It isn't so much a fan-meets-idol thing, though. I've never worshipped celebrity, and I find the whole process of hanging on a well-known person's every word to be a colossal waste of time and energy. But it's a different ballgame when I get to connect with someone who has inspired me throughout my career to be a better journalist and a better person. Journalism isn't Hollywood, which is a good thing.
Charles Adler is one of those inspiration figures for me. I think I've been listening to him forever, and his on-air style has always been a perfect ideal, something I wish I could even remotely emulate in my own work. So it was quite a thrill a couple of years ago when his producer at Winnipeg's CJOB reached out to me and asked me if I had time for an interview.
Thankfully for me the interview went well. And since then I've been privileged to have been called regularly for other chats on other tech topics. I learned something new from him every time, and while those lessons certainly covered the mechanics of radio - how to break a topic down and turn it into a free-flowing conversation, how to build from one thread to the next, how to maintain momentum over a commercial break - it was the off-air part that left the biggest imprint on me.
Simply put, he's a good soul, a mensch, who always finds the time to jump on the phone either before or after a live interview - while he still has a zillion other things going on - to chat a bit more, to say thank you, to fill me in on something he may have wanted to cover on-air. There's a kindness in the way he works that is rare indeed, and I've been pretty lucky to see it up-close.
So this past Wednesday, in the midst of the swirl of media work surrounding Windows 10, I got to do another interview with Charles. As always, it was a lovely chat that touched on online shaming in the wake of the case of an American dentist, Walter Palmer, who killed a beloved lion, Cecil, in Zimbabwe. When we were done, he came back on the line and we bantered for a couple of minutes before he had to return to the mic.
When I got home later, I read about changes at the radio station. He's leaving CJOB (audio here), and his last show is August 6th. While reports continue to circulate that this is part of a shakeup at the station that's driven by its owners, Corus Entertainment, details are scarce. Other folks who I work with at CJOB may also be affected, and the radio merry-go-round goes on.
I know that media in general and radio in particular can be a brutally tough business. I know how hard it is to break in, stay in, and hold on. I know how transient a gig can be, and how difficult it is when good people suddenly aren't there anymore. So I get that. Nothing great lasts forever. But I still wanted to take a moment to reflect on what set one particular radio host apart, and why the end of one gig shouldn't mean the end of what he does, and what he stands for. I hope that this rare example of fundamental goodness finds another place to practice this increasingly vanishing art.
Your turn: Who inspires you?