up and just act as a technician. Then, the French reporter would go through the tape the next day and do the news.
One of the people there came up to me when I was setting it up and spoke to me in French. My French, at that point, was worse than worse. It was non-existent, unless they spoke to me as if I were a two-year-old. When I couldn’t respond in French, he said, “Get out.” in English.
I understood the concern. If I’m not bilingual, how do I understand what’s going on and be fair? I said, “I’m just a technician recording this so that our French reporter can go through the recordings.” He said, “No. Get out.”
I was young. “I can’t get out. I won’t be doing the assignment. I’ll get fired! I don’t want to get fired from my job!”
So, basically, two guys got up, picked me up, threw me out in the snow. My $800 Marantz tape recorder came out after me into the snowbank. I got an apology, 3 days later.
It was just a couple of yahoos. But, it gave me an interesting perspective on the French/English debate at that time. Remember, [Richard] Hatfield was in charge. There were some tensions. This was the year that Frank McKenna swept New Brunswick [Bevboy: this would have been 1987, then]. It was a very exciting election to cover as a young reporter.
BB: I remember that. The Conservatives were shut out.
SW: I met Richard Hatfield a few times. Everything said about him is true.
BB: They were always oblique when it came to his personal life. They always said he was a “life long bachelor.” We know what that means.
SW: Well, he invited me to his room for drinks and... other things, during the election campaign, in the middle of an interview.
BB: You got picked up by Richard Hatfield!
SW: Well, no, I didn’t actually get picked up because I declined. But, it was there. That’s another great learning experience, just learning what goes on behind the scenes. It’s really fascinating.
BB: Did you know he was gay before that?
SW: There were rumours. But, I never really considered it important. I’m a reporter. I’m here to provide a balanced filter for what’s going on for the people who listen to me.
BB: I’ve noticed that the Canadian media have always been this way. If you have a gay politician or a gay celebrity, the media have never really been much into outing that person. Is that a difference between Canada and the United States, in terms of media coverage?
SW: It may be. I think it’s just a level of separation that we have had in Canada: A level of separation between the work and the private life.
BB: When Mary Walsh went to the mayor of Toronto’s house last week and ambushed him, was that crossing the line?
SW: People know who she is and what she does. I don’t think that was crossing the line.
BB: She went to his house.
SW: She did. But, that was more about the mayor looking for a sympathy vote than it was about him being afraid. It’s Mary Walsh. Like she said, “I’m a 60 year old woman with a plastic sword and a camera crew.” It was the mayor trying to get some sympathy vote.
Anyway, just to continue on real quick: from Campbellton, I went down to K-100 in Saint John. I worked for Jim Goldrich. That was great. I got to do some long-form documentaries. They did a half hour news package twice a day which you could do 15 minute news documentaries for. That was great.
BB: What documentaries?
SW: Anything pertaining to the city of Saint John and the Kennebecasis Valley and the outlying areas. It was the first time I’d had a beat. My beat was the Kennebecasis Valley and all the little towns around Saint John. I was also tasked, on many occasions, to cover the Saint John City Common Council. Elsie Wayne was an interesting mayor, to say the least.
BB: People use words like “colourful” to describe Elsie Wayne.
SW: Slightly nasty.
BB: Let’s go down that road a tiny bit. She’s not a nice person?
SW: Oh, no. If you don’t cross Elsie Wayne, you could find no better friend around, and no one else who would drop everything to help you. If you cross Elsie Wayne, you’re going to know it. I was removed from her office one day for asking the same question five times and expecting an answer. I got an applause when I got back to the newsroom. That was Her Worship. Her Worship had an iron grip on the Council at that time. To her credit, if you can, as a leader, get the people around you to follow your lead, then are you not a true leader? But, no, Elsie Wayne was controversial, colourful, and seriously not a better friend in the world. If she was on your side, nobody else would fight harder for you.
BB: If she remembered Shane Wilson today, would it be fondly?
SW: She wouldn’t remember me, I was only in Saint John 6 or 7 months. It wasn’t very long because I got offered a job with ATV in Charlottetown.
BB: You were the Dan Viau of your day, were you?
SW: No. Dan Viau was still Dan Viau. I couldn’t turn down the chance to do tv. Also, my partner at that time, Kelley Ryder, was in Charlottetown, working at the sister station to CKCL, where I met her. So, it was a chance to do tv and a chance to be with my partner. Where do you go? What do you do?
I was there for 2 months and 28 days. I was let go. I was welcomed on board with MITV. Bruce Graham was the News Director then.
BB: It was not your choice to leave CTV?
SW: No. Looking back on it now, they had someone else in mind for the job. I was a fill-in while they got this person. I didn’t get any support from the union. I didn’t get any support from anybody around me, in management.
Dave Wright was there. He was very supportive. Yvonne Colbert, she was with the NSCC.
BB: She’s accepted a position with the CBC.
SW: OK. She was there. Ron Kronstein was there at that time. These people were amazing, supportive, great people to work with. I was at the Charlottetown studio. They were in Halifax.
Dave Wright was an amazing news person. He saved my life one day. I firmly believe he saved my life. My camera man and I were following a story of some fishermen who had “abducted” (and I use that word very loosely) some Fisheries officers.
We followed them through the backwoods of PEI for about an hour at relatively high speeds until they all settled into a house. We could tell that there had been drinking. Other fishermen showed up. They were obviously imbibing and very angry. They had every right to be angry; it was a herring quota issue.
One person in Halifax at ATV said, “Go in!” Well, to back up a little bit, when we met these guys on the wharf, they tried to run over my camera man. There was already a bit of anger between ourselves and these fishermen.
I said, “Well, they’re all very angry. They’re fishermen in the Surrey area. I’m pretty sure there’s guns in there. And, they’ve apparently been drinking. I don’t really want to go.”
“Well, you have to go.”
“No. I don’t really want to go.”
Some time went by, and I didn’t go. I called again and got Dave Wright on the phone. Dave Wright had been in war zones. He was the reporter. He said, “Shane, don’t be an idiot. Don’t go. Stay back. See what’s going on. Wait for the police to arrive and cover that. I want that for my news tonight.”
I said, “But, so-and-so has ordered me to go.”
Dave said, “I don’t care. Don’t go. I’ll support you.” Never heard another word about it. I think, to this day, Dave Wright saved my life that day.
So, anyway, it was there at ATV. Then, I went to MITV.
BB: What year was this?
SW: It was about a year after MITV went on the air.
BB: It would have been 1989, then.
SW: Yes. I worked with Carol McDade. She was one of our assignment editors. She’s a great, amazing talent. Bruce Graham was News Director there at that time. I worked directly for Alex J. Walling, who was doing the sports at that point.
I learned a great deal there. Alex Walling, love him or hate him, everybody knows who he is.
BB: He has a certain delivery style that some people may find old-fashioned.
SW: Yes. Very much so. But, he made it work. That was quite an experience for me. I was doing a lot of my own shooting, a one person show going out and covering sporting events.
BB: You would be the videographer plus reporter?
SW: Yes. And editor, writer and everything else that went along with it.
BB: Was MITV a lean-and-mean operation compared with the number of staff and reporters at ATV and CBC?
SW: I would say it was lean and mean even then. Laura Lee Langley was there. I actually shot a story for her. I got a chance to know her a bit. She was high up; I was just a little sports guy. But, some great talents came through that building, that green building at the time. It was all green on the inside.
BB: They’ve gone through a wicked pile of people over the years.
SW: They have. If anybody can do justice to that organization right now, it’s Ron Kronstein. Global’s made some bad, bad decisions. I have every hope in the world that they’ll get back to do some of the interesting stuff that they have done in the past.
From there, where did I go? I worked for Jim Chrichton.
BB: Jim Chrichton at MBS.
BB: What year was this?
SW: That would have been... ‘90, I guess.
BB: You were only at MITV for about a year?
SW: I wasn’t there a long time. It was contract work. I was looking for other things as well. When I was [at MBS], I got to work with two icons. Clive Schaefer and Daryl Good.
BB: Mike Cranston.
SW: No. Mike Cranston was just a jock back in those days. “Just a jock”! That’s not fair.
BB: He would have been at Sun FM back then.
SW: I think so, yes. But, I got to work with those two guys. Clive Schaefer? Grouchy. Gnarly. Nasty old man. But, God, did I learn a lot from him. What a pro. The man had seen and done everything.
BB: I have an unpublished interview with him.
SW: Do you?
BB: I went to his apartment in Clayton Park about 2 years ago. He played his trumpet for me. I have not run the interview. He wasn’t feeling well that day. I’m thinking about doing something with it. He was a very sweet man with me that day.
SW: He wasn’t that way at 5 o’clock in the morning. I was lucky. When I worked at Voice Print, he was one of our volunteer readers. What a thrill for me when Clive Schaefer called me and said, “I’d like to do some volunteer work.” CHNS was it for decades. It was the place where everyone turned. Clive Schaefer was the person they listened to on the radio.
BB: I’m not sure I understand that. CHNS was the place was the pre-eminent...
SW: It was the pre-eminent news station. Back in those days, when you did Country one hour and Bluegrass another hour. News was the thing that tied everything together because of the very different formats. And Clive Schaefer was the voice.
BB: Well, Clive Schaefer in 1970 was the host of an open line show on CHNS. There were 2 of these shows. There was his, and then another one following his. That’s when radio stations provided spoken word content.
