It's not unusual for me to bring old friends onto the show. In fact, a good chunk of our episodes have come about because of existing connections I've had in the broadcast industry. What is unusual, though, is for me to bring on a friend from all the way back in elementary school- one who's also had an incredible broadcast career, and who until recording this episode, I hadn't spoken to since 1984.
This week's guest, Adrian Harewood, has been with the CBC since 2006. Once upon a time, he was the host of a little radio show called All In A Day on CBC Radio One, but in recent years he's moved in front of the camera and into our homes. He's currently the host of CBC News Ottawa at 6, and has been a guest host on other CBC shows like As It Happens, Sounds Like Canada and The Current. He's also a full-time Professor of Journalism at Carleton University. I'm not the jealous type, but those are some lucky students.
It may also interest you to know that before his time at the CBC, Adrian also hosted a radio show on CKUT, the radio station for his Alma Mater, McGill University. The show was called Soul Perspective, and was dedicated specifically to discussing the issues faced by Black Canadians, such as racial inequality, racial profiling, and notably, homophobia in the black community.
In this episode, Adrian and I catch up on lost time by discussing his past, present and future. We walk through his time at the CBC, the changes he's seen, and how and why he became a professor. We also talk about his recent appearance on the Canadaland podcast with Jesse Brown, where he took the time to give an inside report on the systemic racism he's seen in the media and at the CBC. You can listen to that episode here.
For more of Adrian, you can follow him on Twitter. If you're in Ottawa, you can also see him every night at 6:00 on CBC News.
The Sound Off Podcast. The podcast about broadcast with Matt Cundill... Starts now.
This story goes back to 1982, when my family moved to Ottawa. Moving means having to go to a new school. That school was called Ashbury College, and the two years I spent there were a lot of fun, even though moving and having to meet new friends is truly a pain in the ass. One of my classmates was Adrian Harewood. Here were some of my observations about Adrian from 1982: He was one of the best soccer players on the field, great teammate on the hockey team, excellent actor in the school productions, well read, top grades, and winner of the Wood Shield at Ashbury College, which one would get for being an all around awesome student. For comparison's sake, the inaugural winner of that award was John Turner, who went on to become Canada's Prime Minister the same month Adrian won that award. It's amazing all the stuff I remember. Fast forward to 2007 when I stumbled into the fact that Adrian had also gone into broadcasting. And then I thought about the different paths we had taken since June of 1984, when my family moved back to Montreal and I left my Ottawa friends behind. Adrian and I have not spoken since then, so I figured now is a good time for a catchup. Adrian has been working at the CBC in Ottawa since 2006, anchoring the news, and also recently appeared on the Canadaland podcast with Jesse Brown to discuss systematic racism in media and at the CBC. I would encourage you to give that a listen as well. There's a link to it on our web page. Adrian Harewood joins me from his home in Ottawa. Adrian, do you remember when we first met?
I think you came to the school in grade six. If I remember correctly.
It was actually grade seven, but we met that grade six year because Ashbury came to LCC to play in a hockey tournament. And I went and introduced myself to all you guys.
I remember that arena. It was a very peculiar arena, this kind of outdoor arena with- I think it had like a tarp for a roof. That's how I remember it at LCC.
Yeah, Lower Canada College had a rink. It was just a metal covering, but it was still artificial ice. You probably remember it because it was cold that weekend. And if it's cold, you're looking for gloves and you're looking for a hat and you're looking for some extra reinforcements. I used to referee games in that building. And funny enough, one of the games I was refereeing, Max Story was there, and he said, you haven't learned a thing, have you, Cundill? And I said, no, I have not. But that's a separate story for one of many that we're probably going to say here today. But I would give a player a ten minute misconduct and they would throw another fit. And then the linesman came to me and said, Why don't you throw them out of the game? And I said, Because I want them to be cold in the penalty box rather than warm the dressing room.
You're a cruel man, Matt Cundill. Cruel, cruel, cruel.
Yeah. But it's amazing that you remember that rink because it was a very special ring. But you'll be happy to know that Lower Canada College has moved on and built a real rink, finally.
Okay. I haven't been back for a while.
What was your experience like at Ashbury, by the way?
Well, it was a very formative period, of course, in my life. I was what was called a lifer at Ashbury. So I started going to Ashbury. I think it was the year I think it was 1979, 1980, maybe 1980. So I was turning ten that year, grade five, and I stayed until I was 18, until grade 13. It had a profound impact on me in terms of the academics, in terms of the sports that I was introduced to, in terms of the arts that I was able to participate in, in terms of the community, of course, the community of friends that I was able to develop over those eight or nine years. It was probably the most important kind of institution for me growing up because it was kind of a total body experience. It dominated your life.
I was only there for two years, but the two years that I was there, yeah, same thing. Profound effect in a very short period of time. So who is your favorite teacher or one teacher that really left a mark on you?
