February 22, 2013
This interview was conducted at the Chinese restaurant next to the Lower Deck in Clayton Park on the above-noted date. We had planned to go to dinner at The Lower Deck until we realized it has become the watering hole of choice for lots of locals. There wasn’t a seat to be had. So we went next door and had a very nice chat indeed.
Bevboy: For the benefit of my readers, the reason why we decided to hold off on publishing the 2011 interview with Julia was...
Julia Kirkey: Because of the ongoing strike situation at MBS radio.
BB: Exactly. But now you don’t work there any more. You can say whatever the heck you want.
JK: Well, to a degree, yes.
1. I know that morale at MBS has declined since the strike started on June 25, 2012. Can you tell me just how bad it has become? How do management feel about the strike?
JK: The morale was down well before the strike. That was what led to the union. Other stations were already unionized before Halifax; they had their own negotiations. Some other ones had already got their contracts. Saint John was coming up on their collective bargaining process. But, in Halifax, they were in the situation of we didn’t know whether or not it was going to be the right choice for us. Ultimately, one person from the news room took the lead, contacted the CMG [The Canadian Media Guild], went ahead and started the talks with them.
BB: Do you want to say the name of that person?
JK: [Redacted]. We were all approached individually about whether or not we wanted to be part of a union. For me, I didn’t have much of a vested interest because I was only working one day a week, Sunday mornings. I didn’t see, from my position, why I would have any reason not to go along with what everybody else was doing. It didn’t make any difference to me at that point. I wanted to support my co-workers and go ahead and sign my union card.
There were things that were happening that I was completely oblivious to because of the fact that I only worked on Sundays. Things that I found out well down the road about things that were happening between management and managers that wanted to be part of the union and whether that was allowed. There were things happening to do with our union that were happening in court that I didn’t know the details of.
JK: Not enough that I can speak about them. But all these things I started finding out about afterward; and I realized just how huge it was. I didn’t really grasp the severity of how bad things had become until I started my internship, actually, because I was taking Public Relations at NSCC. I was starting my internship.
There was a bit of a conflict between me working as a reporter and working as a public affairs person for the Department of National Defence, in that I would be privy to information through the Navy that be interesting to a reporter. So, I chose to remove myself from the situation by taking a few weeks off. My internship was only six weeks long.
The day I went in to ask Deb Rent for those six Sundays off, which also included Victoria Day weekend (which I knew would be a problem), she wasn’t there. Brynn Langille told me at that point that she [Deb] had taken the day off.
BB: Help me out. This was around April of 2012?
JK: Yes. It would have been the last week of April, the first week of May. Around there.
So, at that point, I said "all right". I sat on the information for a couple of days. Then, I went back in. She still wasn’t there. At that point, it was Garry Barker whom I dealt with and had to ask for the six weeks off. It was my first time ever really dealing with Garry. I knew of him. But I didn’t work during the week. I’d seen him in passing a couple of times. I never really dealt with him. I didn’t have any issue with that. He was actually very supportive of getting me that time off and made sure that my co-workers were able to cover off the shifts and worked everything out.
BB: OK. Seems reasonable.
JK: It was very reasonable. What I didn’t know was that Deb was not off for the day. She never came back.
BB: So, as of April 2012, she was gone?
JK: Yes. The end of April. She was off work. I didn’t find that out until I got home later that day and Brynn sent me a private message on Facebook about what was happening.
BB: So, Deborah Rent was gone. Garry Barker was conciliatory, at least initially.
BB: You did your internship with DND for six weeks.
JK: When I came back, Brynn was still doing the afternoons by herself. We had no idea what was happening with Debra. Then, Vicki was having some shoulder issues. She went on sick leave. At that point, they said to me that as soon as my internship was done, I was going to have to start filling in those days that Vicki was going to be away.
BB: Did you feel obligated? "They did something for me. I’ll do something for them"?
JK: Absolutely. I absolutely did. I knew that Vicki and Darryl [Goode] and Doug [Cogswell] and Brynn had all stepped up for me. The least I could do was do the same for them. It was two weeks. It’s what Vicki had originally said. In two weeks, she got a reassessment at the doctor; he gave her more time off.
By the time July rolled around, she came back. She worked for 3 days and put in her resignation. There were a lot of things going on in the background. Our happy little newsroom was very slowly deteriorating. None of these people who were leaving were ever replaced.
BB: We’ll talk about the newsroom later on.
JK: What was the second part of the question?
BB: How bad has morale become? It was crappy anyway. It got how much worse?
JK: It got a lot worse in fact.
[Dinner is served]
BB: OK. We were about to talk about how bad morale became at MBS. Vicki Gesner left suddenly. Deb Rent had left. And Mike Cranston came back from retirement.