SW: Imagine that!
BB: You can’t have that today. It wouldn’t fit in the format.
SW: What was next? I think I left radio at that point. My partner was sick. She needed to stay in Halifax. She was working there as well. I got into a bit of a blow with Jim Chrichton in the newsroom one day. It was totally my fault. Deb Rent came in and started doing the job that I had been doing. It was a much better decision than having me there because I thought I knew everything. I didn’t.
I left radio for quite a while. I got into publishing at that point. It was a street magazine called “‘Fax”. The publisher was Jon Blanchard.
BB: I remember that. It was a while ago.
SW: It was a long time ago. He had run this paper on his own for quite a while. It was growing. I working at a video store in the South End just as a job.
BB: MT Video?
BB: I went there a lot.
SW: I was Assistant Manager there. But John said, “Take a chance. Come with me. Let’s grow this thing.” John and I worked very hard for very little money. We just had a passion for the job.
BB: Where was the office?
SW: The office was actually in the South End in his home. He had a little room set aside. We’d sit in there. That was back in the day when the computer pretty much only printed out our colour separations. We had to cut them out. We had to do all the layout by hand to take to the press. I learned a lot about newspapers.
We had some great writers. Doug Barron was one of our writers. He was at the Q. Now he’s at CBC with Stan Carew.
BB: He’s the producer of Weekend Mornings.
SW: Yes. Some great people wrote for us. But, we couldn’t make a go of it. The Coast was starting. They had a lot deeper pockets than we did at that point. I think the competition made both papers, better. But, the two of us producing the paper, not making any money, couldn’t compete against the resources that the Coast had when they first started. There was a lot of support from other, larger parties. We just couldn’t keep up.
When you reach a point when you’re doing something like that, even if it is a labour of love, and you can’t afford to get tires for your car, and you’re working 12-15 hours a day and delivering your own papers, [something has to give]. Once a month, we’d be up for 48 hours. When we went to 36 000 papers, that was 3 days of driving all over this province and delivering newspapers. And, coming home after 3 days covered in ink, reeking of cigarette smoke and coffee. We reached the point where I had to get out of it.
Jon kept at it for a while, because it was his baby. I had so much respect for him for doing that. But, it reached the point where it almost killed him. It literally, physically almost killed him. He had a minor heart attack delivering newspapers in the Annapolis Valley. I think that pretty much ended it for Jon.
BB: What’s he doing now?
SW: I don’t know. John and I lost contact. The last thing I heard about him, he was running for the school board. But, I have no idea where he is now.
So, from there, I sold videos for a while. I drove a truck for a bit. I was selling used books.
BB: Where was this?
SW: It was on Almon Street. Books R Us.
BB: Oh, the place that just closed in the last few weeks.
SW: Yes. I was there selling books. One day I opened the newspaper. It said, “Learn to fly”. As a kid, there were 2 things I wanted to do with my life: Be a radio journalist. Be a pilot. I had nothing to lose.
I sold everything that I owned, cashed out all my investments, which wasn’t a lot but was a lot to me, and went to flight school. It was a year and a half there! The school closed. It was the Career Academy School of Aviation. It closed before a lot of us were finished. I lost about $12 000 in the deal.
Luckily, I have the most amazing family. They said, “Move home to Truro.” I was 31 years old. “You have a place to stay. You have food. Go finish up your course in Debert.” It’s now the Truro Flight Centre, I think.
So, I went there. Finished up. Got my Instructor rating. I ended up back in Halifax at Shearwater, working for the Shearwater Flight Centre.
It’s kind of interesting, how life goes.
BB: What year was this, when you got your pilot’s license?
SW: When I got my pilot’s license, it would have been ‘98. I started flying professionally in 2000. I was teaching people how to fly in Cessna’s and Pipers. I loved it. Bev, it’s one of the most amazing things. It pushed all of my buttons. I was able to do some of my journalism. Of course, when you’ve done stuff like that, people say, “Oh, you’re a good media guy! Create the media plan.”
I was able to stay in touch with a lot of the friends I had made. It was an incredible time in my life. I miss it greatly. The only thing I don’t miss is the money. One year I made $12 000. My tuition was $42 000, plus the cost to finish up in Debert.
BB: To this day, have you made back the money you spent?
SW: I have. My loans are gone. I’m very proud of that. Unfortunately, Shearwater was not financially viable, despite a lot of the good things we were doing. The reality of bookkeeping is the reality of bookkeeping, period.
BB: During that period of time, that’s when you would have met my friend Ron Parker?
SW: Yes. Ron was a member of the club there. He had his own aircraft. I met some amazing people who remain my friends today. I was the first cog in the wheel that’s made some of the people that fly you here to Vancouver or you from here to Europe or fly you around when you go on vacation or business. I’m very proud of the extent that people that I worked with and trained have gone and surpassed anything I could ever have dreamed of doing myself. It was an amazing time in my life.
SW: Yes! Sorry.
BB: When did you go back and flirt with radio again?
SW: In 2003.
BB: You were out of radio for more than 10 years, then?
SW: Yes. In 2003, at Shearwater things were slowing down. In that business, if you don’t fly, you don’t get paid. I did have a small stipend because I was doing administrative work. A job opening came up at Q. At that point, it was the Metro Radio Group. It was 5 stations.
I went into to see Rich Horner. Rick Howe popped by. Now that I have News Director experience, I realize what I brought to that room that day, which was somebody who was willing to work part-time but somebody with a great deal of experience in broadcasting and in journalism.
BB: Were you a little rusty?
SW: Quite rusty.
BB: No disrespect.
SW: No, no. I was quite rusty. That’s why I’m glad that Rick Howe and Rich Horner were there, and people like Lisa Blackburn. We’ll talk about Lisa a little bit later, but both Rich and Rick and Philly and Dougie Reynolds and Deb Smith, all helped me get that rust off. It was a little difficult for them and for me because I was doing weekends and fill-ins. That’s all I really wanted to do because my passion was in flying. That’s how I got back into [radio].
BB: In 2003, this would have been months after CJCH got control back of that radio station. They had been part of this Sports talk format that nobody liked.
BB: That happened over the Labour Day weekend in 2002.
SW: Your memory is much better than mine
BB: Philly went back from Sun FM to CJCH. They built the station up from nothing to almost nothing. Ratings are so subjective.
SW: They always are. I was lucky. I came in on time for Hurricane Juan and “White Juan”. I was part of that award-winning team. I spent an awful lot of time in that newsroom for those 2 things. But, Hurricane Juan, as horrible as it was for a lot of people, it was great for me because it forced me to beat the rust off immediately. I’d walk down the hall, and Rick Howe would go, “You’re on the air in about 40 seconds. Here’s Deb’s script.” Thank God that Deb is one of the best writers I know because I could read her script without stumbling all over the place.
But, it’s like taking a mallet to something that’s rusty and beating the crap out of it in 2 seconds. That’s what that did. It’s good experience for me; and being a union shop, the money was amazing for overtime.
BB: When did you leave the Metro Radio Group?
SW: I was still there before the dissolution. We were still in the Pink Palace. I think it was shortly after I left that the Sales departments were separated. That was the first step in pulling those 2 entities apart.
I was part-time all the way through. I got to work with John Harada.
BB: Harada Data!
SW: Harada Data. I got to work with Kelli Rickard, who was John’s co-host at that time. Who else? Matt Northorp. I got to do news for him. I got to do news for Tom Bedell. I never did news on the morning show for Q. I still got to see what goes on there and get to know those guys a little bit. That’s where I first met Jeff Cogswell, in the hallway.
I also got to hear JC Douglas and Anna Zee arguing with each other. I know you can’t see this in print, but the newsroom in the Pink Palace was between the Music Director’s office and JC Douglas’ office.
BB: I’ve been there.
SW: You know where I mean. When Anna was working on her music, JC was working on what JC does, which is Radio God stuff. She’s one of the few people that didn’t take any shit from JC.
BB: They can be very frank with one another?
SW: They were very frank, very loudly, by times. But, there was always a tinge of respect. It was fascinating for me to be sitting in a newsroom, doing Rich Horner’s shift, and listening to these 2 people. I mean, I remember JC Douglas back in the day. And, Anna Zee’s been around forever. Listening to these guys argue with each other and scream at each other was great. It was amazing. But, it’s the biggest radio station in town. They’ve been the greatest radio station in this city for how long? At the top of the ratings for how long?
I left there. Shearwater closed. I went to Voice Print.
BB: Was that a paying position?
SW: Yes. I was the Atlantic Regional Program Co-Ordinator. I was there for a year. It was an amazing experience as well, working with volunteers. Using my teaching skills I had learned as a flight instructor to teach volunteers and working with people like Clive Schaefer or Krista Cooke or Olga Malosovich.
BB: When you’re the boss of people who are being paid to be there, you can crack the whip. If you’re the boss of volunteers, it’s a little bit like herding cats, isn’t it?
BB: It is not?
SW: They’re both the same thing. My management experience has been: In order to get people to do what you want them to do, you’ve got to build a relationship with them. Holding somebody’s job over their head only works for so long.
What’s the Star Wars quote? I believe Grand Moff Tarkin is talking about the Empire and says, “The tighter you squeeze your grip on the outlying planets, the more they slip through your fingers.” I see what we’re talking about here is similar to that. With volunteers, it’s actually easier. They wanted to be there. They were not there because they have a mortgage. They weren’t there because they had a family. They were there because they wanted to be there and they wanted to learn. I thought it was easier. They’re very motivated.
