Thursday 25 August 2011

Radio hirings and firings proof positive why I chose a different route

It has been a very busy few days on the Montreal radio scene, highlighted by Aaron Rand's (left) hiring by CJAD (first reported more than a week ago on this very blog) and THE TEAM 990's decision to bring in John Bartlett from Toronto.

The engagement of Rand caused a domino effect in CJAD, with bodies flying everywhere. It is a prime example of how unstable the radio business can be and why my mother warned me over and over again as a teenager "not to make a full-time career in broadcasting." She repeatedly pointed to my dad, who broke into the radio business out of university where he earned a Bachelor of Commerce Degree. He had a very exciting career in the early going, but when his station went from English to French his on air life ended. Because of his background in finance he was transferred to the accounting department and was able to continue to support his wife and three kids.

"Don't be like your father," mom warned. "He's lucky they kept him on. He should have stayed in school and become a chartered accountant."

Mom actually wanted me to go for my CA, but by CEGEP I had caught the journalistic bug. Dad might have been off the air, but he continued to cover professional sports for the United Press International wire service. He brought be aboard to help him and by the time I had to apply to university the accounting option was gone and I was accepted to Concordia's Broadcast Journalism program. Late in his career, dad got a two year gig as host of the Montreal Expos pre and post game shows and I got the chance to sit in with him on a regular basis. I must confess it was one of the most exciting opportunities of my career.

Well, I did ended up agreeing with mom. After a three year stint as assistant sports editor at the now defunct Sunday Express Newspaper, I turned to news reporting at The Suburban and ultimately a career in communications and marketing. All along I kept writing my columns in the local community press, so therefore I got to enjoy the best of both worlds.

This brings me back to the news of the week. Rand's hiring prompted CJAD Brand Director Chris Bury and GM Martin Spaulding to conduct a significant overhaul of the station. When it was all over, Dan Laxer found himself virtually out of a job. Rand will be on from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, preceded by Ric Peterson and Suzanne Desautels. While Kim Fraser loses her noon to 2 p.m. slot, she stays on as an executive producer and weekend afternoon host. Laxer's 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. shift is history and all that is left for him is a co-hosting gig on the Sunday morning trivia show. Pretty tough to support a wife and two kids on that. Dan worked his way up from producer to traffic reporter and then host. He is a talented broadcaster, but where does he go in a city with so few English radio opportunities? If I were from the Cogeco group, I would grab him for their planned all-traffic station set to start in the fall, pending CRTC approval.

Dan Delmar, a Suburban colleague, was doing a great job hosting his own evening show. He stays on as an afternoon producer and will no doubt be part of the station's future. His slot now belongs to Barry Morgan, who is perhaps a good example of how to keep your head up in the face of adversity. Morgan left CJAD almost a decade ago to take a job with Sportsnet TV. When his post was eliminated I spoke to him and he was pretty down. At t he time I suggested he consider switching to PR. His heart was still in broadcasting and eventually wound up doing some freelance work for Global TV and CJAD, until the morning news gig opened at the former 940 News. He survived a 940 purge and stayed on the air, also working for sister station Q92. That ended more than a year ago when Murray Sherriffs was rehired and Barry was cast away. He went back to CJAD and this time he did just about everything from hosting news and sports shows to sports and newscasting. It all paid off for he is now a permanent fixture on the new CJAD, handling sports on the Rand Show and then doing his own program.

Rick Moffat goes back to doing morning sports and Abe Hefter will do so on weekends and reporting from the field during the week. Anne Legacé Dowson loses her Saturday show, but Bury says he still hopes to find her something. Andrew Carter and Tommy Schnurmacher remain unscathed as does the newsroom.

Now over to THE TEAM 990. It was expected that either veteran sportscaster Elliott Price or Derek Wills from the Hamilton Bulldogs would get the coveted play-by-play role. Instead it went to Bartlett. According to what I am told, there were five strong finalists for the job. Price and Wills made that list. A committee from Bell Media, with cross country representation, was able to make an objective choice and Bartlett was their man. Too bad for Price, who I thought had earned the role with his years of Expos experience and with the Montreal Juniors hockey club the last three years. He remains part of an excellent morning show team with Denis Casavant and Shaun Starr. But this must be a difficult pill to swallow.

Now THE TEAM 990 needs to choose a colour man. Former Habs tough guy Chris Nilan has made no secret of the fact he badly wants this job. Ditto for Sergio Momesso, the ex Hab who was quite impressive on CJAD broadcasts. Perpaps THE TEAM 990 will surprise us with another outsider. All we can tell you is that it will definitely be a retired player.

The next broadcast scenario to watch is at CHOM FM, where Terry DiMonte will return as morning man. What will happen to current host "Pirate"Pete Marier?

As for Rand, log on to the Local Suburban as of Friday night for my feature story on him.

A final note to my mom: thanks for the good career advice!