JK: Daryl was actually the one who went on vacation. We went the whole summer with it just being the four of us. Brynn. Myself. Doug Cogswell. And Daryl Goode. Then, they hired a girl named Ferne Wynnyk. She works in Fort McMurray now.
BB: Did she stay very long?
JK: No. She stayed for maybe a month or something. She was fresh out of NSCC. They hired her because she had done her internship in the Valley at AVR. Then, she came on board. She started working in the afternoons with Brynn. She would have done the New Brunswick and PEI stations, while Brynn did Halifax, Saint John, Moncton. The bigger markets.
BB: And at those markets, they have no live news person.
JK: Kentville didn’t have a news person. That was a big problem, too. At the same time all this was happening in Halifax, Robb Lepper left. That left us with having to do an extra market. So, we did Kentville, Halifax, Amherst, Moncton, Saint John, Sussex, Miramichi, Campbellton, Charlottetown, Sumerside, and Sydney on the weekends.
BB: Did you ever mis-identify the station you were providing news for?
JK: Luckily, we never had to say it. But, I will say that I did get an email once from Sussex that said, "I now know what’s going on today in PEI, but can we get some New Brunswick news?
BB: Who messed up?
JK: Me. The stations were CJRW in Summerside, PEI; and CJCW in Sussex, New Brunswick. It got to the point where I was doing so many markets, that it was just "In the booth. Record them all. Come out. Send them all. In the booth. Record them all. Come out. Send them all."
BB: Were these mp3 files, or avi files?
JK: We record them all in Burli. You dispatch them from Burli. It turns it into whatever file you need it to be before it gets there. It got really crazy and really taxing because they eventually moved Doug to the afternoons. Then, it was just myself and Daryl in the mornings. We were all pretty burned out. At this point, Saint John has gone on strike.
BB: This was after June 25th?
JK: Yes. This was in July and August. They told us, from a union perspective, that we had to wait. They couldn’t move on negotiating for Halifax until Saint John was settled.
P: That could take forever.
BB: They haven’t even talked since June.
JK: From what I’ve seen in press releases, I believe they have made the motions to begin to move to Halifax negotiations. But, at that point they were saying there’s no point to because they were going to be basing everything they were doing for Halifax off of what happened in Saint John. So, we just had to wait it out.
But, while we were waiting, tensions continued to grow, especially with other people in the station. I don’t know how this was perpetrated, but a lot of hurtful things were said via social media and behind people’s backs, about people who were in the union.
BB: The seven people who were on strike?
JK: Yes. The seven people who were on strike, and those of us in Halifax who were unionized. In September some people were saying, "I sure hope this lasts through the Winter and that you’re all outside and freeze to death." This is your co-workers who were saying these things about you.
BB: These were non-management people? These were staff?
BB: Who are working in Halifax, who were saying these crappy things about the strikers?
JK: Yes. And these were admin people, sales people, jocks, that had all been ... I don’t know if it was brainwashed or just turned against us: led to believe that the union was going to be bad for them, because they weren’t in it. So, it was going to be these union people that were going to ruin everything else for everyone else.
BB: Meanwhile, these folks who were saying these things were being paid the same cruddy wages that you were.
BB: So, why would they feel that their life would get worse when it was in the toilet to begin with?
JK: I think they didn’t like that things had changed. The fact that management was really high strung. If people were asking for raises or for full-time hours or anything, it was "Oh, no, we can’t. The union problem." Or, "Because of the strike. Because of the union." Always.
BB: How much of that was a reason? How much of it was an excuse?
JK: I can’t be totally sure, but I think most of it was an excuse. There were things that were said to people that the union later told us, "Well, our negotiations would have had nothing to do with that." And, there’s no law that says that. It made it clear that it was just an excuse. I was told [third-hand] that a comment had been made after somebody asked for full-time hours that, well, maybe they should have thought of that before they signed a union card. There were comments like that being thrown out.
BB: The people in the union were just the news people?
JK: Just the newsroom.
BB: So, Denyse Sibley is not in the union?
JK: No. None of the announcers are. The announcers, I believe, were under the impression that they couldn’t be. Most of them are contract. So, that was how bad it became.
BB: How did management feel about the strike? How angry were Robert Pace and Garry Barker?
JK: Very, very angry? I guess this ties in with telling you about Garry Barker, my first negative dealing with Garry ended up becoming about the strike. I was covering for Daryl when he was on vacation. Garry and I had a disagreement over what the content of my newscast was that day because an announcer in Saint John complained that their news wasn’t local enough, from the person doing it in Halifax.
BB: This is one of the scab announcers?
JK: Yes. And, at the time, the biggest story in Saint John that day was the strike. I said, "Well, I certainly can’t talk about that!" To which he encouraged me to right ahead and do so. To say on the air, "Well, CBC is lying. Here’s the truth." It’s slander. It’s salacious. I said, "No. I can’t actually do that."