From that, I met some folks through Voice Print, Debra MacLaughlin being the one I believe Dan Barton talked about in his interview with you. I met Debra. Debra knew the Evanov’s. Suddenly, one day, I get a call from Paul Evanov saying, “We’re opening a station. Do you want to come talk about it?”
BB: They went on the air in July of 2006. At what point did you have this conversation with Paul Evanov?
SW: It was 12 or 13 months before the station opened.
BB: They got the license in December of 2004. It took them about a year and a half to get on the air.
SW: You know what? I need to correct that. I think it was more like 6 months. I’m trying to think back.
BB: How long before the station went live were you drawing a salary?
SW: I was drawing a salary starting in August before the September when Jeff and I went on the air together. I was the first live voice on Z, which I’m very proud of. It’s funny for a music station that the first live voice was a news guy. Jeff and I started the first live show. I think it was... September 13th. I started in August on the 15th, thanks to Adam Robinson, who’s now the Program Director for Live 105 He said, “We have to get Shane in this week to make contacts, build up his contact list, which will help us in the test phase.”
When day, Paul Evanov came in and said, “I think we’ve got our morning host. Do you know Jeff Cogswell?” I think you would have had to scrape the smile off my face because it was so exciting to be working with somebody that I didn’t really know at Q, but saw him and chatted with him. But, I knew his reputation, and I was a fan. I knew him, sort of. I was just very excited that he was coming on board.
Shortly after that, Dan Barton showed up to lead us.
BB: There was another Dan as PD before Dan Barton.
SW: Yes. Dan Cormier.
BB: Thank you.
SW: They had hired a Sales guy (Cormier) to be their GM and get them going. I don’t know what happened there. It was well above my pay grade. So, Barton came in. Jeff and I went on the air. We were desperate for a co-host. Nikki was not there from day one. Dan had worked with Nikki in Moncton and saw the potential. He brought her in, ostensibly, on the show to give her a little bit of experience because she was going to be doing Evenings. In reality, this was one of Dan Barton’s famous “I’ll make you think you decided this” things, which makes him a great manager, by the way. The reality is that he was trying her out for the morning show.
After the show, she left. He called us in and said, “What did you think of her?”
“Wow! She’s great. What a pip! She has attitude, but enough attitude, and energy to kill. She’s got the young attitude.” Because, we’re two old guys. 30‘s and late 30‘s at that point. She had that vibe. We’ll talk more about her later, but she she just brought a spark to the show that wasn’t there.
Jeff said, “Dan, I want her.”
Dan kind of smiled and said, “OK. I think we can do that.” And, that was it. The morning show with Jeff, Nikki and Shane was born.
BB: All right. We’ve come full circle.
SW: Yeah. And, then, I got fired!
BB: Eventually. We’ll get to that.
2. I have been told repeatedly that you are considered a mentor to up-and-coming news announcers. Are you comfortable with that assessment? Why or why not?
SW: I am not comfortable with that at all. I’m not being shy and “No, no, no. It’s not me”, and hoping everyone thinks it is. What I got from the greatest news directors that I had is that it is my job to help you be better. Period.
BB: You were the News Director at Z?
SW: I was the News Director at Z, hiring and firing, and training. Because of the nature of the Evanov Radio Group, everybody that I had the budget to hire was young. Those were the parameters to hire in.
I think what happened was, I was trying to allow them to be the best they could be, which is my job. If it sounds like shit on the air, I’m not doing my job.
The greatest News Directors that I worked with, Craig Ainsley, Jim Goldrich, Rick Howe and Rich Horner, Dave Wright (who wasn’t my News Director, but who was “in charge”), all helped me at every step along the way. They didn’t help me because they were nice guys and they wanted to be mentors. They did it because it was their job and they wanted the best product possible coming on the air. I know that doesn’t sound very soft and squishy and huggy, but it’s the way it is. It’s the reality.
When Sarah Parrott walked through the door, I almost died, because she was amazing. I knew that, with a little guidance, and a little help, a point in the right direction, that she was going to be amazing on the air.
BB: Well, K8 Milton praised you for having taken Sarah under your wing and coached her.
SW: Well, I guess the thing was, I was willing to take anybody under my wing and coach them who was willing to learn. That’s just part of the job.
I have heard I have a relatively bad reputation at the NSCC for being grumpy and for being demanding, and for being harsh. I think that, if you talked to the people who wanted to do the job, what they will tell you is, “Shane was paying me. He expected me to do a job in a certain way. He helped me do that job.” I don’t think that’s mentoring. I think that’s just doing the job of a News Director, working for a station that has the budgets to hire young people who don’t have a lot of experience.
I would have loved to have gone out and hired Deb Rent, or hired Doug Reynolds or somebody like that. But, it wasn’t there, so to me, it was part of my job to help anybody that I’m willing to hire be good at what they do. Generally, I was lucky with that. I see a couple of them as failures, a couple of people who came through the doors as my failures because I wasn’t able to find that right key that was going to unlock that person.
But, I did get grumpy. I did expect people to act professionally. I did expect people to not feel that they were owed something, because it’s a job, guys. You’re being paid to come in here and do a job. Come in and do the job. I will help you all I can to do the job as best you can, but you’re coming in to do a job. In some circles, with K8 and people like that who are professionals who care about getting better, who care about what’s going on, I guess I’m a bit of a mentor. But, for other people who came through my doors in that 4 year period, maybe I’m just a grumpy old bastard. And, you know what? Either title, I accept, because at times I was a grumpy old bastard. Then, other times, with people who wanted to learn and who were willing to learn and had good attitudes, I would bend over backwards.
I would do the morning show and stay until Sarah got there so we could talk, because I knew that she soaked it up, made it her own, and then put it back out.
BB: Was she hungry?
SW: Yes. That’s a good word for it. Now, afterwards, Sarah and I became friends. I’m not a manager who makes friends with people who work for me, because I don’t think it’s right. It’s just me. But, we became friends. I met her parents. I met her family. And, then, I realized where this all came from. Heyward Parrott is a well-known figure in recording. I could see where she got it. She was amazing. Long before I ever did any air checks with her, she was amazing. It was just a matter of tweaking her, getting her to know the difference between what she was taught in school at the NSCC (an amazing foundation), [and the real world]. When you walk into a real news room, it’s a different world. You need to learn that. You need to learn to take those amazing foundations you’ve learned in a great program like the NSCC’s, and temper them with the reality of private, broadcast news: The constraints, and speaking to a demographic. She was willing to learn.
I guess, to some people, I might look like a mentor, but to me, I was reflecting what the great News Directors I’ve had did for me as part of their jobs.
BB: Without getting into names, have you ever had to fire a person? How would you approach it? Some people are easy to fire because they may be assholes or they’re stealing from the company. But, there would have been some people who just weren’t working out, and maybe you had to let them go. Has that ever happened to you?
SW: Yes. A few times. It happened at Z. One person I worked very, very hard with. Very long hours with this person. This person really did want it. But, when I backed off the coaching, they would revert. That was difficult.
There was one person who it was frankly a great pleasure to have them out of my sight.
There was another person that we were a week away from firing, when this person walked away. Which, I’m glad of, but...
BB: You would have had the pleasure of firing them?
SW: Bev, I don’t think “pleasure” is the word. But there is a certain amount of that in throwing somebody out the door and knowing you’re not going to have to deal with them any more after they’ve diva’d out on you.
BB: OK. I’ve talked to people who fired others. I’ve never talked to somebody about that process with someone before.
SW: It can be very difficult. And, sometimes, it can be... not a pleasure because you’re impacting some person’s life; but, selfishly, I don’t have to deal with your shit any more. Goodbye!
3. How do you feel about the state of radio news these days, with the exceptions of CBC and News 95.7? [Bevboy note: This interview was conducted before the format change at Z where it became Energy 103, and they laid off their final news person, Cassie Williams]
SW: They’re a different animal. When I was in talks with Paul Evanov and Adam Robinson, one of the things that they said that really stuck with me was that they didn’t want the news to be an island on its own in this sea of music. They wanted it to be a stream in the sea, part of the whole sound. I think what we tried very hard to do at Z, was to speak to our listeners for who they were and what they were interested in.
For instance, Z103 mornings and afternoons, you wouldn’t hear a lot of politics. Unless, in the first line, I could tell you how it’s going to impact on you, a 25 year-old female who’s working whatever job, we didn’t talk about politics. It was a question of time allowed; but it was also a question of speaking to the demographic, speaking to the audience. I think what a lot of places don’t do, and need to do (because everybody says that private radio news is dying, even though the CRTC still likes to see it)...
BB: They may as well just dispense with it as far as I am concerned.
SW: And I think the reason for that is, aside from somebody like Rich Horner or Deb Smith, whose news is aimed at the demographic, nobody’s doing it. We’re guys in our 40‘s. If you’re listening to the radio, and you’re listening to music that you like, and you’re enjoying it; and all of a sudden somebody comes on and starts talking about Kim Kardashian, what do you do?
BB: I’ll want to find another radio station to listen to.
