I’m an agricultural broadcaster working at CJWW Radio in Saskatoon. I’ve been in the business for 35 years – but I’m not too old yet, having started in radio at the tender age of 19.
My formal education was at Mount Royal College in Calgary. At the time, it had a two-year radio-television program. I went for the first year and found my first job during the following summer and did not go back for TV training in year two. School taught me the technical basics of how to speak into a microphone, edit tape and write basic news stories and commercials. We also worked in the 24-hour campus radio station and even had to do weekly DJ shifts.
I started my broadcast career at CJVR Melfort and it was a very steep learning curve. In addition to being a rookie reporter and inexperienced on-air, I also had to learn on the job about agriculture and its complexities with topics ranging from production to politics. Fortunately for me, the radio station gave me plenty of time to learn – partly because the Agriculture Director job was not an easy one to fill.
I was born and raised on a dairy farm near Big River in north-central Saskatchewan. We had a small operation, milking about 50 cows at any given time. I did my share of field work but preferred milking and working with the cattle. I listened to a lot of radio in the barn and thought it would be an interesting way to make a living.
The broadcasting business has changed in many ways over the years. In the late 1980’s, it took people to run a radio station and a newsroom. With advances in digital editing, one person can do more stories than working with physical tape. Radio newsrooms in our province range from small to very small. The bigger ones like CJWW have five or six people, while smaller ones have only two or three. Commercial revenue has been reduced as more advertising dollars go out of the country to Facebook and Google.
Flexibility is a big asset in smaller newsrooms. I will do the afternoon sportscasts if our sports director is on holidays or on the road with the Saskatoon Blades. I’m a big sports fan and enjoy it, but it does take some time away from your other duties. In addition, if there is an important agriculture story, I need to write shorter versions for our hourly newscasts.
I still enjoy my work after three decades. The best part is talking to intelligent people doing interesting things – everything from research to production. There’s something different every day and it definitely keeps you busy. Most radio stories now also require an online story, usually only 200 to 300 words. I have great respect for journalists who are able to write longer, in-depth stories and features. It is a great talent that is very much underappreciated by the general public.