So, I had a big, blow out fight with him that day that ended up in me writing a very strongly-worded letter quoting things from the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council Code of Ethics about journalism, and how a News Director is supposed to conduct themselves. Technically, he was supposedly our News Director.
BB: And he was trying to tell you to lie?
JK: Yes. Well, I think he actually believes it. So, maybe it was his truth. His version of the truth.
BB: OK. Well, I guess we’ve exhausted question one.
2. Tell me about Garry Barker. Tell me about Robert Pace. Tell me about your last shift at MBS.
JK: My relationship [with Garry] was gone, after the incident that I just talked about. Any small semblance of a relationship that I had with him, was gone.
BB: He had helped you in terms of getting time off for your course, which was nice of him, I guess.
JK: Yes. He did me a favour. And I couldn’t even bring myself to be respectful to return that favour later on. It got to the point where I was uncomfortable coming to work every day. I would leave through side doors. I would intentionally not walk down the hallway past his office. It was very, very uncomfortable.
BB: He was not up in the executive level?
JK: No. He was down on our floor. It was very uncomfortable for me. I don’t think it was any more comfortable for anybody else either. But, suddenly, one day, we came in, and Garry had retired. A sudden retirement, if that happens. Not even the receptionist had been aware that he was retiring until that morning.
I had worked the previous day, which was a holiday Monday. Garry had been upstairs having a meeting with Robert Pace, that whole day. And, the next day, [Barker] was retired.
He was then hired back on as a consultant, an independent contractor, which in my opinion absolved the company of any liability they had to him. They could wipe their hands of any complaints coming from staff because, well, this guy doesn’t actually work for us. And, he was still left in charge of the Saint John strike situation, and still managing everyone else.
BB: His job title changed, but everything else was the same.
JK: Yes. So, then the Vice President of Finance became the News Director. Garry then handed things down through her.
I actually only ever met Robert in person, one time. He came in on a Sunday back when I had first started. He seemed like a nice guy. He asked me about school. His daughter was taking Public Relations as well as myself. He talked to me about Emma [his daughter], who did Cruiser also. But, I never actually had any engagement with him beyond that.
[I was told] he would always be more than happy to meet with people, if you wanted to meet with him; but nothing would ever come of it. You’d go up to his office. You’d speak your piece. He’d smile and nod. You’d leave, and nothing would happen.
BB: But, when he came into the office, and talked to you about his daughter and your course, you told me before that he was looking for a newspaper. I’m told that Robert Pace will come in at 5:30 in the morning to make sure that people are actually working. My suspicion is that he was checking up on you to see if you were at your work station.
JK: Probably. He was there quite often on weekends and holidays. Especially if it was a holiday Monday, he would be there. There were times I’d see his car pulling into the garage under the building; or you’d know because the 7th floor elevator would work. Otherwise, it was turned off because it is a penthouse suite. It has to have a key.
BB: And it was just to check up on folks?
BB: So, you never had unpleasant direct dealings with Robert Pace?
JK: No. Everything that I know about him is through other people and their dealings with him.
BB: OK. Tell me about your last shift at MBS.
JK: My last shift was the most anticlimactic thing ever. It was a Sunday; the only other person in the station was Mark Roberts, who was doing the day shift at Hal on Sunday, because Hal is live on Sundays and Saturdays. Mark is there, I think, from 8-2 on Saturdays, and then 10-4 on Sundays.
BB: I’m astonished that they’re live on weekends.
JK: Yes. And one of the few stations that is live on the weekends. So, Mark was the only person there. I left my keys on the desk, went and told Mark, "This is it. I’m leaving". And, I have never been so relieved to hear the door lock behind me. It’s the first time I ever left a job and been happy to go. Ultimately, every job I had never left had been hard to leave.
BB: What was the low point of your time at MBS? The time that you the most discouraged or the most upset or whatever?
JK: It was definitely in the late Summer, early Fall  after I had my falling out with Garry. Every day, I basically wondered if I was going to have a job the next day. And that was at the point where I had contacted you and said, "I don’t think that I’m ok with going ahead and releasing the [2011 interview]." I was worried that if it did come out, I wouldn’t have a job.
BB: You said nothing bad about anybody.
JK: Because I knew that they read your blog.
BB: Who does?
JK: Robert Pace and Garry Barker, to see what people who worked for, or work for MBS, are saying.
BB: I had heard from a third party that, when I publish an interview, somehow, someone who is on my Facebook or whatever, reports that information to Garry and Robert. Now I have that confirmation.
JK: It was a very, very low point for me. This is totally random, but I was upset all the time. I was eating really badly, which for me is very unusual. I was putting on weight. And I said to myself, "I’m clearly not OK here. You know what? I just spent a year in school, taking Public Relations, so I should be doing what I just went to school for." That was when I said, "After Christmas, I’m not working here anymore."