There was a teacher named Nick Discom. Who was this English born teacher. I think he arrived at the school when I was in grade six, and he really kind of transformed the place because he was such an iconoclast. I would describe him as being and he was a bit of a rebel. He was a bit irreverent. And I'm realizing this now, I probably didn't fully appreciate it at the time, but he was constantly pushing against the established order of the school. And I think that he was probably regarded by some of his colleagues as being a bit of a nuisance. And probably he was seen as being a little bit sophomore. No, really didn't play by the rules and was constantly kind of poking at the bear. But he had this sense of freedom and he had this sense of play. He had this kind of imagination that was quite seductive, actually, and very attractive for a young person. He marched to his own beat. He was not averse to trying things. So I think he was quite an inspirational figure. And he also didn't talk down to the boys. It seemed as if he was one of us. So it spoke to a certain kind of Democratic spirit. I suspect that he was probably, if not a socialist. He was probably a social Democrat in terms of his politics. He was very progressive, but he believed in the power of people like ordinary people. Private schools are elitist institutions. Nick Discom was someone who was railing against the elite, although he was very much part of the institution. Right. So he made the decision to teach at that school. He was almost like a kind of a revolutionary within that space.
He would cycle past my house every morning, and when he would go by, I would know that it was time for me to get to school as well. And he would cycle, by the way, in some infamous snowstorms.
I didn't know that. I don't remember him being a cyclist, so that's interesting.
Did you know that he also made films?
I didn't know that, but it doesn't surprise me. Yeah. Again, I got the sense that he was an artist.
He went to do some work, I think, with the National Film Board of Canada, and I think that's what happened after he was done teaching us for a couple of years was I think he picked up a job at the National Film Board.
Interesting. I'd love to reconnect with him because he was such a he was such an important figure at the school. He added a kind of spice and added some pizzazz and added a certain fuck you to the school, which I think the school needed.
I also would have accepted Greg Simpson as an answer. And you mentioned arts. There's a teacher that had such a profound effect on me because here we were. We did school plays. I think by the time we hit grade eight, we were doing Pied Piper. You and I were rats or something like that. But the production and the choreography and everything that went into it was so high level. It was incredible. The work that we put into that thing, we're only in grade eight. We're doing these professional warm ups. I had no idea that what he was really warming us up with was yoga, but it worked and calmed us down and leveled us out, and we all work as a team. I'll just never forget what a great experience that was. And it stuck with me to this day and probably turned me into a performer.
Well, he brought a level, and again, I'm just reiterating what you're saying. He brought a level of professionalism and a certain kind of dedication and discipline to the drama Department, to the school that I don't think the school had seen before. And it's not surprising that one of his proteges was Matthew Perry. Of course, Matthew attended the school for Matthew was there for three years. And Matthew Perry, of course, went on to be one of the stars of Friends and had a significant career in Hollywood. But Matthew was very much molded and very much, much influenced by Greg Simpson, and I know that they've maintained that friendship over the decades, and there are a lot of great performers, a lot of great actors that came out of Ashbury. And really, they owe a lot of their later success to Greg Simpson, who really just instilled this. There was a certain kind of focus and diligence and rigor that he infused in everything that he did. And I remember he just forced you to care so much about everything. And I can remember in one instance becoming, like, really emotional. I was just so invested in this production and I felt so responsible. And it was because you wanted to do right by him and do right by the production. And so if you let him down or if you let the production down, you felt you were crestfallen, you know, you felt as if you failed art somehow, or it was a very intense experience working on a play with Greg.
Simpson when you were done at Ashbury. Why did you choose McGill?
I think I always found Montreal intriguing. I think I wanted to get the hell out of Ottawa at that time. There used to be a joke they used to call Ottawa boredom on the redo. As a teenager, I just felt that Ottawa was a bit small. It was too small and it was too provincial, and I needed something different. Mcgill also seemed less, I want to say it seemed more Bohemian, but Queen seemed to be like a carbon copy of Ashbury. It seemed a bit too posh and a bit too preppy. I'd been through the Ashbury experience, U of T. My dad had gone to U of T, and again, it just seemed a little bit too institutional. Mcgill seemed more almost free form, like in thinking in terms of jazz terms. It was more improvisational. It didn't seem as set. I think I was attracted to that aspect. But Montreal, of course, as a city, was a huge draw. Mcgill had a certain kind of reputation. I guess I was attracted to that as well. Going to McGill, it had a certain kind of ring to it. I suppose that was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life, actually, because going to McGill again, it changed my life.
And you got a BA in Polysai and you were, I think, there for more than just a couple of years, though, like, for a good part of the well, I was there and then.
I left and then I came back for a job. I went to University in 89 and then I was there until 93, 94, and I left for a couple of years, and then I came back for a job in managing the McGill radio station, CKUT, and I was there between 1996 and 1999. So, yeah, I was in Montreal for about eight or nine years.
I'm kind of sorry we didn't run into each other because I was there from 92 to about 94 and the halves won the Stanley Cup. So I spent a little bit of time but I was working all night at showmefm.
Surprised I didn't get a call from you. Clearly you don't listen to showmefm.
