Milt Wright is the reason I got into this business.
He was one of my high school teachers at Spectrum Community School in Victoria. I wanted to study psychology, and enrolled at the University of Victoria. But Mr. Wright, who had broadcasting experience with the CBC, saw something in me, and tried to convince me I should go into broadcasting.
Still, I was bound and determined to become a psychologist. When I left high school, he said, “If you change your mind, call me.”
After a year at UVic, I changed my mind. I called him. In June of 1979, he contacted a buddy at a Victoria radio station, CFAX, and a few days later, I was at the station recording an audition tape. Which I took back to Mr. Wright, making several copies and shipping it out to radio stations all the way up Vancouver Island. Two months later, I got my first job.
And here I am, 38 years later, accepting a lifetime achievement award from the Radio Television Digital News Association.
To be placed in the company of previous recipients and weather legends Peter Coade, Dave Devall and Sylvia Kuzyk is truly a great honour. Previous prairie recipients include Roger Currie, Bob Layton, Hal Gardiner, and my friends Tony Tighe and Darrel Janz. And of course, my co-recipient this year, is Gord Gillies.
While Mr. Wright sparked my career in broadcasting, others kept fueling it along the way.
Bob McInnes gave me that first job in Campbell River. Jim Harrison – a legend in B.C. journalism - of CHNL in Kamloops was the best news director I could have. Thompson MacDonald, vice-president of news at CFCN, when he brought me to Calgary and first put me on television doing weather in 1982.
But that was only because the station was in a pinch. They needed a backup weather presenter - fast. Rather hastily, Thompson picked me. I had hair on my head and holes in my jeans. I had to buy a couple of suits, and they sent me out to get a perm.
By the third day on the 6 o’clock news, Thompson may have had regrets.
We had 200,000 viewers a night - when the city was about a third of the size it is today - more than double our competitors, combined. This is the big time; the biggest show in town.
We didn’t have fancy computers and weather graphics back then. We had large Plexiglas maps, outlining the country’s borders and boundaries. We stood behind those maps, and with a fairly thick grease pen, which would often melt under the hot TV lights, we were to draw on the maps, which meant writing backwards.
My predecessor, Don Wood, was very good at this. Dave Devall in Toronto was legendary. Me? Not so much. It’s really hard.
Except for a couple of years in exile at CKY Winnipeg in the 1980s, I’ve been doing weather here ever since.
As broadcasters, we should never underestimate or take for granted the impact we have on people’s lives. One of the most gratifying aspects of my job is the ability to help others. Every year, I and our weather team talk to about 4,000 fifth graders. We tell them about the weather, how and why it happens, and how to stay safe when it turns bad.
Occasionally, a young adult will come up to me and say they remembered when I visited their Grade 5 class 10 or 15 years ago. It’s gratifying to know the impact that was made.
We’ve worked with various charities, with successful campaigns for World Vision, Movember, and I currently help out whenever I can with a support group called Prostaid.
You see, I would also not be here today, were it not for the early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of prostate cancer. It’s been four-and-a-half years since my diagnosis and treatment of Gleason 7 intermediate risk prostate cancer. So far, so good.
Guys: Get tested.
PSA is a simple blood test.
That other test? It’s only uncomfortable the first time.
I really do share this award with two people. I’ve talked about Milt Wright, but the other is my wife, Susan.
I have been a bit of a workaholic all my life.
For 31 of my 38 years in this business, I’ve held at least two jobs. Sometimes three. Sometimes four. I did weather on TV, news on the radio, and for a few years, had a busy schedule of announcing at sports events. When I got married, I gave up all the sports stuff, but continued to hold two jobs right up until December, 2015.
Susan and I managed to raise three children, who have now become terrific adults. But I wasn’t there for much of it.
I would work early in the morning, come home to nap, go back to work, return for dinner, spend maybe an hour with my family, then get to bed at about 9:30 so I could get up early the next day.
To raise our family the way she has is a true lifetime achievement for which they don’t give out awards. So, I share this with her, and this year, we celebrate our 25th anniversary.
Milt Wright was 78 when he died shortly before our 30-year high school reunion. I never got to thank him, but I share this award with him, too.