I gave myself until December 25th to get another job. I went on the hunt.
BB: When was your last shift?
JK: December 23rd. I took a week off between MBS and my new job, to get a week to re-adjust my sleep schedule. I had been getting up at 2 o’clock in the morning for six months. I’d found that even on the days that I had off, I was still up at 4. That was sleeping. Four o’clock in the morning was sleeping in!
P: I never see that hour of the day.
BB: Unless I have to get up and have a pee. I’m at that point in my life. Never mind.
P: I’m just being Devil’s Advocate here. By you talking to him now, and this will ultimately be on his blog someday, will you be in any shit with this?
JK: I haven’t said anything negative about anyone. This is my personal experience. I’m not looking for a reference from them. I’m not worried about them not liking me anymore. A reference from MBS doesn’t mean very much.
P: I love that comment. I was thinking about any repercussions for Bev.
BB: We’re not crossing any lines here. They’ll never get the audio files. What will they do? It takes a court order. Judge wouldn’t do that.
JK: So, my last shift at MBS was my Christmas present to myself.
BB: And by that time, Deb Rent was gone. Vicki Gesner was gone.
JK: Fern was gone. She had gone to Fort McMurray.
BB: When did Brynn Langille leave?
JK: Brynn was gone as of October of November. ‘
BB: Having been hired by Rogers.
BB: I didn’t know you guys were friends until last month. I covered Katey Day’s last day [at Lite 92.9] a few weeks ago. She took me around to meet people. I met Scott Simpson and Brynn. She dropped your name. You must have told her...
JK: When I did the first [interview].
BB: She knew who I was at least.
JK: I think that she and I worked together the day that I went and met you. I would have told her that I was meeting you after.
BB: "Bev Keddy? Who’s she?"
JK: I think she was actually reading interviews of other radio people on your blog, that day.
P: I’m thinking that if they’re reading your blog now, they must be hellish bored.
BB: I write about other things, too, besides radio.
BB: Cats, and Mark Dooley, whose comic strip I run for him.
All right. I’m going to be a little self serving for a moment.
JK: Please do.
BB: How well known is my blog? I don’t get much feedback on the posts.
JK: Actually, the [radio] people in Nova Scotia know it. I don’t know about my radio friends in Ontario and Westward. It’s easy enough to find out; I have connections. But you’re definitely well known amongst the people in Nova Scotia. Even if they don’t necessarily know your name, they know of the blog. It’s such a small circle. We all know each other.
P: You do realize I won’t be able to live with him this weekend.
BB: I’ve never asked that before. When I met Chris Lawrence last summer, he looked at me and said, "You’re famous!"
JK: [From what I’ve heard] he’s done all this big-time acting. I don’t know exactly what, but he was at least in callbacks and auditions for a lot of major motion pictures.
BB: Oh, really? What brought him to Halifax? Working for Hal?
JK: They probably hired a headhunter. A lot of companies, especially the Bell’s and Roger’s of the world, will hire people to source morning show hosts.
BB: And still pay them shit?
BB: OK. That was my self-serving question for the year.
3. Deb Rent left the company in 2012. You did. Brynn Langille did. Vicki Gesner. Who is working the newsroom these days?
JK: Daryl Good. Doug Cogswell. Mike Cranston, part-time. Rick ---. He came from Toronto. That was another situation where they actually went after him, I believe. He just came out of nowhere. I think it’s also because he’s a jock; they wanted somebody who could fill in for voice tracking too.
And, I believe they have hired someone new, but I’m not sure who it is.
BB: So, the only veteran people there would be Daryl Good and Mike Cranston.
JK: Doug Cogswell is an awesome journalist. He’s a great writer. He came from News 95.7 to MBS.
BB: Was he full time at News 95.7?
JK: No. He was part-time. He’s part-time at MBS, too; but he works full-time hours. Doug was a writer for morning. He worked the 3‘clock in the morning shift, just writing news, at Rogers.
4. Can you say anything nice about your time at MBS? If so, what is it?
JK: The people I met were great. I made probably one of my best friends in Brynn Langille. She and I, in so many ways, are the same person. In the same way Mel Sampson was to K-Rock, Brynn was to MBS.
BB: I met Brynn for 2 minutes or so. She seemed like a nice person.
JK: When we met, it was like, "Oh, I like this!" and "So do I!". We just had a ton in common.
BB: Do you hang out?