Yeah. I've always been an audio file and I listened to a lot of radio and I didn't listen to as much, Sean. I don't know exactly. I listened a bit of Terry Demand. Terry Demand was on shown, if I remember correctly.
Yeah. But at a normal hour.
At a normal hour, I think maybe late at night. I was probably, like at that time kind of talking politics with my friends and we were organizing stuff. So that's what I was probably doing late at night. What were we doing? We listened to a lot of shortwave actually listened to a fair amount of shortwave radio at that time for various parts. And if I was listening to radio late, late at night, like you, I was a bit of a sports fiend. So I used to listen to a lot of American sports radio late at night, like WFAM, the Fan in New York City.
66. The fan comes booming in.
Yeah. And I listened to what was another word? Wbz was it WBZ that would come through?
Wbz was from Boston.
There was one from St. Louis as well. Camoux, Km, Ox, K-O-X. That was it. Yeah, they were coming. I was listening to those.
And WGN would come in from Chicago.
That was it. Wgn, you're right. Yeah, that was it.
Wgn, there you are in Montreal in the smack dab in the middle of 95. It gets to October 95 and the country nearly falls apart. I think we've all conveniently forgotten how close we came to having some sort of constitutional crisis.
So in 95, I was actually back in Ottawa. I was back in Ottawa when the referendum happened. But in terms of politics, when I was at McGill, I became well, I would say my first couple of years at McGill, I was heavily into soccer. I was on the varsity soccer team, and I've played on the team for a couple of years. But increasingly I became more and more engaged in student politics. I wouldn't even call it student politics. I would call it movement politics and became involved in organizing. So I became very involved in the Black Students Network at McGill. And I was also involved with the anti apartheid organization, the Southern Africa Committee. So those were two organizations. And I would say at the time, the Black Students Network was probably the most active and also the most radical grouping on campus. We had some of the most and I'm certainly not counting myself, but some of the most kind of impressive leaders, I would say of my generation happened to be at McGill at that time. It happened to be in the Black Student Network's orbit. So, for example, one of the organizers, one of our leaders was a woman named Miriam Cabba. And Miriam, if you were looking at The New York Times bestseller list. One of her most recent book was just on that list, I guess it was last year. And Mariam is one of the leading kind of prison abolitionists in North America. She's been kind of a younger version in some ways of Angela Davis, if that name means anything to young folks listening. And so Mary was this phenomenal organizer. She was part of our group. Another person who was part of our grouping is one of my closest friends who is actually the godfather of my son. And I'm the godfather of his son by the guy by the name of David Austin, who wrote a book a couple years ago that won the Castus to Last America's Prize, which is one of the kind of top literary awards in the Americas in the hemisphere. It's called Fear of a Black Nation. And then Dave was also a kind of a really significant organizer on campus at that time. And there was kind of a bit of a renasauce, almost a black renasauce happening at that time in North America. You think of people like figures like Spike Lee. Spike Lee was kind of in his heyday at that time. So we were part of that moment, I would say, and we were intent on changing the world, trying to trying to transform the McGill space and trying to affect change in the Montreal community. We were involved in tutoring programs and various other kind of community endeavors. We were pushing the University to change curriculum and the like, and we were also trying to kind of raise people's consciousness about issues. So I was the chief librarian at the Black Students Network at the time. So we were interested in disseminating information and trying to introduce people to different kinds of ideas that would challenge power, challenge capital. So those were some things that I was kind of consumed with, I guess, at that time.
How about the campus radio experience in CK UT? It's at 90.3. I didn't start listening to it until I heard there was a show on there called Dikes on Mike's. And I said, I've got to give this a listen. And I did. And I discovered campus radio, but we're getting into the later part of the mid ninety s to late 90s really a great time for campus radio. I think as time goes on, digital really begins to infringe on campus stations. But what did you get out of the experience and what did you leave behind?
Well, campus community radio was such a gift. Our Marvel at its ability to build community and Marvel at its ability to unearth stories that wouldn't be told were not for community radio. I marveled its ability to be open to all kinds of different ways of seeing and being. Community radio was such an education for me. I feel as if I earned a PhD. It was such an immersive experience. And I learned so much about music and learned so much about organizing. I learned so much about listening, like just listening to people. It was such a diverse community, right? This is a community comprised of students, but also community members from dozens and dozens of different ethnoracial communities, different religious communities, different gendered communities. In many ways, it was a place that served as a center for political organizing in Montreal. It was a place that brought all these kind of disparate elements together and still managed to create magic. It was just a really for me, at least, it was such an enriching experience in terms of what I left behind. I always think it's important to demystify media, and I think it's always important to bring as many people in and offer people the opportunity to participate and to gain access to the power that is media. So we were always intent on, again, just creating space for different folks to be able to come in and to feel welcomed and to feel affirmed. We tried to create a space where people would feel as if they could assert themselves, where they could learn more about their own abilities, their own capacity to create, to create art, and to collaborate as well. But again, I think what I was trying to do wasn't necessarily unique. I was standing on the shoulders of the folks who had helped to create CK UT, and so I was trying to carry on that tradition. If there's anything that I left, hopefully I left that spirit, that kind of Democratic spirit, I suppose.