SW: And that’s what I’m talking about. And, it’s our fault as news people for not breaking away from that mold of, “I’m going to give you the news, because you need this news!” No, no. What my attitude was, and this all stemmed from the conversations and negotiations with Paul and Adam, was, “I want people to want to listen because I’m talking about what they want to hear.”
Now, do they want to hear about a robbery at a Subway? No, not really. On Z, what do they want to hear about? Well, they wanted to hear some of the harder entertainment stories, because Nikki was covering the rest of it. They wanted to hear about family and children issues, being a female-centered demographic. So, that’s what we tried to give, and I don’t think a lot of radio stations do they; and I also don’t think that we were given enough time on Z to see that out, to see how that would go.
When Live opened up, it was the same thing. On 2 stations, a lot of the time, when you have 1 person working 2 stations, which I did at Live and Z, you’ll hear the same news cast. If you could go back and listen to the tapes, my newscasts on Z were different than my newscasts on Live. What I found out about the Live listeners is that they care about politics. They cared about comics. They cared about all kinds of different, alternative things that Z listeners, who were more mainstream, caring about their Gucci bags and what Kim Kardashian is doing [cared about]. Two different newscasts. Unfortunately, you don’t hear that, and you don’t hear that for 2 reasons. Us as newspeople are still stuck in that time when, “I’m a newsguy, and if I say it, you must be interested!” No. And I think we’re all so hamstrung as I do believe Deb Rent is at the Maritime News Network, by time and budgets.
BB: Well, the days of beat reporters at private radio, except at News 95.7 and the CBC, are l’histoire.
BB: I really think that private radio is missing an opportunity to have more local spoken word content. I don’t know what the hell the deal is. You listen to Q104 or Kool FM. They have 3 news stories, maximum of 60 seconds. C100 brags about how the news hits are 60 seconds long. It’s almost like, “We’re sorry to intrude on your music, but we have to have a little bit of a news hit. Sorry about that!”
SW: But, Deb Smith is trying on C100. She’s doing her best. She’s News Director there. She’s doing her best to speak to the audience. I think that people like her, who are in the know, and who see what’s going on, are trying. But, I still think that, not only is it our fault, but we’re always hamstrung by the programmers.
It’s funny, Bev. I did CRTC hearings for the Evanov Radio Group, as the news person for the company. I’m not talking about Evanov specifically when I say what I’m about to say. Please put that in, because I really mean it. Every radio station that went for a license, whether it be in Kenora, Ontario; whether it be in London, Ontario; whether it be in Winnipeg, said “We have so much commitment to local news!”
SW: Bullshit. Total, complete bullshit, in order to get the CRTC and the people that are on the Board, to say, “Oh, you’re going to go in and do local!” No. Local’s expensive. And, local is difficult to sell.
BB: Do you think there’s a pent-up demand for more news, even on a station like Z or The Bounce?
SW: I think there’s a pent-up demand for more local information. Let’s not call it “news”. Let’s call it “local information”. Look at the popularity of Haligonia.ca. Look at the popularity of that site. They’ve grown. I don’t see a lot of stuff on New York City there. I see local content. To me, that shows that people want to know what’s going on down the street.
BB: Some of my most popular non-radio blog posts are the ones where I write about Halifax’s history. People just love that stuff. I wish I had more time to write them.
SW: I’m not saying that Z needs a history show, because they don’t. But it would have been nice when I was there to have had a reporter to hit the downtown scene at night. That’s where our listeners were. Not the morning show, obviously because either they’re still drunk from the night before, or they ...
BB: Waking up in somebody’s bedroom.
SW: Yes. Exactly. But there was no budget for it. So, I think local; and I think it’s up to the news people to tailor every single newscast to the audience they’re trying to reach.
BB: When you have a newscast where it’s a maximum of 3 stories, 2 lines per story, how do you get your personality out there? I’m almost at the point, as I said a moment ago, why even eff-ing bother with local news?
SW: The CRTC likes to hear it.
BB: OK. And if it’s not there, the CRTC would say, “Hey, where’s your beat reporter?”
SW: Yes. Look at The Bounce. Bounce never had any local news until they beat the living crap out of Z. I think they have a little bit of local news there now. I’m not sure. I don’t listen to it because it’s not my demographic. It’s not my cuppa.
I don’t know. It’s hard. I think we’ve got to get out of calling it “news”. Call it information. Call it whatever you want; but, yes, I think that personality can come through in a 2 minute newscast. That’s how we met. You listened to the show. We talked back and forth on Facebook. Did you think my personality came through on my newscasts?
BB: I think so, yes. Although, toward the very, very end, you would be doing these extraordinarily brief news hits, on 2 different stations. Two local news stories, plus on Live the 3rd story might be about World of Warcraft or something. You would do something that was just totally over here. Was that a purposeful thing? Were you directed to do that?
SW: Not directly. But, time, resources conspired that’s what had to happen.
BB: And, was it fun when Cub and Floyd always said, “Danke, Shane!”
SW: I love those guys. Cub’s a consummate professional. Floyd worked for me in the newsroom, actually. She was another incredible talent that just needed a foot in the door.
BB: She’s on the cover of this week’s Coast.
SW: She’s awesome. She’s bloody brilliant, too. I don’t think people realize just how intelligent the woman is. She’s a genius.
BB: She knows what linux is.
BB: I was bragging about the new Ubuntu being out. “Oh, is it out now?”
4. The Megan Edwards question. You lose your iPod. I find it. What songs on it would surprise me the most?
SW: I’m going to show you my song list. I have such an incredibly diverse taste in music. I think what might surprise a lot of people is that I’ve got Justin Bieber on my phone.
Here we go. I’ve got The Fleetwoods. I’ve got Bill Haley. I’ve got AC/DC. Cage the Elephant. I’ve got some Eric Clapton on here. Classified. Love Classified. Chad Hatcher. An amazing talent. I’ve got some Rolling Stones. Some Dean Martin.
BB: What Dean Martin tunes do you like?
SW: Well, this is “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. Some Frank Sinatra. Robert Palmer.
BB: “Addicted to Love”, or earlier stuff?
SW: “Addicted to Love”. Some Fleetwood Mac. Everybody’s got some Fleetwood Mac. Buddy Holly. Some Bob Marley. Bonnie Raitt. Are you surprised by any? Matt Minglewood.
BB: What period of Minglewood?
SW: Early Minglewood. The Minglewood Band. Some Police. David Wilcox. Van Morrison. Van Morrison wrote the most amazing, romantic song in the entire world. Do you know which one it is?
BB: Not Brown-Eyed Girl?
SW: No. Keep going.
BB: Moon Dance?
SW: Yes. I love that song!
BB: The whole album is amazing.
SW: It might surprise people to know that I have Jay-Z, “Empire State”. Let’s see. Random Killing, a punk band. Johnny Cash. Some Adele.
BB: I’m thinking that, if Adele did not exist, C100 would have to invent her. And, I like Adele.
SW: [laughs] Vince Guaraldi. Reverend Horton Heat. Down with Webster.
BB: Is there a particular musical artist whom you feel is criminally underappreciated, and you’re a fan of that person?
SW: Lyle Lovett.
BB: He has his audience.
SW: He does have his audience. When people were saying, “How did Julia Roberts ever marry him?”, I was saying, “How could he ever marry Julia Roberts?”
I’ve got some Black-Eyed Peas.
You know, I think Chad Hatcher is one of the most under-recognized singer/songwriters around today, that I know about. But, I think you’ll know from the range of music that I listen to that, I’m not a music fan. I’m not an audiophile at all. I like the stuff that talks to me and the stuff that I just rambled off there talks to me.
BB: Do you like vinyl versus digital?
SW: No. Digital. Vinyl’s silly. Unless you’re a DJ, vinyl’s silly.
BB: Dan Barton would disagree with you.
SW: I know he would.
BB: I was at his house last week. He’s a neigbhour of mine. I sold him my late brother’s Jimi Hendrix “Are You Experienced?” album, in stereo.
BB: When you see him next, ask him about the album and what it meant to me.
SW: I know that he would disagree, but once again, I am not an audiophile. I just like stuff that talks to me. I can put 346 songs that interest me on my phone.
BB: I have almost 5000 songs on my little mp3 player.
SW: Oh, by the way: Every single one of them was bought and paid for.
BB: Sweet. DRM, all the way.
SW: Absolutely. I do download television shows, but they’re free on the air, anyway.
BB: I don’t think there’s anything criminal, anything wrong, with taking my cd collection, ripping the songs, and putting them on my mp3 player. I don’t think anyone’s going to bust my balls over that. It’s when you steal torrents of songs. That’s different.
SW: The artists have to be paid, or we’re not going to have any art. Eventually, we’ll have no art. What’s the point?
BB: Anyway, I was at his house last week and I sold him the record. I could tell the difference in the sound. He says it is a different kind of sound, and it is.
SW: Oh, it is. It’s richer. It’s dirtier. But it doesn’t matter to me.
BB: I can see the difference now, but not enough to go out and reclaim my vinyl and get a usb-based turntable. I’m not going to do that.
5. Please say something about the following people.
A. Dan Barton
SW: One of the most amazing Program Directors I’ve ever worked with. He is the most consistent manager I’ve ever had in my entire life, which I find brilliant. I didn’t always agree with him, but I always knew what to expect from Dan.