JK: Yes. We’ve gone out when we can because once she left and went to News 95.7, I was still working at two o’clock in the morning. It’s impossible to co-ordinate any kind of activities. We’ve gone out for dinner and stuff. We’ve done things outside of work and still genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
I think for most of the MBS stations, the biggest redeeming quality is the people. It’s the same at AVR: The people are just awesome folks. They make it good for themselves. In Halifax it got bad because there wasn’t very many people. You couldn’t get morale high when everyone was gone. It was just empty offices and a few scattered people. But I still have a great relationship with Mark Roberts. He and I chat on Facebook. We spent the weekends together, hanging out in an empty radio station. So, I can say, it wasn’t all bad.
BB: It must have been disheartening to see people get fired who you knew were supremely talented.
JK: Absolutely. For a while, it seemed that every day you came in, someone else had been fired.
P: I don’t understand. How can a company survive on so few people?
JK: Well, they have an advantage (in Halifax and a few other places) of having monopolies. There’s nowhere else for the advertisers to go. For the longest time in the Valley, your choices were AVR and Magic. They’re both owned by the same company. Then, when Newcap came in and it got hard for them. They’ve been alone there in Miramichi for the longest time, and now Newcap is going in.
BB: That’s where Mel Sampson is going, right?
JK: Yes. So, it’s going to get hard for them. But, in Halifax, they have the advantage of having the only Country station in the city.
BB: So far.
JK: So far. Country fans are Country fans. There’s no flipping the dial between The Bounce, Energy and C100 and Lite. You only have the one.
BB: There was 780 KIXX for years. They did relatively well for an AM station.
JK: And you can sometimes pick up Cat Country. But, ultimately, they are Halifax’s only Country station. It’s a huge advantage for them.
BB: I’ve never understood why another station never jumped on that.
JK: I don’t know either.
P: I just didn’t think it was a big enough market.
JK: Country is pretty big. The Taylor Swifts and Carrie Underwoods of the world are getting younger girls into Country. Lady Antebellum.
5. Please say something about the following:
a. Deb Rent
JK: I consider myself lucky in that I have had nothing but great News Directors.
BB: So, Deb was News Director? She was management?
JK: Yes. She was great. I learned a lot from her, but it was an interesting dynamic in that she never really acted like a manager. When you walked in, although she ultimately was the one that was making the decisions and doing the schedule, she felt like someone you could be comfortable bringing your issues to or expressing yourself to without any fair of repercussions.
She wanted so much more for that news room. When I first started working there, we had regular staff meetings where she would talk about ways she wanted to start producing more news ourselves, and to get out of scalping from newspapers and other stations. She wanted us to start making phone calls to people in New Brunswick and to follow up on police leads and follow up on Council meetings, and doing anything we could to source our own local news.
BB: Would you physically cover stories?
JK: Yes. I remember once. There was a hurricane coming. She sent me out to do voicers for Doug the next day and to interview people on the street to ask if they were prepared for the hurricane. She really had high aspirations for doing good things with that news room.
BB: With no money.
JK: With no money. And, every roadblock there could have been, she had, as far as the management above her.
BB: She was hinting at some of that stuff on her Facebook. I’ll leave it at that. She’s gone from MBS. She’s back in school.
JK: Yes. She’s taking Interior Design. She seems a lot happier.
BB: I’ve never met her, but would she consider going back into radio if something came along, elsewhere?
JK: I’m not sure. It would probably have to be a good offer. She has a young daughter. [Interior Design and decorating] was always her hobby. She’ll be happy actually making money doing it.
b. Brynn Langille
JK: Some people call her Brian.
BB: I think if people met her, they wouldn’t call her Brian!
JK: I know I’ve already talked about Brynn a little bit, but, honestly, she’s an amazing broadcaster. I fully expect to see her hosting her own television morning show some day. I think she belongs in TV rather than behind a microphone in studio. She’s a physically stunning individual. And she’s so smart, and has such a good presence that I think she would lend herself very well to being in television, which is where she started. She worked for CTV. That’s where she did her internship.
BB: Did she do some reporting for CTV?
BB: People move from station to station and from medium to medium. I knew I’d heard the name when I first heard on News 95.7, but just couldn’t place it.
JK: I absolutely anticipate that she will move her way up and up and up until she is hosting a show on television someday. We can all watch her. She’s awesome.
P: Like Megan Edwards.
BB: Have you met Megan Edwards?
BB: It’s funny. I tease some of the women. I say, "This is not a date. Do whatever you want." After we ate, she stood up and said to me, "I have to go pee!" I knew then it wasn’t a date for sure!
[Patricia and Julia laugh]
JK: She just ruined the allure.
6. Would you recommend that someone seek a career at MBS? Why or why not?
JK: I think it depends if you’re talking career or a job. If you’re looking for a job, because especially in radio there are not a lot to go around, sometimes you just need a job, a pay cheque, something to pay your bills with. I wouldn’t say to anyone that it wasn’t a pay cheque, because it was. So, as long as you’re willing to accept that it’s something to have in the mean time until you can find something else, absolutely go right ahead. But I wouldn’t tell anyone to plan on having their career at MBS because it would burn them out. I don’t believe that MBS is any kind of place to make a career. But, it’s a stepping stone, especially for people that are just getting out of school and don’t have many other options.