What brought you back to Ottawa?
Well, I came back to Ottawa, so I was away from Ottawa for about ten years, so I was in Montreal between about 1989 and 1993, 94, and then I was in between. I was in Auto and Kingston, actually between 94 and 96. I had a great job, actually, in Kingston, but really a place called the Kingston Global Community Center. That really helped me to get my job eventually at CKUT. After leaving CKUT in 1999, I was in Toronto and I lived in Toronto until about 2006. In 2006, I came back to Auto for a job. Actually, I had been freelancing and I had been a proverbial pinch hitter at CBC. I had done a number of different local and regional and national programs on radio and TV. I had done a program called CounterSpin, which was like a political debate program. And I had filled in on a show called Metro Morning, which was the morning show in Toronto for CBC. And I had done some national shows, as it happens, and I did the Current and a number of other programs and a job came up in Ottawa to be the host of the drive home show for CBC show called all in a Day. I think they like the idea that I was from Ottawa. I think that helped me at that moment. They were looking for someone to replace Brent Bambury, who was the host.
So he did Brave New Waves. I didn't know that he had onto Ottawa.
Yeah. So Brent did Brave New Waves, and then he did Midday for years on.
CBC with Valerie Pringle.
With Valerie. Yeah, with Valerie Pringle. And then he was the host beloved host on all in a Day, the afternoon shows. So those are pretty big shoes to fill.
I mean, you mentioned a whole bunch of shows, as it happens, the Current were big shows. I was on Counter Spin at one point, just once or twice, I think, with Abby Lewis. But they brought me on to discuss wrestling and why people should be watching it or not watching it.
Oh, nice. Okay. Well, you were with a real host then. You didn't get the bhost me, but no, but when I was there, I was the understudy. I was kind of like the I guess you call it, almost like a permanent guest host. So after Abby left, there was a woman named Sharon Lewis who followed him, and then Carol Off followed Sharon. And in the competition for that job, Carol won and I finished second. So I was Carol's understudy for CounterSpin for about a year or two, I think it was. And that's when I got that job, working on all of the day in Ottawa.
Yeah. Well, a pretty good job, too, during afternoons. Is there a little bit more pressure because you're back in your hometown where you spend so many years and let's face it, a lot of people know you.
I'm not sure how many people knew me. Like some people knew me, I guess my friends, members of my community. But I wouldn't say I was in any way a household name.
I knew you. I wasn't even from Ottawa, but I knew you.
Yeah, but that's not like I'm saying. Yeah, I suppose so. But no, most people didn't know me. But I suppose I put a lot of pressure on myself, I think. And of course, you are trying to live up to the person who preceded you. I was trying to not make people forget Brand Bamboo because you can't forget them. But at least I wanted them to respect the work that I did and feel as if I was worthy of the position. Yeah. So I think I probably put a lot of pressure on myself to be a host of some consequence, I suppose, and whether or not I succeeded, that's for the listeners and then for those who observed me to judge, but I certainly enjoyed it.
I don't want to make you pick between radio and television because I know you do go to television right after. But looking back, how do you look at radio and your time in radio?
Well, as I said, I'm a radio file. I must say that I was probably a radio snob. I used to think that TV anchors were stupid. Actually, I always kind of thought that radio hosts were intellectuals, and I was probably striving to be an intellectual. And so I thought that if you had critical thinking skills and you did radio and if you look good, but you didn't necessarily have much to say than you did television.
We're talking about Max keeping here, right?
No comment. No. And Max was very, very generous to me always. You know, I was very, very appreciative of the support that Max provided me. But no, I think doing TV or rather becoming an anchor disabused me of a lot of the misconceptions that I had about the position. And I realized that it takes a lot of skill and it takes a lot of smarts, and you have to be really kind of quick on your feet. It's another skill set that's required to do television well, and I'm not sure if I did TV as well as my colleague, who was my co host, Lucy Allen Bernabel, who is much more of a natural on television. I required a lot more work, and I've always been a kind of a work in progress, I would say on television. Yeah. So I think TV is probably my more natural role, probably is as a host on radio. I would say I think I probably feel most at ease and most comfortable there in my element. I love the freedom of radio. I love the intimacy. In some ways there's a certain kind of anonymity that one can get on radio that obviously one does not get on television. What I would say, though, is that I recognize the power of television and as a black man in Canada and as a kid who grew up in this society at a certain .1 of the reasons why I moved from radio to television was because I recognized the importance and the power of having a black person in the position of anchor, like anchoring the CBC, Ottawa News and the nation's capital. I knew that was important. It was important for a lot of other kids, racialized kids, but not just racialized kids. I think it was important, and I don't want to exaggerate my importance, but I'm saying symbolically, like what I represent. I think it was important for not just black folks, but all folks to see that it was possible for someone who is not from the dominant white community to be in that position. Part of the reason why I decided to move from radio to TV was politics, and I thought about it. It was intentional. I thought it was important to occupy that space and for people to see me in that space on a daily basis. And also part of it was for young people. I understood that young people don't listen to or at least at that time weren't listening to radio in the same way that they would pay attention to television. And I have been a youth worker. So when I was in Toronto. I worked as a youth worker in high schools in Toronto, and I've always had a lot of young people have always been really important to me in terms of my own practice. So at that moment, I felt as if it was important to be there for those young folks.
