It was ten years ago that I was unceremoniously dumped by CKNW, where I had been for 19 years – nearly 16 as the morning host.
What does that have to do with an environmental web page?
Modesty is not my long suit and I believe that had I stayed, the general public would have been infinitely better served on environmental issues. A Judge once said to the great Lord Birkenhead, “I have read your brief but am none the wiser.” Birkenhead replied, “Perhaps not, Milord, but much better informed”.
There is no point re-hashing the reasons I was dumped – just let me say it was shameful.
I had three pieces of good luck/good management.
First, when the media got wind of what was happening, two days before NW dumped me, I issued a press release so that they knew what the story was.
Second, timing. I couldn’t have managed it better myself – Brian Coxford ended the 13 minute session of the evening news with two segments.
Segment #1 showed my wife Wendy, friend Russ Fraser, myself and our Labrador waving and smiling (actually Clancy was more wagging his tail) as we took our sailboat out of Thunderbird Marina, while the second showed the “brass” at CKNW putting their hands in the lenses to keep from being seen. Perfect!
Thirdly, the people were magnificent. They were so pressing with their kindnesses. The phones, including my private number, rang all day. Wendy and I scampered to London for a few days and came home to a job offer and the news that I was to receive the Hutchison award for Lifetime Achievement at the forthcoming Jack Webster Awards. I will never forget Christie Blatchford’s column – she was at the Globe – when she said the station ought to have told the lady to “blow it out her ass”.
As it is now, I’ve been airbrushed out of CKNW’s history.
To give you just one example, I delivered a book as a present for Simi Sara after she was hired last year as the afternoon host. I have always tried to encourage women to break through the “glass ceiling” and she is good. It took the station 6 months to deliver it from the front desk to her office! Simi was embarrassed contemplating what I must have thought. The problem, you see, is that under the payout agreement 10 years before, I was not allowed on the 20th or 21st floor of the Toronto Dominion Building without the written approval of the manager! I had broken the rule! Can you imagine the mischief I might have done!
What this is all about is the environment. CKNW as a station now has about a 9 share of the market (meaning, on average, 9% of the market’s radio audience is listening to the station at a given time), with Bill Good at 6 in my former slot. Over the years I was there the station was consistently in high teens and I was often over 20.
CBC, with Rick Cluff in the morning, out-polls Phil Till (a class act, incidentally, as is Jon McComb, who should have taken my show). If I’d been out-polled by anyone I would have considered my options, including jumping out the 21st floor (come to think of it, I wouldn’t do that because I’m scared of heights!).
Look at what has happened in the past 10 years to coverage of environmental issues. To combine a book by Mike Smyth and Vaughn Palmer on the slow but certain death of BC Hydro would be unprintable, not because of the nature of the comment, but because neither of them has written a real word on the subject. In fairness, neither has anyone else, but Palmer and Smyth are supposed to be the heirs of Marjorie Nichols and Jim Hume, to name two.
When I was in Cabinet, I felt the lash from Fotheringham, Webster, Nichols, Burns, Hume, Barbara McClintock – the list is all but endless – every day. Webster was so tough that Premier Bill Bennett would only allow half a dozen ministers to be on his show!
I must admit I was slow to some issues – notably The Kemano II project – but I did get to it and the issue was duly aired. And we received the coveted Michener Award for our efforts.
I was slow to the Campbell Energy Plan, which was declared in 2002. I got there, however, in 2003 and have hammered it since then. The man who put me straight is well known to the media but asked me not to name him.
Think on this: BC Hydro is now technically bankrupt because Campbell forced them to buy all their new power from private power companies at more than double the market price and about 10 times what it costs Hydro to make it itself!
Who in the media has told you about this? How many editorials or columns have you seen on this subject in the past 10 years? The Hume brothers, Scott Simpson, Gary Mason and one or two others have stood back and commented, but not harshly and never demanding that their political commentators colleagues hold the government’s feet to the fire.
Let me give an example of what this uncritical “journalism” has not done. The proposed Enbridge pipeline goes through some of the wildest territory known to man – the Rockies, the Rocky Mountain Trench, the Coast Range and the Great Bear Rainforest. The calamitous Enbridge spill of bitumen into the Kalamazoo River teaches us that cleaning up a spill is well nigh impossible.
Why has no member of the media, except me, asked how Enbridge intends to get heavy duty equipment into a spill in the forbidding terrain where the pipeline is proposed to go? Doesn’t this seem like a pretty basic question?
Is the real answer that Enbridge knows it can’t clean up a spill anyway, so no sense talking about the matter?
I once raised these issues and the Province’s publisher, (I swear in tears), asked “do you really think I tell my writers to write?”
“Wayne, you don’t have to,” I replied.
What newspapers or broadcasters have informed you about fish farms? I got fired at 600AM for hammering at the bastards. Alexandra Morton is a hero and has carried this issue entirely on her own shoulders and such reporting has been pooh-poohed by the newspapers, who apparently give the Executive Director of the fish farmers’ lobby an op-ed piece when requested. As they do with the private power people, the oil pipe builders and the Fraser Institute.
Let me close with this.
I have no idea whether or not I would have made a difference but I can tell you, I covered those and other environmental issues when I was on air and no owner even hinted at what I should do or say.
When I’m asked about my broadcasting career I say “ I was BC Broadcaster of the Year, was twice short-listed for the Michener Award, I in fact won the Michener, the Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award, am in The Canadian Broadcasters Hall of Fame – during which time I was fired three times!”