BB: Some didn’t go to [Broadcast] school at all.
PB: So where is that guy, anyway?
BB: Who? Sheumas? He’s in Moncton now. And there was a guy who was working at the Sussex station who’s 21...
JK: Ryan Everest? He’s in Saint John. They’ve moved Brad from Miramichi to Sussex.
BB: This Ryan Everest guy is one of the... I’ll use the word "scab". I don’t mind. I’m in a union.
JK: He [seems] naive enough that he doesn’t understand, though. He doesn’t understand that he has somebody else’s job. [I was told] he made a lot of comments on Facebook about, "I got a new job!" "I got a promotion!" He doesn’t really understand that it’s somebody else’s job.
BB: He’s a very young guy. Eventually this strike will be over. People who are scabs never benefit when a strike is over because even management doesn’t respect scabs because they figure, "Well, he’ll work for anything."
JK: Yes. And they’re not loyal.
BB: Ryan Everest is 21 or so. Maybe he doesn’t know any better, but it’s going to bite him in the ass.
PB: He’ll learn the hard way.
BB: He may never work in radio again. He might be a nice kid for all I know. But he’s naive. Ryan, you’re naive.
7. Bonus question courtesy of... Dan Barton!
I’d love to contribute a question, and feel free to use my name.
This can be in relation to previous environments, her current environment, or both…. Staff and management both contribute to the culture of a work environment in their own way. Do you feel one outweighs the other? Can a positive staff create a good work environment when management is negative, and vice-versa?
JK: I think it all filters down. I know, with us, at MBS, we tried our hardest to stay positive. But, as more and more pressure’s put on you, and the squeeze gets on, it gets harder to stay positive. The biggest problem (and every radio station I have worked at has this problem) is the gossip. Radio people, like all media types, are very gossipy. It’s just the type of personality that it attracts.
P: Gossip whores.
JK: Yes. It was always people whispering in corners. "Did you hear this?" "Oh, I heard this!" "So-and-so said this!" That brings the morale amongst the employees, down.
BB: I will ask a potentially sexist question. Is it more women who gossip, or are the men just as culpable?
JK: I think the men are just as [culpable]. I find, sometimes, the men have the tendency to be the more negative, who can’t see positive side of a situation. But, maybe the women feed into it a bit more. But, that kills the inter-employee morale. I know in the newsroom, we segregated ourselves, big time.
BB: You wouldn’t talk to the rest of the staff.
JK: Yes. We very much pulled ourselves away and just stayed in our own little bubble. We didn’t know what people were saying about us. There’s a trickle down effect. What decisions management make affect the staff; and the staff can either self destruct within themselves or somehow be above it. And, it’s hard to be above it.
BB: And once again, you guys in the Halifax newsroom were unionized.
BB: And the rest of the staff were not.
BB: That was creating a rift.
JK: And we did have other on air staff who supported us, but they would never say it publicly.
BB: For fear of reprisal.
JK: Yes. I don’t know if that answers the question.
BB: It’s a long question.
JK: I do agree that even when management is negative, positive staff can make a good work environment. That’s what I said before. The greatest thing about MBS was the people. For a long time, before there were no more people left, we still had management that was not ideal, but managed to be happy every day that we went to work because we were only dealing with each other. And, we were all friends. It was when people got picked off, one by one, there were no more people left, and there were just two or three people left standing around going, "Is it my turn?"
Great question, Dan!
BB: Yes. How well do you know Dan Barton, anyway?
JK: Dan was at MBS when I started there.
BB: He was a consultant. He’s my neighbor, too.
JK: We’re not besties, but we probably should be.
JK: It’s funny that I just complained about people gossiping. Technically, all I’ve been doing for the last hour is gossiping
BB: You’re venting.
P: And sharing your experiences.
BB: Garry Barker is the only one you spoke about in a disparaging way.
JK: And at least I started off by saying that we had a good relationship.
BB: An ad hoc question. Is there anything else you want to say about your time at MBS? I presume that you’re supportive of the Saint John Seven?
JK: I definitely am. They came up. We met with Gary Stackhouse. We told them that we were behind them. Because ultimately what happens with those people in Saint John is going to reflect on what is going to happen with everyone in Halifax. You have to think, at some point, as much as MBS is against the union, you have to think: "What would drive our employees to want to unionize? There has to be some reason." It all comes down to pay, vacation, overtime, all those things that no one was taking care of.
BB: Let’s talk about vacation. You would get two weeks to start?