You can do radio, and nobody would know that the person who is talking to them is black. But then all of a sudden, when you are on television and you are in a big TV station, CBO, Channel Four, that's a big transmitter. And yes, I was still consuming over the air back then, but that represents most of Eastern Ontario and down through the Ottawa Valley. That's the channel. You're right. It was important for you to get there. And I will tell the story that in the summer of 2006 or 2007, actually, I went to Montebello, to the family house, turned on the TV we had over the air. We got a big antenna. And there you were doing the 06:00 news. And I said, oh, look, that's what's happened to Adrian. I had no idea that you'd gone through any of the stuff that we've talked to up to now. And then I said, this will be interesting. So then I went and made some popcorn. And then I came back to watch you do your newscast.
And I was terrible. I was not very good, but people were very generous and people were very supportive and allowed me to develop. When I started working on I remember actually, I think the first night I did a newscast, I came back home and my wife was saying, Adrian, you were awful. Why are you so stiff? I went back and I tried to change my demeanor, I suppose, on air the next night, and the boss calls me in the next morning and says, Agent, why are you moving around so much? Right. So I took my time. I had to learn my way on television and become comfortable with just how to be, I suppose, in that space.
I'm not a TV guy, okay? Even now, I mean, you and I are on camera and stuff, but I don't put anything that I record up in a video formation. But it makes me think of the people who are really comfortable on TV and how they made it look so easy. And I think of is it J. J. Clarke, who used to do the weather on. Yes, he made it look so easy. And of course, we all could have been TV stars. Did you ever try out for you can't do that on television? Because I get the feeling that everybody our age in Ottawa did fly out. But you can't do that on television. And all you had to do was be slimed, I think, in the auditions.
Yeah, I didn't. But one of my closest childhood friends did. And she went on to become a I wouldn't say Hollywood star, but she had a Hollywood career. Claya Scott, who was actually one of the stars of if you remember the show Intelligence on CBC. It was a much loved show that ended too soon. But Clay was a product, if you can't do that on television and grew up in my neighborhood in West End, Ottawa. Yeah, a lot of folks. Who else was on, I think Alanis Morris said, if I remember correctly, was on you can't do that on a very important institution, actually in the city.
If your memory is being jogged, this is the theme song from the Ottawa production of You Can't Do That On Television, which had a pretty good run on Nickelodeon in the late eighties and nineties. In just a second, we're going to talk to Adrian about his time at the CBC, making changes in the workplace, how change evolves, Twitter and getting on fulltime as a journalism professor at Carleton University. And what does the future of journalism look like from the perspective of students? There's more. There's always more at soundoffpodcast.com.
Transcription for the Sound Off Podcast is powered by Poddin. Your podcast is an SEO goldmine. We help you to dig out. Start your free trial now at Poddin.io.
So a small production footnote: If you're hearing multiple beeps over the next few minutes, that happened because while we were recording, I hung up my landline that we had connected at the beginning of the recording. And then Adrian's cordless phone started to beep, basically saying, put me back on the hook. I mention this because I don't want you to stop the podcast because you think something in your home is beeping at you. All right, let's roll this thing.
The Sound Off Podcast with Matt Cundill.
I'm going to assume, by the way, that by the time we got to the end of the decade that you did loosen up a little bit and things got a little bit more comfortable for you on this side.
I would say uncomfortable now for sure. I think you can do different kinds of television, can't you? I'm probably most at ease when I'm doing the interview show, I suppose that I do. It's a weekly show called Our Ottawa. And there I feel completely in my element. I think still maybe as an anchor, maybe I was thinking a little bit too much at times. And again, you just have to sometimes just let yourself go and just be in the moment and not overthink things. And I've learned how to do that. But it's been something that I've had to struggle with.
I really enjoyed the interview you did with Ken, the General Grant.
Oh, wow. Okay. That was a long time ago.
I told you, I watched this stuff.
Okay. That was a long time ago. Yeah. He was a lot of fun. And of course, like most Ottoans, I grew up listening to the General on CFRA. It was a thrill, actually, to meet him when you're able to meet some of your childhood? I wouldn't say he was a hero necessarily, but he was someone who was in our home every morning. So that was really an honor and it was a thrill.
You mentioned that when you started and why you went to do television was to be a little bit of a change agent so that people would see that the face of Ottawa isn't necessarily white. But when you started the CBC and now we've gone through 14 years of it, has media really changed a lot? It still feels very white?