Dan is an incredible people person. He knows how to ... I don’t like to use the word “manipulate”, but I use it in a positive sense. Get the best out of people, and not through intimidation, but through being somebody who listens, somebody who understands, somebody who’s not afraid to say, “No”.
It would have been very easy for him to treat us differently because Jeff was at the top of the heap, Nikki was in the middle, and I was at the very bottom. We were treated the same.
BB: In terms of salary, responsibility?
SW: In terms of power. We were all one show. That’s what kept us together for four years. Even after Dan left, it was still his influence that kept us together. He did some amazing things. I traveled with him to CRTC hearings across the country. He’s an amazing guy. Dan is one of those guys that you work with, you respect, but who turns out to be a friend as well. I consider Dan a real friend of mine.
BB: If he had not left, if he were still there as PD, do you think you guys might still be there? Or would he have had to make a difficult decision back in January?
SW: We are not there today because the ball was dropped higher than Dan, higher than PD. I think if Dan had been allowed to do what he wanted to do, we would still be there, and we would still be one of the best morning shows in Halifax radio. I’m not saying that because I was on it. I’m saying that because the team, when we got together, and we were “on”, I will continue to say we were one of the best morning shows in Atlantic Canada, at least. And, that was because of Dan Barton, because of how he treated us, and how he got us to work together, and how he allowed us to have a certain leeway, but always brought it back in before it went too far. The show, as it is today, I have a lot of respect for the people that are doing it now, but I believe that the ball was dropped at a much higher level than the PD.
BB: Beyond the GM level, even?
SW: Yes. So, Dan’s my buddy.
BB: He’s been good to me. I just met him six months ago. We had dinner over there, on the deck.
SW: I learned a lot from Dan Barton.
SW: K8! K8! K8! K8! K8! K8! It’s funny because in your interview with K8, she mentioned the morning show we worked together. What she didn’t mention is that we also did some afternoons together. When Sarah was sick, I didn’t want to bring anybody else in. I did doubles. I’d do the morning show. I’d fart around the station 3 or 4 hours and go have some lunch and do the afternoon show with a couple of Red Bulls in me.
What K8 described in your interview with her, and people should read it just to get the context, is how I felt doing her show. She made me feel comfortable.
When K8 was doing nights on Z, she was the best evening jock I have heard in 20 years.
BB: Regardless of format?
SW: Regardless of format. She spoke to the audience. She knew who her listeners were. Jeff Cogswell describes it as walking up to the line of good taste, and peering over it but never quite going over it. She’d go over it just far enough to make it interesting. I think that K8 is a great talent. I think that C100 is damned lucky to have her. They should let her do her show the way she wants to do it. I know they won’t because it’s a corporation and there’s all kinds of influences that go on.
BB: There’s a bit of an edge there.
SW: Yes. There is. She’s still kept that edge; I don’t think she’ll ever lose it. I think, if she has to lose it, she’ll leave. K8‘s a friend, not as good a friend as I’d like because we ran indifferent day parts. But, I love K8. I absolutely love her. I love her professionally. Personally, she’s funny as hell. Get her and Cogswell together in a room. Can you imagine that? I’ve been there. Both of them were a little glowey.
BB: “Tired and emotional”.
SW: Tired and emotional. And, hilarious. C100 is lucky to have her.
BB: And, her ascension to what she wanted came in 5 years. That’s an amazing career trajectory.
SW: And, most of that is K8‘s innate talent and willingness to learn and willingness to do things on her own. Part of that, too, is Dan Barton pushing her in the right direction, but not overwhelming her. That’s Dan’s strength, too.
C. Shane Wilson (Yes! What do you want to say about yourself?)
SW: There’s really not much to say. The person that people heard on Z in the morning is me. There were some things amped up; and there’s some things brought back.
BB: Certain things held back.
SW: Yes. But, that’s me. That’s who I am. I’m a geek. I’m socially inept. I’m passionate about things. I will go to the ends of the Earth for my friends. I’m loyal. I’m like a good dog, a good, socially-inept dog that pees on people’s legs but would protect you from a bear.
BB: To his peril.
SW: To his peril. But, what people heard for 4 years on Z is who I am.
BB: Is that your longest job in radio, or in the media?
BB: By far?
SW: Yes. That’s the nature of the business. People here, like Moya Farrell...
BB: That’s very unusual.
SW: Yes. Look at Tom Bedell. He’s been there forever. Lisa Blackburn was there for, what, 18 years? That’s fairly unheard of in broadcasting. I think I had more of a typical broadcasting life than what we’re used to in Halifax. We’re used to these heritage people that we’ve been listening to. I was a teenager when Q went on the air.
BB: Matt Northorpe.
SW: 18, 19 years.
BB: 26 years.
SW: So, that is a little unusual. But, yes, that was my longest stint in radio, in broadcasting.
BB: Without getting into too many details, how do you decide what kinds of things not to talk about when you’re on the air?
SW: Good sense. A knowledge of your demographic. I keep going back to that word, but it’s so important. Earlier, when we were talking about CKCL and playing Country for 2 hours, the demographic changed. Now, with corporate radio, you are funneled into “This is your demographic”. When Z opened, it was 12-24. It increased as time went on and books went on, but that was our target. Good and professional radio people know what their audience is and know what they want to hear and what will speak to them.
BB: Have you ever mentioned something on the air that after you got home from work, your partner goes, “Shane, maybe we shouldn’t be talking about that on the air!”? Has that ever happened? You get in the moment and inadvertently say something that you agreed you would not talk about?
BB: To me, when I’m talking to someone, I can get pretty wrapped up in the conversation. I may blurt out something I shouldn’t. Things like that happen.
SW: I don’t do that because of some experiences I had early in my career in television. I got stalked a couple of times. I don’t talk about my personal life on the air. I’m just “Shane the Geeky Guy”. The Smarter One. I’m actually not that smart; I just played one smart person on the radio.
So, yes, I never did that because, like I said, due to some experiences back early in my career, I just didn’t talk about my private life.
D. Jeff Cogswell
[Bevboy note: This interview was conducted before Jeff became the morning man at Live 105. He was working nights and weekends at Q104 when Shane and I chatted]
SW: Biggest smeg head I’ve ever met.
BB: A what?
SW: Smeg head.
BB: Qu’est-ce c’est?
SW: It’s from a British Science Fiction series called Red Dwarf. “Smeg” refers to smegma, which would be the cheese-like substance that can form under your foreskin if you don’t bathe properly. Or, you’re out in the woods for 3 or 4 days or whatever.
So, Jeff is the biggest no-neck smeg head I’ve met in my life.
In any business, radio especially, you work with some amazing people, every day in every different job that you do. You get along fantastic. Then, you go your separate ways. You might Facebook or whatever, but you’re not personal friends. Jeff is one of those few people I’ve met in radio who’s become a personal friend. I love Jeff like a brother. If Jeff needed me, I would be there. If I needed him, he’d be there. Jeff is one of the funniest people I have ever met. Jeff is one of the best radio people I have ever met. I love him. There’s really not much more to say.
We stay in touch constantly. Him being back on Q is great (and lovin’ him on the Live morning show with Floyd).
BB: He sounds amazing.
SW: He does. But, the one problem with that, and I’ve told him this, is that he can do any radio. He’s not just a Rock guy. I think being on the Q is an amazing thing. It’s right now where he belongs. But I think he can do any radio he wants to do. He read news for me one day.
BB: Really? Did you have laryngitis or something?
SW: There was some stuff going on. But, he did my newscast for me one day. He blew me away. He’s that talented that he can do that stuff. He did news a little bit in his early days. But, that’s Jeff. Jeff’s a buddy. It’s tacky, but he’s like a brother.
E. Nikki Balch
BB: I’ll say this first. I met Nikki and interviewed her for the blog a couple of years ago. She was very sweet to me. You’re being circumspect. So, what do you want to say about Nikki Balch?
SW: Cogsy and I talked last week. I told him I was going to do this interview. I said, “Cogsy, I’m going to tell all!” I really am going to tell all, because I don’t think it’s ever been told.
Everything I’m about to say, I mean. She’s in Montreal. She can’t beat me up now. Seriously, she is one of the most brilliant promotional minds I’ve ever worked with in radio. I personally think she’s wasting her talent by being on the air. Her promotional ideas, which sadly never seemed to come to fruition, would have saved Z in the ratings, despite the fact that The Bounce was kicking the shit out of us with money.
When it comes to pop culture, this is going to sound kind of trite, Nikki doesn’t report on pop culture. She is pop culture. She lives pop culture.
Our relationship, throughout the years, changed. It went from being fairly good to being volatile and poisonous. I think she would agree with me. The great thing about Nikki and I was that, both of us, to our credit, when the mics went on, we were pro’s. Bev, there were weeks that went by when we never talked to each other off the air. We didn’t look each other in the eye. Nothing. Nobody knew. It made it on the air maybe a couple of times. Barton would go, “No!”
BB: Was there ever a tone between the two of you on the air?
SW: I think there was a tone, but I think that people took it as good-natured banter. When we were on the air, that’s exactly what it was. There was nothing fake about the Z morning show. There really wasn’t. When the mics went on, we were what we were. When the mics were off, Nikki and I had a very volatile relationship.
BB: There were days when Jeff would be sick or on vacation or something, when you guys would be doing the show together. That would be a different dynamic, by definition.
BB: Were those days more difficult?
SW: Yes. Yes.
BB: For her, too.
