After two years with Corus Radio London’s 1039fm, I left the building for the last time yesterday.
My “farewell” tweet to my colleagues unleashed a flurry of activity on Facebook and Twitter with some people wondering if I had been fired! No, that’s not what happened. I’ve accepted a position doing morning news on Free-FM (98,1), Blackburn’s new station which launches next month. Radio, being the competitive business that it is, doesn’t appreciate it when you “cross the street” to work for a rival. I gave a generous amount of notice on Monday and on Tuesday I was, nicely, told that I had just done my last show on 1039.
I wasn’t entirely surprised. There are many, many reasons why I was prevented from working out my notice time. Some are obvious; a loyal soldier who gives notice is suddenly seen as the enemy, capable of taking secrets to the other side. They don’t want chatter about the new station in the hallway. And then there’s the “F U” factor, where some announcers have used their final airtime to do something entirely unprofessional on the air. (No one thinks for a nanosecond that I would ever, ever do anything like this but a precedent has been set by previous rogue hosts.) So it’s safer for all involved if the departing employee is shown the door. It was all very civil and polite. My respect for 1039’s PD Brad Gibb is one of the reasons I would have liked to work through to the end of my notice because they don’t have a huge staff and there’s a lot to do. I still respect him for the honest and decent way he told me I needed to go.
I’m going to miss some of my CRL colleagues very much. Mark Cameron is the FM96 Music Director and evening announcer and just an all-around great guy. He has no idea how frickin’ wonderful and smart he is and that’s partly what makes him so likeable! Producer Dave Smith and I developed some inside jokes that would make us nearly pee from laughter. Lianne Young and I have absolutely nothing in common on the surface, but I love her for her humour and honesty. And then there’s Leigh Robert, 1039’s afternoon drive host, Assistant PD, Music Director and governess of all things 1039. This is a woman whose integrity and abilities are legendary. She is as solid as they come and it’s no wonder the younger jocks all look up to her and seek her advice. I’m proud to call her a friend.
Now, to the future. Blackburn used to own London’s newspaper, TV station and some radio as well. They have properties in other towns and cities including Wingham, where I worked for 4 years. It’s still very much a family business, now run by Richard Costley-White, the great grandson of founder Arthur Blackburn. Richard’s Mother, Martha, had been at the helm of the company when I was in its employ. She died suddenly while only in her 40’s, of a heart attack after water skiing. Her heirs sold the London Free Press to Sun Media and divested themselves of the other media properties in London, so Free-FM’s launch will be Blackburn’s return to the London radio landscape. This is a company that takes seriously its responsibility to the community it serves. In short, they are good people.
Free FM’s format will be Triple A which is Adult Album Alternative. What the heck is that? Well it can be any number of things and I don’t presume to know enough about the shape it will take, to write about it here. However I can tell you that Free FM is soliciting song suggestions on its website, here: http://981freefm.ca/your-music-suggestions/ .
My role at Free FM will be morning newscaster. Not one-minute-news followed by playing a game with the morning host – nope, news. Real news. Delivered in a human, entertaining way, but real, not fluffy filler. I’ll be working alone and have a much heavier load of responsibility than I’ve experienced lately – that’s part of the allure. It’s brain food! To be the first to use new studio equipment overlooking Richmond Row, and to be part of a radio station’s launch, is tremendously exciting! To help reshape the media landscape of my city is a thrill and an honour.
I have a couple of weeks to anticipate my new role while I am, as my husband affectionately calls me, a “layabout”. My plans are modest. I will make a long-anticipated pilgrimage to an Ikea! I will finally (hopefully!) get to spread the contents of the 1500 pound bag of soil on our front lawn and seed it. Right now, it looks like the world’s strangest lawn ornament. I start work with Blackburn a couple of weeks prior to the live launch, re-familiarizing myself with the computer software, discussing procedures and plans with my boss, News Director Scott Kitching, and doing whatever else it is I need to do to get ready. Bring it on! CRL peeps, I will miss seeing you every day but it’s time to dig in a little deeper and as Derek also says, “keep me in the style to which I’d like to become accustomed!”