Yeah, I think it has changed. I'm going to amend something a little bit. I'm going to answer your question, but I went to television for two reasons. One, for the reason that I articulated, but also I think it's sometimes important to embrace discomfort. I think it's important to the cliche is to get out of your comfort zone. And so the idea of anchoring a show scared me. Right. I often try to do things that scare me because life has taught me that it's good for me and it's good for me to kind of try things that make me nervous. So that was also part of it, that I wanted to challenge myself a little bit and get out of my proverbial comfort zone in terms of media change. Yeah, I think there has been some change. The change didn't happen just by spontaneous generation. The change happened because there were a lot of dedicated people who pushed for change. And I can tell you within a place, for example, like CBC, there were a number of people who pushed the envelope and who were willing to take some risks and who were willing to speak out and speak up about the stasis within the organization, who were willing to say that the organization had to walk the talk and couldn't just purport to be a diverse space, but had to be a diverse space. And so what that meant was making some fundamental changes in its structure. Again, not everything has changed and there needs to be a lot more movement. I would say that certainly within CBC, which is the organization that I am most familiar with, there have been some changes for the better, but the changes happen because of struggle. The truth is that there has been and there was resistance to change. Sometimes it got a little messy and people were hurt. And to this day, people still are being hurt in various ways. Not everything has been when it comes to race matters, if that's what we're focusing on. Not everything has been resolved. But when you look at, for example, the representation on air of Indigenous voices on CBC, there's been a material change. The CBC that we listen to today is far different from the CBC that you and I knew back in the mid 80s when you just consider some of the programming and some of the programmers on CBC. I'm heartened by that, and I'm optimistic for the future.
So when there is change and I think when everybody should look around at your media organization, does change happen from within with speaking up, or is it about creating policies? What is it really that is really at the core of creating change?
Well, that's a huge question. That's an existential question. That's a big question. I think it's all kinds of things. Right. Like it's the external, it's the internal. We are influenced by world events. We're influenced by the domestic scene. We are all influenced by George Floyd. George Floyd happened in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It didn't happen in Brussels, it didn't happen in Paris, France, but it had an influence on all of those spaces, in spite of the fact that it happened in Minneapolis, Minnesota. So again, we are part of the world. And when the world changes, well, we are affected and we change, too. But also change comes from people and change, yes, change can come from policy. But what I would say is that power usually only responds to pressure. So institutions, generally speaking, they want to maintain the status quo. And the reason why they want to maintain the status quo is because if you are in power, why change? That like change is uncomfortable. It is disconcerting for people. And sometimes it requires sacrifice, and it requires also a willingness to recognize the value and the stories of others. When you live in a society which has privileged certain stories over others and which has suggested that one story is paramount, it's difficult to conceive of a world in which that story is displaced. Right. It's hard. There's no recipe for it. And sometimes change happens in a flash. I was telling some people that in 1989, I was in Czechoslovakia just months before the Velvet Revolution. I was with God. You would remember cream, Alzheimer, so Cream and I cream was one of my closest friends. And Cream and I went to Europe for six weeks that summer, and he had a family in Czech, Levakia, which is now the Czech Republic. And we were behind the Iron Curtain just months before everything changed. And during that summer, no one would have predicted what happened a few months later. No one could have predicted that Vaslav Habel would emerge as being one of the kind of eminent Democratic figures of the 20th century at that moment. No one would have predicted that. And yet in the space of a couple of weeks, everything just changed. Right. We couldn't have prepared for that. When you and I were attending school, the notion that there could be a Russian player who would be the captain of an NHL team, it would have been impossible for us to fathom that or even difficult to fathom a Swede. Right. Becoming the captain of a team because Swedes used to be talked about in disparaging ways by Canadian hockey commentators. Right. They weren't seen as being leadership material. Right. They were like eggs when they went into a corner. I think that was the term that Harold Ballard used to describe Ingah Hamstrom. If I remember correctly, change can happen very quickly. My first year in University, Nelson Mandela was in jail. We could not have predicted. A few months later, like in 1990, like all of a sudden he was free. Change is something that's very difficult to predict, and it can happen in myriad ways.
Did you get any feedback from your appearance on Canada land? I don't want to say blowback because it could have been positive, too, but from inside the CBC, because I know it's quite difficult. You were speaking up a lot of people. It's easy not to speak up.
I spoke up. But I'm always a little bit cautious with this because I think I'm fortunate to have been exposed to a fair amount of history in terms of just my own parents, my family, things I grew up reading, whatever the case might be. So I'm very aware of the struggles that people have engaged in to make space for people like myself. Right. I know the kind of abuse and the way in which people suffered physically. Right. Years ago, I went down to the Southern United States on a number of occasions, and I was in Mississippi, and I interviewed a guy named Bob Moses. And Robert Moses was one of the leading figures of Snick, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. And he went into the Southern United States and tried to organize people and get black folks to vote. And it was dangerous. Like Bob Moses was beaten by people, people of his generation. They were killed like people of SNCC. If you remember those three stick workers, the whole Mississippi burning like those three SNCC workers. Cheney. Oh, my gosh.
Schwerner, Goodman and Schwerner.