BB: Not just in terms of workload, but in terms of your volatile relationship.
SW: In the terms of, Jeff The Dampening Rod wasn’t there. It’s like a reactor. If the dampening rods are in, everything’s cool. If the dampening rod’s not there... But, again, to our credit, I think we were always professional enough that it rarely made it on the air. So, very volatile.
[Patricia shows up. She makes a point of kissing Shane, whom she’s just met]
BB: Was there respect for each other?
SW: No. Not in the beginning. Maybe in the very beginning, and it went away. Then, luckily, it came back. I’ll bring this train to that in a minute.
The great thing about the relationship we had was, we both got engaged equally. There was rarely a winner. Most of that was due to Dan Barton and the way he dealt with it all. I didn’t always agree with [his approach], but now that I look back, he was mostly right.
The last year we were together was when we started, very slowly and tentatively, to have that respect for each other. I think a lot of our tension came from the fact that we just did not understand each other at all. We had nothing in common. Different everything. Crazy different everything. Again, part of that was making the show one of the best morning shows in Halifax.
The last year we were together, a lot of stuff was happening. Nikki and I slowly began to respect each other. The to’ing and fro’ing gradually stopped. She started to learn things from me. I learned so much from her. We allowed that to happen because of external things.
Nikki Balch is the most incredibly loyal person I’ve ever met. Even at the worst of it, I know if we had been a club together, and somebody had hassled me, she would have been in their face. That’s the kind of person she is.
BB: Would you have defended her?
SW: Yes, to the death. I would have fought for her. And, look at me. Do I look like I can fight? I would have. That’s the weird thing. It’s the strangest work relationship I’ve ever had in my entire life.
But, towards the end of us as a team, that respect and understanding each other a little bit, I realized that I was learning so much, that she had so much to teach me. It improved 100 million percent.
BB: Would the source of your issues with Nikki been rooted out had you guys just gone out for beer after work and really had a heart-to-heart conversation?
SW: No. We were too far apart. And, Dan Barton knew that, because I know he would have said, “Go! Go drink together. Go fight. Go scream at each other and end up hugging!”, if he had thought it would work. But, at the beginning, it wouldn’t have worked. We were too far apart. We were too different people.
Things improved greatly between us in that last year. I think we both realized that we each had something to offer. We both realized there was some grudging respect growing between us.
The day I got fired from Z, she called me. I don’t want to reveal the conversation, but will say it was an amazing conversation. She blew me away. I was speechless.
BB: Tears on both sides?
SW: I choked up. I’m not sure if she did. In fact, I was so speechless, I didn’t even say to her how much I’d learned from her and how much I respected her, at that juncture. It wasn’t just the emotions of the day. That had been building for the previous year.
Now, it’s a weird relationship. I don’t think Nikki and I could go hang around for a week on vacation. It’s not that we’d be killing each other, but we don’t have that ton of stuff in common. But, I do know that if Nikki called me and said, “I need a place to stay.”, I would be there for her. I have the same feeling about her.
BB: Do you like her now?
SW: Yes. I do. And, that grew that last year the show was together. I like her very much. I respect her a lot. I’m grateful for everything she taught me, even when it was the worst, poisonous, nastiest atmosphere. The mics would go off, and that would be it: We wouldn’t talk again. I still learned stuff from her! It was, in that time we were together, an amazing, frightening, incredible relationship.
BB: A complex relationship...
SW: “Complex” is an understatement to our relationship. Very much so. I’m glad I had this opportunity to talk about it.
BB: I’m delighted I thought to ask. Do you think she likes and respects you?
SW: After our conversation, and some of the stuff we’ve talked about since, yes. There’s nothing I said here that she’ll go, “Fucking asshole! That’s not true!” I think she would agree with everything I’ve said. But, it’s just my opinion.
BB: Once again, in your opinion, why were you two fired, and Nikki kept on?
SW: Nikki always was the core of the show because she is, was, the demographic. Young. Female. Club. Pop culture. At this point, they didn’t know this, but we did, that once Jeff and I were gone, she wouldn’t stay very long. She’d leave on her own. And, she left for her betterment. She’s in Montreal!
BB: She was gone within 2 months.
SW: Yes. She’s in Montreal, and she’s kicking ass in that market. Jeff and I were let go because, well, it was time to go. The Bounce kicked our asses.
BB: Through no fault of your own.
SW: Well, some of our own, too. You always have to take responsibility for things that happen.
BB: You can’t make people listen to your show.
SW: No. You can’t. And, The Bounce, I thought, had an inferior quality morning show. But, they also had money to burn. When they were giving away $100 000, we were giving away a couple of trips. That’s it. Ratings, you know from your experience talking to all those radio people, are subjective. You live and die by 25 people, quite possibly. The Bounce came in with their promotional people, and all kinds of money, and kicked our asses. It was a legitimate win. You can’t complain.
F. Tom Bedell
SW: I don’t know Tom personally. I did news for his show quite a few times. Tom would probably laugh, but he’s a consummate radio professional. He’s a good guy. Friendly. Professional to the Nth degree. He knows what he’s doing.
I always thanked him because, even though I was new, and the back up guy [to Rich Horner], he always invited me on the air before and after the news. I’ve been listening to Tom forever. He’s a nice guy. A funny guy.
BB: And very earnest.
SW: Yes. He knows his stuff and loves what he does. That’s Tom. That’s about all I know.
BB: OK. When you were working at the Q, were you guys in separate studios when you were doing the news? Or were you sharing that one studio? It’s where C100 is now, apparently.
SW: I was right in the studio with Tom.
BB: The days of a newsperson being in a separate, smaller studio are over?
SW: Never experienced that at the Q.
BB: Probably because of space considerations?
SW: Probably, yes. But, the Q studio, in the old Pink Palace, was a huge studio. I was amazed. Not until Z did I see a bigger studio.
BB: When you were at Live 105, when you were shared between the two stations...
SW: “Live” was recorded. Live ran it at 2 minutes to the hour. Z was top of the hour.
BB: Were you in the Z studio, recording the Live newscast?
SW: No. There’s a small Production studio beside the Live studio. That’s where I’d go to record it. I’d email it to Cub; and then, Cub would run it.
BB: Would it be an mp3 file?
SW: Yes. But, it’s not like we were recording it 2 hours before. I’d go in there at 10 minutes to, do it so it’s fresh. I was giving times and temperatures. I couldn’t really record it an hour ahead and still be accurate. It was as live as we could make it with one Newsie. I’m sure that Cassie is still doing it the same way. [Note: this interview was conducted before the January 4, 2012, layoffs at Evanov that resulted in the loss of their only newsperson]
G. Megan Edwards
SW: I love Megan. She’s a princess in the worst sense of that word, sometimes.
BB: Really girly, you mean?
SW: Yes. I don’t tend to click with princesses. The first time I met Megan, I fell in love with her. When we had the noon newscast on Z, I’d go in a half hour before the cast. We’d sit there and talk. If I had a sister, I’d want her to be Megan. She’s honest. She’s loyal. She’s smart. She was wasted at Z. I think what she’s done now, going to Vancouver... within 2 years, she’s going to be on national television. You watch. That’s where she belongs.
There will be a point in my life when I’ll be watching television and I’ll go, “I knew her when!” People will go, “No! You never knew somebody that big!” I’ll say, “Yes, I did. And, I can tell you some stories!”
BB: Is there a story you want to tell?
SW: No. There were some days at Z when it was bad. She was my sanity. She’d pull me back, and we’d just talk about anything else in the world. It was sad to see her go, but I’m so happy for her, that she’s broken this cycle that she was in. People will appreciate what kind of talent she is.
BB: Was she stuck in that job?
SW: Yes. I think she was. She was always biding her time. But, with her wanting to work in television, she’s got to get out of Nova Scotia. I’m sorry. I love this province, but it’s not here. It’s in Vancouver.
BB: Well, CBC is expanding as best it can into weekend news. That’s why they hired Yvonne Colbert recently. Is there no opportunity for a Megan Edwards?
SW: Megan doesn’t want to do hard news. She wants to do...
BB: An E-Talk-type show?
SW: Yes. And that’s what I think, on a national level, she’s going to be a star.
BB: I hope she comes back some day, but in all probability, she may not.
SW: Well, she’ll be on the back of a convertible, waving to the crowd. She’s smoking hot.
BB: [long pause]
P: Go ahead. She’s smoking hot!
BB: She’s a very attractive young woman.
SW: She is. That’s ok. I’ve told it to her face many times. That’s the great thing about Megan: She knew that when I said that, it wasn’t because I was trying anything. It’s because I love her. And, besides, she knows it.
BB: There are women who know they’re attractive. They’re not obnoxious about it.
SW: No. She just knows who she is.
BB: It’s good to be that confident.
H. Lisa Blackburn
SW: Lisa Blackburn is the reason why I was on Z.
BB: I have to hear this story!
SW: Yes, you do. And, it’s nothing to do with her knowing somebody and putting in a word or anything like that. I had always been a fan of Lisa’s. Who wasn’t a fan of the Q morning show? She’s a newsie, but I was always a fan of hers because she was able to walk that line of journalistic integrity, combined with the outrageous stuff they used to do, combined with the fact that, if you listened to other Rock morning shows, the women are often either bimbo’s or bitches.
BB: Or laugh tracks, as K8 Milton would say.
