Thursday, September 22, 2005

On The Air And On The Line In Toronto


Due to an editing error on my part, an analysis I wrote on the CBC Board of Governors meeting Wednesday was accidentally and briefly inserted into Shelagh’s latest blog. I would never presume to speak for Shelagh — and have never done so. Her original blog was solely an account of her day with
Toronto Unlocked at CIUT radio and her time picketing with fellow CMG members in front the Toronto Broadcast Centre. I sincerely apologise for this error and — above all — apologise to Shelagh for any distress this may have caused her. You will find Shelagh's original account of her day yesterday, just as she intended it, below. - Sean Prpick, Web Editor

TORONTO — Forgive me for the void for the past few days. It's been busy. Time goes faster here, it seems, which was, in fact, one of the reasons I wanted to move to Vancouver.

Now, I find myself missing the sheer buzz of Toronto. I have done my, "My name is Shelagh and I am a Torontonian," on the program I used to host (I haven't hosted it for 14 weeks now!). So, I will spare you that here. Except to say, I love the noise, the grit, the architecture, the smells, the life after 9 pm on the streets.

I had my first tour of The Globe and Mail yesterday. My friend Alison Gzowski is an editor there. Yes, that Gzowski. Peter's daughter. Alison took me on a tour and made me bet whether or not we could see Eddie Greenspon, the G&M editor, without an appointment. I bet her a Toonie.

She took me up the stairs and we just walked in. WE JUST WALKED IN! I could never do that at the Corp. I have to make appointments. With assistants. Even for phone calls. I just walked in to Eddie's office. And I talked to him about being interviewed by Rick Mercer. My first advice to him was wear a wet suit like I did when he talked to me. The next thing I told him was don't try to be funny. Rick is the funny guy. You are the straight guy.

I met a whole bunch of other editors, and the lovely Leah MacLaren. Leah’s column sometimes drives me crazy, but I never miss it. And I loved her on Fifty Tracks with Jian Ghhmeshi ®.

Some of the other writers I never miss reading weren't there. John Doyle, Rick Groen, Heather Mallick...they were all out. But I met Michael Valpy. Nice to put a face to the byline. Then it was back to the picket line around the Broadcasting Center.

It is a very stimulating line...there's Michael Enright, Ideas producers Sarah Wolch and David Cayley, Karen of Hanna's Suitcase and documentary producer at The Sunday Edition. Karin Wells, Brent Bambury...My God! There's Ralph Benmergui — over from JazzFM doing the show he was always meant to do (Benmergui In The Morning).

The list goes on and on since there are hundreds of people walking. The line is full of old friends. I worked in Toronto for almost 20 years and many of the people who made me sound smarter than I am and with whom I worked closely are here.

Elizabeth Gray, friend and radio documentary maker (and former host of As It Happens...remember that?) keeps seeing me embrace people and dubs it all an (expletive deleted) hug-a-thon. She is right.

I know it's gooey. Tough, Elizabeth.

It's so good to see everyone. There have been concerts on the line — last week The Barenaked Ladies. Monday, there's music by the young blueswoman Serena Ryder and the Skydiggers.

But before that, I have to give a speech.

It's a formidable crowd. Hanna Gartner is over here, (wearing pants that have “Bitch, Bitch, Bitch” written all over them), Brian Stewart is over there...his producer Harry Shachter (long time Morningside political producer) over to my right, Robert Cooper, producer of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and Choral Concert is just in view...But just as with every line that The Caravan has visited across the country, the Toronto line is bolstered by news of the firm spirit and determination of other picket lines and how, in fact, this lockout has created a real union.

Wednesday morning, I joined Andy Barrie, Kevin Sylvester, Jim Curran and Jill Dempsey for some of Toronto Unlocked. I haven't seen any of them looking so well in a long time. They say the same thing about me. Clearly they are enjoying themselves. Something about feeling liberated.

What is lost in terms of packaging and presentation is more than made up for by raw honesty and the spontaneity of the moment. I love the sound of the creaking door as guests go in and out while they are live. I love Jill Dempsey's newscasts not exactly starting on the hour.

"It's 7:04. Here is the news," says Jill, with freedom of not having to hit her pre-lockout mark at exactly the top or bottom of the hour. Maybe you can't time when to catch your streetcar by Jill's newscast, but it sure is authentic.

Campus radio stations across the country have opened their doors to locked out CBC broadcasters. And what we have learned— or re-learned — from them is the human-ness of live seat-of-your-pants radio. Shit happens. So what? Move on. Laugh. (like I need to tell myself that)...get over yourself. Or rather, BE yourself.

I hope we can take this guerrilla spirit back into our broadcasts.

One more thing before I go...

In a few days the wheels of The Caravan Unlocked will roll again, heading first to Ottawa to tell people there about the need to re-open the CBC. Then it’s on to Atlantic Canada to spend time with the good people who are the heart of soul of the CBC in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

So following this blog, I'm attaching an a tenative itinerary of the days ahead We could, of ocurse, get the contract settlement we all want and that oculd shorten the trip. We may also come across a good story on the road that could temporarily pull us off course. and on that note, if you’re east of Toronto and you've got a good story to tell, we just may just detour out to see you, if you call or write.

— Shelagh

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