Cheney, Goodman and Schwerner. I'm sorry. Who were murdered standing up for justice. So my speaking up a little bit, what I was doing was so insignificant, so that when you kind of recognize that people are taking real risks, like risks that can result in death, risks that can result in broken bones and concussions. Right. And real harm and disability and people being paralyzed and losing eyes, like having their eyes gouged out. Right. That happened. Right. So I'm aware of that. So I didn't think it was something. But you have to kind of keep some perspective with these things. Was there much feedback? Yeah, there was some feedback. Yeah, for sure. There was feedback. There were people within the CBC who were annoyed or who were angry. I didn't hear a lot of that directly, but I know it was there. But I'd also say that there was a lot of support and there was a lot of positive feedback, and there were people who were inspired. Maybe it helped to galvanize some people and gave some people some courage. Yeah. I think part of our role always is to make space. Tony Morrison, the Nobel laureate, you know, said that whenever you occupy a position of power, wherever you are, it's your job to free somebody else. It's your job to free other people wherever you are, whatever position you are. It could be as a landscaper, landscaping organization. It could be in a radio station, it could be on a hockey team. Right. Your job always is to try to free other people. So to allow people to fully be themselves, to allow them to kind of fully express their humanity. I've always taken like, that's part of my job. Right. It's just what we're supposed to do.
Yeah, responsibility. Accountability. And again, what I should also say is I should be careful because we don't all have to do the same thing. Right. And there are different ways of contributing. And not everyone has to be Matt Cundill. Right. Not everyone has to be me. Not everyone has to be Bob Moses. Not everyone has to be Nick Discom. Like I'm saying, it requires all kinds of different people in order to produce a good and just world. Right. Which is ultimately, I think, why we're here. Right. We're here hopefully for people to be human and to be able to realize their full potential as human beings. I don't know. Like, I'm thinking of a sports example, like Kurt Flood, the St. Louis Cardinals outfielder who basically lost his career because he was fighting for labor rights of baseball players. He was one of the top defensive outfielders of his generation because he chose to speak up, because he felt that baseball players are human beings and they are workers. They deserve to have choices. Right. He suffered as a result of that choice that he made. When I think of Colin Kaepernick. Yeah, Colin Kaepernick as well. Like Colin Kaepernick, he started the Super Bowl for the San Francisco 40 Niners. Right. At the time, he wasn't at the very top tier of quarterbacks, but he was a solid quarterback in the NFL who would have had many more years of his career. And he lost that opportunity because he felt it was incumbent upon him to have his voice heard even like someone like and again, I don't think she's gotten the attention that she deserved. But Martina Navatalova, in her own way, was a very important person as a woman who was willing to speak up about her sexuality at a time when that was dangerous. It was dangerous for Martina to be herself. And yet she insisted on being herself. And she inspired so many people as a result of that and again, helped to make space in her profession. Right. She made space for people. Those are examples of people who, again, took risks. And in order for us to have a world where people can just be free, we need people taking risks.
You're a good Twitter follow, by the way. Do you like Twitter?
Yeah, I do like Twitter. It's interesting. I've made some good friends. For example, someone who's become a very good friend of mine. Her name is Lulla Shanai, and Lola is a Nigerian novelist. She runs this fantastic book festival that I had the privilege of attending a couple of years ago in Lagos called the Ake Literary Festival. I met Lola on Twitter, and we've become like almost brother and sister, like, close, close friends to the point where she invited me to Nigeria. She knows my family. She's a great support to my kids. And that's because of Twitter. Right. I've met a lot of all kinds of people. I feel as if it's a place where I've been able to and I don't think we've been able to build community and communities. It's a space where you're able to share information and different kinds of information. It's a space where you can be many different kinds of people at the same time, and you can encourage certain kinds of debate and conversation. I'm probably naturally a person that likes to facilitate conversation. I like debate. Like, there's a reason why I was the librarian at the Black Students Network, because I've always liked sharing stuff that I have, whether it's music that's been introduced to me, you want to pass it on, or whether they're interesting books or whether they're interesting art, whatever the case might be.
I love the articles.
Yeah. So I think that's always something which Twitter allows one to do.
You'll be pleased to know, by the way, that the fourth biggest country for downloads on this podcast is Nigeria.
Really interesting. Okay. Wow, that's fantastic.
English speaking broadcasters looking for some broadcast information.
Have you been to Nigeria?
I have not, but I have a standing invite shadow to Sound City and Abuja.
Abuja? Yeah, the capital. You should go. It's an amazing country. Like, Nigerians are some of the most brilliant, industrious, creative, courageous people around. Right. Nigeria is a country with such abundance, but it's also a country that suffered a lot, and the people have suffered a lot. In spite of the resources at its disposal, Nigerians have had to sacrifice a lot in order to enjoy some of the freedoms that you and I take for granted. And Unfortunately, Nigeria has produced some of the world's greatest artists, some of the world's greatest writers. When you think of some of the great scientists, when you think of all of the doctors that Nigeria has produced for many parts of the world. So it's a remarkable country that I think sometimes doesn't get enough attention. And I would encourage people to visit. I really encourage people to visit. It's a fascinating place.