SW: Or laugh tracks. She never did that. She never had to do that. She participated in those discussions. She knocked the boys down. But, the thing for me was, she was able to walk that line. She was able to maintain her journalistic integrity and still be an entertaining force on the show.
Where I really saw that was during Hurricane Juan. I thought, “Oh, this is going to be great!” She’s the morning show host. I love her to pieces, but she’s not a newsie.
She covered City Hall. The Sunday when Hurricane Juan hit, she was at the radio station. A listener picked her up and brought her to work. She covered it like the hard-core veteran newsie she is.
So, Lisa Blackburn to me is the reason why I knew, when Paul Evanov approached me to do Z, and he said, “By the way, we want you to be part of the morning show.”, seeing her do what she did and hearing her do what she did, she’s the reason I said yes.
BB: Was she an inspiration to you?
SW: Yes. More than I can express.
BB: Does she know this?
SW: I don’t think she knows that. She knows that I have a lot of respect for her. We Facebook once in a while. She’s been a reference for jobs and that kind of thing. I wouldn’t say we were close friends, but that’s the influence she had on my life. She is the reason I took the job at Z.
Doug Reynolds was the template of my presentation. Lisa Blackburn [was] the template for how I maintained that balance between journalistic integrity, having people believe what you say (the most important thing in the world for a journalist), and yet still participating in a silly, fun, entertaining morning show.
BB: Without losing your dignity, so to speak?
SW: Exactly. Well, I lost my dignity a few times on Z. So, that’s who Lisa Blackburn is to me. I think she’s a great talent. Her and Jamie, if you go back to demographics, they’re masters of the demographic they’re looking for. I think it’s brilliant.
BB: A somewhat older, more mature female audience.
SW: Yes. But, both of them could do anything else. Jamie’s done the Rock show thing. Jamie did Kool FM. But, they’re the masters of speaking to their audience. I hear people go, “Ah, it’s boring!” But, you’re 25 years old, and you don’t have a family. And, you don’t have any bills. You’re not the demographic, so of course you’re not going to like it. I’m sort of the demographic except for my parts. And, I like the show.
BB: What station do you listen to in the morning?
SW: CBC. Don Connolly. Louise Renault. I like news. And, I flipped over to Doug when he was on News 95.7. But, I’m off 95.7 now. CBC, pretty much constantly. Otherwise, I’m listening to my own music.
BB: Why are you off 95.7?
SW: They lost something when Doug left. It’s just because I was such a big fan of Doug. I said it before, jokingly. He’s the second best newscaster in town, but really the first.
BB: Who was the...
SW: But for years, I thought that Dougie was the best newscaster in this city, in private radio. He had the ability to be...
SW: Conversational. Just listening to him, I learned so much.
BB: He would play a little, 10 second clip of someone talking and come back and say, “Hmm!” As if to say, “Wow. That’s interesting.”
SW: Yes. Exactly. He also has the great ability to make a snarky comment and not have it sound like a snarky comment.
BB: Can you give me an example of that?
SW: No, I can’t. I can’t think of any right now. It just popped into my head that I heard him do that a few times. I’m sure it was frowned upon. He was able to do it without sounding too editorial.
BB: Did you listen to Dougie when he was working with Brian Phillips on CJ? I thought they were a great team.
SW: Oh, yes. How could you not? Brian Phillips, icon, He was number one in this city for how long? My ex, Kelley, used to do a morning show with him, back in the day, when they were at the top of the heap. I got to meet him back then, in the ‘80‘s. But, how could you not listen to that show? If you liked radio, if you liked quality, that’s what you would listen to.
But, today, it’s CBC.
BB: You and I are almost like brothers. I listened to the same stations. Every radio that I own in the house is tuned to CBC, but I certainly delve into other stations. I like Live 105 a lot.
SW: Yes. I listen to Live 105 quite a bit. That’s what’s on at work.
BB: I listen to most stations in the market. I think losing Dougie was a major blow to Halifax radio, not just to News 95.7, but to Halifax radio.
SW: So do I.
BB: Is there anything else you want to say about Lisa?
SW: Lisa is the reason I did Z. Period.
6. What is the best piece of professional advice you have ever received, and who provided it?
SW: There are actually 3 things that I want to say. First of all, the news directors that I mentioned earlier, there was so much that I couldn’t even come down to one thing that they said to me that was the most important. Those people really influenced me.
When I was going to do morning, I called Lisa Blackburn and said, “Lisa? You’ve been doing this for friggin’ ever. What’s your best piece of advice?”
In typical Lisa fashion, she said, “Try to have a nap every afternoon. And get used to feeling sick all of the time.”
BB: Sick because of lack of sleep?
SW: Yes. And that was it. I was like, “That’s it?” She said, “Yes. That’s what I’ve got for you.” It turns out, she was right.
BB: When you were getting up at an unGodly hour, did you...
SW: I felt sick all the time. Yes.
BB: Nobody ever quite gets used to that, I presume.
SW: No. Even all those years that Lisa did that, and she’s still doing it. I don’t think she’s ever gotten used to it. And, I never did. I started to enjoy it, but I never got used to it. You start to enjoy the quiet city at quarter to four in the morning. Going through the Armdale Roundabout, there’s nobody else there. Going in, in the middle of a snowstorm with nobody on the road, so I’m not worried about somebody else slamming me off the road.
P: The tracks in the road are yours!
BB: I would log on to Facebook at 11 o’clock at night, on a week night, and see Jeff on there.
SW: Jeff has insomnia.
BB: Is that what it is?
BB: He would have to get up at four o’clock in the morning. What time were you going to bed at night?
SW: Certainly not like Jeff and Nikki. I was never able to do what they did. I’d be in bed by 7, 7:30. I tried to turn my Circadian rhythm around.
BB: So, you would have to get 7, 8 hours of sleep at night, any way you could?
SW: Yes. Now, Jeff and Nikki? I had so much respect for them that they could come in with no sleep, especially Nikki. She was 21. She’d be out partying all night. I don’t mean she was coming in drunk. She was out dancing and partying all night. And, she’d be “on”. That mic would open and just [there’d be] just power coming out. Jeff was the same way. But, I needed my beauty sleep.
BB: It’s worked for you, buddy.
SW: Why, thank you.
BB: Anything else for advice?
SW: Well, believe it or not, the former and departed Premier of PEI, Joe Ghiz.
BB: What did Joe Ghiz do for you?
SW: I was very young, working for CFCY, for Craig Ainsley. There was a Council of Maritime Premiers in Summerside. I was in a scrum. I asked the most inane, stupid question anybody could ask.
BB: That being?
SW: I don’t remember the question. But I remember Ghiz, in this crowd of reporters (national people there, too; not just the local guys that you know) looking at me and and going, “Next time, do your homework.”
BB: He said those words?
SW: Those words.
BB: Were those broadcast?
SW: Nobody grabbed it and used it because, I think, everybody was a little shocked. I flushed. I was embarrassed. The next time I interviewed Joe Ghiz, he said, “I shouldn’t have said that to you that day because you almost got me there.” I did about a 10 minute interview with him, and I did my homework because, from that day on, I never went to anything without doing my homework. I did my homework, and I almost got him that day. He told me that at the end of that [second] interview when the microphone was off.
BB: Did he stop short of an apology?
SW: No. He had nothing to apologize for. He was right. I embarrassed myself. He made me realize it. So, there, that’s my best advice.
BB: He was on Morningside with Peter Gzowski quite a few years ago...
SW: What a great relationship those two had, eh? It was awesome.
BB: Joe Ghiz made his famous Caesar Salad, which was later published in a newspaper. I clipped that recipe. I still have it.
SW: Oh, really? I remember that live. I was a huge Gzowski fan.
BB: I’ll find the recipe. We threw out most of our cookbooks, but I know I still have that one.
SW: Excellent. I just heard that on the air about 3 weeks ago, as part of the CBC 75 years anniversary.
BB: I wish I had heard that again. I’ll get the recipe for you. I’ll have it accompany the interview. Why not?
7. Would you recommend that a young person today seek a job in the radio industry/medium?
BB: All those people who are at NSCC are not wasting their time?
SW: No, What I am saying is that, if you’re going to get into the radio business, learn as many jobs within that industry as you can. Learn how to do news. And the NSCC is doing this, which I think is brilliant. Learn how to be a jock. Learn how to write copy. Make yourself a Jack or a Jane of all trades in broadcasting. It’s the only way you’re going to be steadily employed.
I would also say, if you want to get into this kind of work, learn everything you can about the internet. I believe that’s where we’re all headed. I honestly believe that broadcasters don’t get it. MBS does not get it. They have no personalities on the air; they’re playing music. I have 364 songs on my phone that I like, every single one of them. Why would I listen to radio? Unless there’s a personality on there that I want to hear from.
I think that the internet is going to allow people to continue broadcasting. It will continue to have a radio feel, but it will be online.
But, yes. Learn as many jobs as you can, and get good at all of them. That way, to companies like Evanov, you are indispensable. If you can do 6 different jobs, and do them all fairly well, for one salary, you’re indispensable. I’m not just picking on the Evanov’s. There’s not a lot of return in radio. There’s not a lot of money to spend.
So, do it. Love it. Be passionate about it. If you want to be a star, forget it.
BB: Be prepared to be fired sometimes.
SW: Be prepared to be fired, a lot. Like I said, I got fired from my first radio job when I was 17.