JK: I was part-time. I just got my hourly wage. If I took a day off, I didn’t get paid.
BB: How about the Deb Rent’s and Daryl Good’s of the world?
JK: Daryl had a considerable amount of vacation actually. But he worked there for a very long time. He had probably four weeks or so, which for me is pretty good.
BB: I think I finally saw a picture of him last year. He’s a beefy guy, isn’t he?
JK: He’s not huge. He’s...
JK: Yes. I feel he has been underappreciated by the company for many years. I think he has a few more years left before he hits retirement age. I don’t know what they’ll do once they lose him, because he’s invaluable.
P: I have a question. How much support is being lent to the Saint John Seven? It was reported that they were going to ask advertisers [in Halifax] not to have their advertisements on MBS radio, to show their support for the strike.
JK: The support in New Brunswick has been outstanding. Saint John is a huge union town. Lots of labour unions. The people here do not [seem to] support them. At all. Even amongst the staff, they would say not very nice things about the people who were on strike. The advertisers didn’t seem to care. And I think, too, that they’re going to be starting negotiations for Halifax. They’re going to be doing all these same things over again. The people in Saint John, knowing that there are very few people left in this Halifax union, want to be there for the Halifax people because there will only be two of them. It’s a two person union right now.
P: It’s sad that the staff doesn’t support...
JK: Well, Doug and Daryl are the only ones [that I know of] that have signed union cards. Technically, we were told by the union guy...
BB: Gerry Whelan?
JK: Yes. We were told that Rick Fleming is technically part of the union because as long as he works in the news room, he’s part of the collective bargaining unit. So is Mike Cranston. But I don’t know if they realize that.
P: I just think it’s sad that even though they are getting support from New Brunswick, their counterparts here in Nova Scotia are not supportive.
JK: I think there’s a lot of Halifax personality in it. "Oh, New Brunswick. This is Halifax!"
BB: But, in Saint John, the boycotts have been...
JK: Outstanding. They’re really hitting them in the pocketbook. They’ve got so many advertisers off the air. They beat the pants off them in terms of doing the same promotions they would be doing at work.
BB: At Christmas they stuffed a huge truck in less time than when they were working at the radio station.
JK: And they’re making their way around the province. They’ve brought it down to the Valley. Sydney, I think, is unionized, so they probably wouldn’t bother with going there. Charlottetown is also unionized. But it took Charlottetown two years to get a contract. We were told that the person who was negotiating, just gave up: The couldn’t take it anymore.
BB: Sometimes I complain about my job, but we have it pretty good.
Let’s talk about health benefits at MBS. When you were an hourly employee, did you get anything?
JK: No. Part-time employees get nothing. Contract employees get nothing. It’s only full-time employees who get benefits. That’s why they haven’t filled any full-time slots, I’m assuming.
JK: I’m not sure. Right now, Daryl is the only full-time employee in the newsroom. I will say that another thing that ties into the positive things about MBS was that I never knew the Maritimes as well as I do now. I’ve done news for places I never even knew existed.
BB: Like Quispamsis.
JK: You learned how to spell it; you learned how to say it. You learn all about these random little places in PEI that have the strangest names. There are places like Crapaud [pronounced "Crapo"]. There was constantly a stream of emails from PEI going, "This is how you actually say that." Which is always helpful. We love pronouncers. But now, in my new job, we do media monitoring. As soon as they were saying, "Where do you want to media monitor", I was like, "Oh, PEI." I’m familiar with the news outlets and the area. One day I’ll go to Miramichi and Summerside.
BB: Well, you can go visit Mel and Goose if nothing else.
JK: Exactly. There are probably people who know my name in places I’ve never even thought to visit, which is strange, but kinda neat.
BB: And you told me your parents would hear you on AVR doing the news.
JK: Yes. Or I’d have people in the Valley who would comment on my Facebook and be like, "Oh, are you home? Do you live back here again?" Gary Tredwell told me once that he was home in Cape Breton and heard me on the radio in Sydney.
BB: He must have fallen off the toilet.
JK: To which I said, "Why are you listening to it?"
BB: Let’s talk about K-Rock.
BB: After you left, there was another person who took over for you, in terms of news and doing the morning show. I wrote about this on the Blog last year. I was happy to learn that they had a live night-time jock, as well as someone who does a Saturday night request show. That’s pretty cool.
I’m happy about that, but they did it at the expense of the third news person. When they went on the air [in June of 2008], their mandate was to have a pretty decent local news presence for private radio. In your opinion is that an abrogation of their Promise of Performance? It’s disappointing if nothing else.
JK: It is very disappointing. It makes Dave’s [Chaulk] job a lot harder. It doesn’t make it very different from how things were when he was at AVR. He was by himself.
BB: Isn’t Lea [Miller] a news person?