I'm a little concerned, though, that you are always tweeting at late night hours. You've got a weird sleep schedule. I know you do?
Yeah. My sister says I have poor sleep hygiene, which is true. But part of it is for years I was working on this thesis. And the only time, really, that I could get a lot done was late at night. So that's part of it. Part of it is also I did the late night shift for about five, six years when the kids were young, I did the 11:00 news. And so invariably, I know you've done late nights, you come back home and you're still wired, you're eating, you're hungry, and you just kind of can't get to bed. After doing that for a number of years. I think that has kind of engendered some bad habits, I suppose. But part of it is just sometimes maybe having too many things to do and trying to squeeze as much time out of the day and night as you can. It's something I need to address because it's not a good thing, but the thesis is done. The thesis is done. So I don't have that excuse anymore. I'm trying not to stay up as late as I have in the past number of years.
And now you have evolved into your parents because they were teachers. I know that. You told me that years ago, and now you're a teacher and you're teaching journalism at Carleton University, am I right?
I am, yeah. My parents were quality teachers. I'm not sure if I have of their quality yet. That's something that I aspire to. So maybe in 1015 years, maybe I can approach their level. But I became an adjunct, I guess, professor at Carlton two years ago. And then in July of last year, I was appointed to the faculty. So, yes, I am on the faculty at Carlton, and I'm just really honored to be there. It's an honor and it's a privilege. It's always wonderful, as I'm sure you know, to work with young people or younger people. Not everyone who goes to University is young necessarily, but it's great to work with just students, people who are interested in learning and improving themselves. There's nothing better, really. There's nothing more gratifying than helping someone or providing them with the support they need, again, to realize their potential and then to realize some of their dreams. So, yeah, I'm enormously grateful to have the opportunity. And also, in addition to the teaching, I love to write. I've always loved research, probably too much, because that explains why sometimes my papers were late, I was researching too much. But again, this job allows me the opportunity to conduct research. That's something that I'm really excited about, really looking forward to.
When you and I are starting out, we have easy targets. We're going to work for brands. The brand could be the Globe and Mail, it could be the CBC, it could be shown. It could be any number of media brands. But today everybody is a media brand. So what is the view from the perspective of your students to where they're going to go when they graduate? As journalists, I think they're looking in.
A lot of different directions. Obviously, there are some students who are very attractive to the idea of working for an established network like CTV or like Global or like CBC, the legacy media that still has a very powerful draw. And many of our students would be very happy if they spent their entire career at a place like CBC or at a place like the Global Mail or at the National Post, whatever the case might be. I think they're also very cognizant of the fact that it's a dynamic industry and that things are changing very quickly. I think they see other options as well for themselves. They see a lot of these kind of new startup media outlets that are doing some really interesting things. Great work. Like, I think of, for example, the Narwhal. Right. Or I think of the lodging or you think of Canada land. Right. You think of all these different spaces that didn't exist ten or 15 years ago, but now are having a significant impact on the discourse. So I think that many young people are attracted to that idea. Some, for example, also, though, are attracted to this notion of creating new forms of local journalism. I had a student in my class just this past semester who wants to go back to his small town in Eastern Ontario, and he wants to provide a service to his people, to his community. It's very important to him that there be a locally based news outlet in his town. Right. So he's committed to bringing that. He's committed to that idea. And there are some, for example, who some people are just interested in creating their own podcasts, shrinking it out on their own. So there's not just one path. Our students are well, first of all, they're keen to tell stories, they're keen to engage, but they're also aware that they have to be versatile and they have to be open. You're talking earlier in our conversation a lot about change. You have to be open to change. The only thing that we know will occur is change. And I think our students are not diluted into thinking that, like maybe a previous generation, that they could work for one organization for their entire career. They know that they might change paths numerous times during their working life. And so I think they're prepared they're better prepared for that.
What we're doing now, this podcast thing, what do you think of it?
Oh, I love it. Yeah, I love podcasts. I've always loved it. And I listened to a lot of podcasts.
I love it as a medium.
Yeah, absolutely. Again, I just think it provides you with there's such flexibility, there's such freedom. There's an immediacy about it, there's a relevance. It's now, and there's so many different ways of doing it. My kids love podcasts. They're listening to podcasts all the time. One of the more recent podcasts they've kind of become fans of is this podcast about Greek mythology. They are nine and eleven. They love it. There's another podcast to listen to that's helped them to become debaters. There's another podcast where they're learning how to improvise. It's an improvisational show for kids. There's such a range of possibilities in the podcasting world. It's thrilling actually.
Adrian, thanks a lot for being on the podcast. I really appreciate it. It's great to catch up.
Matt, it has been too long, and thanks so much for persisting and inviting me on. It's a real honor to be part of this conversation and congratulations on all that you've done and are doing. As they say, keep on keeping on, my friend.
The Sound off Podcast is written and hosted by Matt Cundill. Produced by Evan Surminski. Social media by Courtney Krebsbach. Another great creation from the Soundoff Media Company. There's always more at soundoffpodcast.com.