Wednesday, September 07, 2005

All Blog Roads Lead To Edmonton

EDMONTON – Yesterday, we were driving up from Banff to Cochrane, then Cremona, then Carstairs and finally to Edmonton where there was a rally at Churchill Square at noon today – or Day 7 On Blog Road, as one of my colleagues calls it.

This morning, in the hours before the rally, I “went live” on the radio for the first time since the lockout began. I've been in Edmonton, staying with Ron Wilson, the genial and razor-sharp host of CBC Radio’s local morning show, Edmonton AM.

Last week, and this...and maybe next and the next...who knows?...Ron and other CBC Edmonton people, like Portia Clark and Mark Connelly, have been doing a half hour live at CJSR Radio at the University of Alberta. All of this comes courtesy of The Moose Brothers, the team anchoring the CJSR morning show, Clockwork Orange Juice. The Mooses are turning over part of each Wednesday morning to give some airtime to the locked out CBC broadcasters.

Terry Jones from the Edmonton Sun joined Mark and Ron for a sports panel – what IS up with those Eskimos anyway? – and I did some weather and talked about our travels on the road so far. I had forgotten the buzz of doing live radio, knowing that you are in it with the listener right as you speak. You can't edit it or suck it back. And, when it works, it's a rush. That's part of it. And it felt good to be myself on a Wednesday in September of 2005, not the taped siren from Sounds Like Canada re-run hell that you are getting on Radio One right now…

Happily, my adventures on CJSR radio, along with some great interviews and music from the Guild rally in Winston Churchill Square in downtown Edmonton made for an exceptional podcast.

Earlier today, we had calls from colleagues who are broadcasting and podcasting across the country. The crew of Metro Morning, with its terrific host Andy Barrie, is broadcasting a real show from CIUT on the University of Toronto Campus. This morning, Toronto Unlocked had Mayor David Miller and Dave Bedini, among others, in what I am told was a stellar line-up. That show will be subsequently podcast. As Andy said, "We are the Canadian Podcasting Corporation."

One of his producers, Ing Wong Ward, said it felt so good to be creating a program again – though everyone involved wrestled with the notion of “giving it away.”

Turns out, the show is creating a lot of energy, Ing said, at a time (Week 4 of the lockout) when she expected to be depressed. Instead, like our podcasting unit, they are feeling a sense of liberation as they make radio without walls and radio without permission. As Ing put it, "hope we don't feel locked-in when we stop being locked-out."

Andy on the phone sounds more relaxed than he has in a long time. He is enjoying being back on the air live again and his first CIUT broadcast coincided with his 10th anniversary at the CBC. He is also happy to be moving beyond the, "woe is me, CBC," to other (though much looser) programming.

Speaking of that…there is a real danger on this journey, in this blog and in our podcasts, that there will be a loss of journalistic rigour. What do you do about the dilemma, for example, about lining up interviews with – or without – the kind of careful preparation producers have always given their hosts?

In our case, you know we are asking you to help us by contacting us with what you want to talk about. But it's still weird to go to you flying by the seat of our pants...without the in-depth “research and context,” as one of my producers put it, that we try to bring to our interviews on the radio.

On the other hand, I am reminded of a story about Picasso at a restaurant in Paris. He eats his meal and pays for it by doing a painting on a plate. The waiter says "Wow! How long did it take you to do that?"

Picasso says, "Fifty-nine years."

I am comforted by the fact that The Caravan unit has about 75 years of journalistic and production experience all told….

I am leaving The Caravan for a couple of days to see how my marriage is holding up in all of this…it's been a while since I've seen my husband.

Thanks for being with me on the ride and I'll be back on the weekend, en route to Calgary.

– Shelagh

We encourage you to use the blog comment feature below to pass on your thoughts and/or you can write Shelagh while she’s on the road at:

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Blogger Shelagh said...

To Trish in Muskoka: Sorry itès taken so long to respond...great to hear from you, would love to come and see if we get that far.

- Shelagh

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Ing Wong-Ward said...


I've been quoted in a blog... wonder if the bosses are reading this and if I'll be 'in trouble' when I get back into the Corp.

Ah well... ya only live once!

Feedback on 'Toronto Unlocked' has been very positive. If there's one lesson to take away from all this, it's how much listeners really, really care about THEIR radio. And it is theirs... and right now, they're being denied the full strength of the CBC.

As for journalistic rigour... I know the CBC naysayers are snorting up their coffee reading these words... but for everyone else who believes in our journalism, here are my humble thoughts...

The journalistic 'switch' never really turns off... we're always asking questions, no matter who we're talking to. And the b.s. meter is always on. It's why we do what we do.

In a normal world (our so-called CBC normal), it'd be great if you could be doing the feature interviews you normally do, with all the context and thought that goes into them... but you can't, because we're locked out.

Despite being locked out, you're not on the soapbox decrying management OR loving the CMG to death. You're telling stories you're collecting on the road. And there's a fine, age-old journalistic tradition of just that.

In other words, we're all doing our best to do a version of our work, provide a version of our regular public service and tell stories as fairly as we can. And that is the very best we can do right now.

So keep being spontaneous! And keep on truckin'.


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