JK: I don’t think they would send her out to report anything. But, she fills in when necessary. I was just really discouraged to hear that they did it. I was told through the grapevine that the reason was that nobody cares about council meetings.
I don’t think that can be any less true. I’ve sat in packed councils in Kentville and seen the passionate reaction that a lot of people have to things that are going on in their communities. I would have to say strongly that people do care about council meetings. They may not care about the meetings, but they care about things that are happening in them. Maybe they don’t even realize what is happening at those meetings; maybe they don’t realize that’s where those decisions are made. But, that was part of the testing they did, after Chris left. They did post the job, but they never filled it.
BB: OK. Well, like I said to you before, if [GM’s and PD’s] want to do something, or if they don’t want to do something, they can do some research to justify their decision to do it, or not to do it. I’m convinced that those research people who call you when you’re getting dinner ready and ask you what you think about this station or that station, are careful what they ask. They’re even more careful about what they don’t ask.
JK: Yes. The questions are worded very specifically.
BB: "Do you want to hear more of this music, or less of that type?"
JK: Well, if someone asks you, "Do you care about council meetings?", you might say, "No. Why would I care about them?" But, if they said to you, "Do you care about local news?", that’s a different answer.
BB: Yes. And I’m sure they did not ask that question. That’s how they would justify not filling that position. If Chris had not left, would he have been laid off?
JK: I’m not sure if they would have made the decision if Chris had not left. I think that was an opportunity to take another look at what was happening there, whether or not that was a worthwhile position. I don’t think they would have laid anybody off.
BB: If you had remained there, would your job have changed?
JK: It might have. They may have changed his duties, but I don’t think they would have eliminated his position while he was still in it.
BB: Or yours, if you had remained there? You might not be doing news any more.
JK: Perhaps, yes.
BB: How would you feel about that? In your heart, are you a news person, or a jock?
JK: In my heart, I’m a news person.
P: You look newsy.
JK: I like being a jock; but at the same time I really like the news.
BB: So, when you want to listen to radio news, is it CBC or News 95.7 that you tune into?
JK: News 95.7. That’s what I have on my radio at work. I never listen to CBC.
BB: How come?
JK: [long pause] I don’t know if there is a specific reason. I’ve never really been one of those "CBC People" that have been super passionate about the CBC. My roommate is. Loves the CBC. CBC television. CBC radio. Everything CBC. I’m sure she would wear all the gear they had if she had the finances to do so. Although I use them as a news source on the internet, I never really listen to them for radio.
BB: You never listen to Information Morning?
JK: No. "Maritime Morning" with Jordy. He was talking about the zombie apocalypse this morning.
BB: I know. I missed it. I was in a meeting. We’re all over the place here, but Jordy Morgan has been a surprise to me in terms of doing a talk show. He was a jock for years. He did that tv show on CBC Newsworld with Joanne Clancy or Stefanyk. Then, eventually, he was back to playing music at the Q. He’s been revelatory. I enjoy listening to him more than I do Rick Howe.
JK: I think of him as a Darrin Harvey type. Darrin could be an amazing talk show host.
P: Even the name. "Darrin Harvey."
JK: Exactly. Apart from the fact that everything would end up being comical. I think there are some jocks who are just great talkers. They are good at going for 10 or 20 minutes, off the cuff.
BB: I’m not sure why this is, but Conservative talk show hosts are more compelling and entertaining than the Liberal ones. Jordy is a pretty conservative guy. I’m not saying anything bad about him. He is just a Conservative fella. He gets wound up about things. I find it interesting.
JK: He’s very passionate. It’s interesting to listen to somebody who’s engaging and passionate than somebody who’s just talking on and on about whatever.
P: Wasn’t he on Rick’s show last week or the week before?
BB: They do a half hour "scrum" on Friday mornings, between 11 and 11:30.
P: I heard it at night. They must re-play it then.
P: They were really going at it! He was putting the boots to Rick.
BB: OK. I just wanted to know how you felt about losing that third news person. I guess there were only technically two news people. Kate Peardon, I think, would consider herself a news person.
BB: I know she’s doing news-type stuff at Newcap in Halifax. [BB Note: This interview was conducted before Kate Peardon became a temporary co-host at Q104.]
JK: And she went back to school also. She went to NSCC.
BB: It’s nice to hear her on the radio again. Anyway, we’ve been all over the damned place here.
JK: It’s been an interesting conversation though.
BB: Julia Kirkey, thank you very much for the last couple of hours. I’m sorry that we couldn’t have the steak at the Lower Deck. I will go on the record as saying that I will take you to the Lower Deck. Patricia and you will be my sort-of dates. I will buy you a steak at the Lower Deck.
JK: Well, I appreciate that. I look forward to it. Thanks for having me again.
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