BB: Are the days of a jock being a real local celebrity pretty much behind us? People listen to Live 105 and know who Cub Carson is, who Floyd is. If they don’t listen to Live 105, they have no idea who the Hell they are. But, everybody knew who Brian Phillips was whether they listened to CJCH or not.
SW: Well, that’s the nature of the competitive market in Halifax. Halifax is one of the most competitive markets in the entire country, and we’re small. A small medium market.
So, sadly, yes. The days are just about gone. It’s megastars like Howard Stern, Don Imus. He’s always been a star; now, with satellite radio, he’s huge. Until big broadcasters are willing to change, and are willing to realize that I’ve got music on my phone and can listen to it, I want to hear personalities. I think a lot of people do.
Two things are going to happen. Corporate radio is going to figure that out. We’ll start sliding back to the days when we have interesting jocks on the air. There’s great jocks on the air. BJ Burke? Brilliant! Jeff Cogswell? Brilliant! Cub Carson? Brilliant! But, there’s no time to do anything because we have to play music, music, music, because that’s what people say they want.
BB: Further to that, I think it’s starting to happen. At least the major radio stations are live until quite late at night.
SW: The largest chain in our region is still live only about 4 hours a day. It’s either going to go that way, and radio’s going to die; or it will go the other way, and we’ll have a resurgence of [personality-driven radio]. I’d hate to see radio die. There is no more immediate way to communicate. There’s no video to cut. You turn on the microphone, and you do your job. It’ll be sad if it goes.
BB: I don’t think it will ever happen. If one station surrendered its license to the CRTC, there would be a feeding frenzy for it among other broadcasters.
SW: There’s still money in it, but I just don’t know, how much longer.
8. Tell me about a couple of on air mistakes you have made.
SW: OK. First one. My first job. Remember, I said that Dave Guy fired me? Remember I said I’d tell you why, and the other reason? New Year’s Eve, in Truro. There’s 2 radio stations: CKCL and CKTO, but everybody listens to CKCL.
It was Saturday night; I was doing the Rock show. I was drinking. The 20 or so friends that I had in the radio station were also drinking.
BB: They were there, without permission?
SW: No permission. Not only that, none of us were even close to 19. Back in the day, when we were playing records, you had what is called a cue speaker. You had to take your record, put it on [the turntable], cue it to the start of the music and back it off a quarter turn to give the motor in the turntable a chance to spin up. You use the cue speaker to hear when you hit the post, and then turn it back.
We were starting to use carts then, too. But, you had to tighten the carts with your fingers. You pop it in, turn it on until you heard it. You take it out, and use your fingers to tighten it up. You put it back in.
The cue speaker wasn’t going on the air. You do your thing. Put your pot up on the board. It’s hot and ready to go on the air. The entire staff of CKCL and CKTO had done a countdown two days before. It was everyone going, “10. 9. 8. 220.127.116.11.3.2.1! Happy New Year from CKCL!”
I cued up the cart that this was recorded on. But, being “tired and emotional”, I didn’t turn up the pot. So, what the people of Truro heard was whatever we were playing, fade out, and just me. I’m in the studio, and I’m hearing the countdown by all these people. I’m going along with it on the air, live, too “tired and emotional” to see that the little meter was only moving with my voice and nothing else. All the people of Truro heard was [“tired and emotional” voice] “10. 9. 8. 7“.
I got to the end. “Yaaay!”, and that’s all they heard. And, then, boom! “Auld Lang Syne”. Dave Guy was, obviously, at a New Year’s Eve party with all his friends. Half the town of Truro heard this. Because he was a big radio personality, he would go to all the levees. All he got was heat from my screw up.
So, Monday morning, he called me in. Justifiably, he fired my 17 year-old ass out the door. I worked back at CKCL when I was in flight school, just to make a little extra money. I ran into him again. He’s still there. We talked about it.
So, that was one of the big mistakes I made on the air.
The one was at CFCY. We had the Duke and Duchess of York visiting.
BB: Sarah, the Duchess of Pork.
SW: Yes. There were 5 or 6 people working in the newsroom. There was always the newsroom banter. They were saying, “Oh! The Duke and Duchess of Dork! Ha ha!” So, guess what I did when I went on the air to do the noon news in Charlottetown? “The Duke and Duchess of Dork are in town this week.”
I came back out. Everybody in the newsroom is silent and staring at me. Craig Ainsley sticks his head out of the office and goes, “Come here!”
He said, “Do you know what happened there?” I said yes. He said, “You weren’t paying attention to what you were doing on the air. You were thinking about what was going on in the newsroom before you went on, right?” I said yes. I never did it again.
I think I said a few things on Z, but I don’t remember.
BB: You never said “poop”, or anything like that?
SW: No. I actually said “shit” over an aircraft radio. It’s just as illegal. It’s actually not illegal on public airwaves, at a radio station. It’s illegal on an airplane.
BB: What can happen to you?
SW: I was about to land. I got caught with a gust of wind that sent my little airplane over the grass. Just at that point, I was about to talk to the tower. What came out of my mouth was “shit”. I didn’t get in trouble.
BB: What is the potential consequence of swearing?
SW: You can be fined. You can lose your radio operator’s license, which means you can’t be a pilot. You need to use the radio to be a commercial pilot.
9. What have you not done in radio, that you would like to do? Everyone says they want to host a talk show.
BB: You don’t want to do that?
SW: No desire to host a talk show. You know, I think I’ve done everything I wanted to do. I always wanted to cover big news stories. I’ve had a chance to do that. I’ve had a chance to do live emergency stuff. I’d just like to do it all again. I’d make some different decisions, but I’d like to do it all again.
BB: Let’s hope you get an opportunity.
SW: We’ll see. With the right offer, and the right News Director and the right organization, I would go back.
BB: Do you see that in the offing, presently?
10. Do you miss being on the air?
BB: There was a bit of a pause before you answered.
SW: Well, I was trying to think, “Do I miss being on the air?” or, “Do I miss the people?” For me, it was never really the celebrity. It was doing the job. I loved doing the job. The pause was just me thinking. I think it is the people that I miss. Being on the air is fun. It’s a blast. It’s like being paid to play. Doing the show with Jeff and Nikki, when things were rocking, it was like being paid to go in and play for four hours a day and be with people that you’re having fun with.
BB: If someone called you tomorrow and said, “Shane, we need you on the air at whatever station, we want you to do this. You can do pretty much what you want. You can run the News Directorship any way you want to do it.”, would you be sorely tempted to accept that position?
SW: Yes. Very much so.
BB: Even though you like what you’re doing now.
SW: Yes. Bev, I’ve got an idea that I know how to make a successful private radio newsroom that gets along well with the music. Paul Evanov, Adam Robinson, allowed me to explore some of that at Z. But, there was a cut-off point. I want to go beyond that cut-off point and see what happens. Who’s going to put up the resources for me to hire reporters and all that stuff? Nobody.
BB: It’s interesting. I get a lot of people in radio reading these interviews. Maybe someone will read this who think of you and approach you. Strangers things have happened.
11. A special question courtesy of... K8 Milton!
K8 says: Ask him what he would do for a Klondike Bar.
BB: Do you actually like Klondike Bars?
SW: Sure. Ice cream and chocolate. How can you not like Klondike Bars?
BB: What have you done for a Klondike Bar?
SW: Let’s see. I’ve eaten cat food. I’d eat a cat food sandwich for a Klondike Bar.
BB: Soft food?
SW: Soft. Jeff never told you that time?
SW: It was a stunt we did early on.
BB: Was it the Stupid Shit Fridays?
SW: No. Nikki wasn’t even there yet. We got talking on the air. He said, “I want to try sheep testicles.” I said, I’ll try anything once.”
A caller called in and said, “I’ll bet you wouldn’t even try cat food.” I said, “Sure, I would!”
Cogs took it. Two days later, I’m eating a cat food sandwich.
BB: Was it Fancy Feast?
SW: It was Friskies. I expected it to be like pate. I like pate. Pate’s nice. But, it was like pate that hadn’t been ground enough. It was chunky. And, there was no flavour to it. So, a little rosemary, a little garlic, and put it through the grinder again? It wouldn’t have been bad.
BB: Would you describe it as human-grade food?
SW: No. I would not. No rosemary. No garlic. No pepper. What’s the point?
BB: I guess cats don’t have strong taste buds. They wouldn’t care.
SW: No. They wouldn’t care.
BB: They want the protein.
P: Why are they so finicky then?
BB: They seek the protein. Did you feel sick afterward?
SW: No. I was fine.
BB: What kind of bread was it?
SW: It was white bread. Ben’s.
BB: He could have chosen a more elaborate bread.
SW: At least a nice, hearty, 12 grain.
BB: Oatmeal brown bread or something.
BB: All right.
BB: They’re not that expensive. They’re only a couple of bucks.
BB: Shane Wilson, thank you very much for the last 3 hours and 15 minutes of your life. I didn’t know it would take so long, but this has been fascinating.
SW: I couldn’t shut up, Bev!
BB: I do this because it’s a labour of love. I enjoy meeting you guys.
SW: Even us has beens? Has beens who never was?
BB: Well, you’ve been and you will be again.
SW: Aw, thanks.
BB: It’s been a great pleasure meeting you. I appreciate your time. Thank you.
SW: Thank YOU.