If you've ever taken a look at the other shows we offer on the Soundoff Podcast Network, this week's guest should sound quite familiar. Mark Sutcliffe is the host of the Digging Deep podcast, one of our largest shows, where he uses the knowledge gained from his lengthy and prolific career in the broadcast industry to give some seriously gripping interviews. There's a reason I said "In the broadcast industry" there, and not just "In broadcasting." And that's because Mark has seen just about every side of the industry. I can't really sum up his career any better than the About section on his personal website, so in Mark's own words:
"I've been a daily newspaper columnist, a talk-radio host, a baseball play-by-play announcer, a Sunday-morning political TV host, and more. And I’ve been a proud volunteer, activist and community leader. I am a member of the Order of Ottawa and was named the United Way’s ambassador of the year."
He's also been a management consultant, entrepreneur, and executive for various companies over the years. Needless to say, he's got the experience to dig deep on just about any topic.
On this episode, we dig deep into Mark himself. He shares how he started in broadcasting before even graduating from high school, how he started his own business at the age of 19 and piloted it to huge success, and much more. We also talk about some of the biggest moments in history that have happened between the early 90's and now, many of which Mark reported on in various ways. And of course, there's lots of sports talk as well- you know I can't resist when I get a fellow fan on the show.
The Sound Off Podcast. The podcast about broadcast with Matt Cundill starts now.
Mark Sutcliffe is the CEO of the Digging Deep Group. He's an entrepreneur and host of the Digging Deep podcast, which is one of the bigger podcasts we have on the Sound Off Podcast Network. It was launched back in March of 2020 and features fascinating people, including broadcasters, newsmakers, athletes and politicians. The success of the show is attributed to consistent releases and great conversations. Mark's broadcast career goes back to the 1980s, and he joins me from Canada's nation's capital, Ottawa. Long overdue that we get together to do this, because I've been a big follower of your podcast for the last couple of years.
Well, thank you. Likewise. Love talking radio.
And you've had a lot of ins and outs in radio over the years, but also had a lot of experience with business. So what was your very first business?
My first business was a phone line that you could call and get the latest sports scores. So needless to say, this was before the Internet, and live 24 hour reporting on everything. When I was a kid, I was a Montreal Canadians fan and I would watch Hockey Night in Canada. Usually I'd have to watch in French because I live in Ottawa. So the Leafs games would be on in English, the Canadiens games would be on in French, and I would have to go to bed after the second period. That was my bedtime. And if I didn't find a way to listen to some radio sports cast the next morning, I would have to wait until Monday to find out whether the Canadiens had won the game or not. That's the world I grew up in, Matt. So when I was about 18 or 19, I started this business where I would gather all of these sports scores in every sport, and I would record a sports cast on tape, and I would update it about every 20 minutes or half an hour all through the evening. And people could call in and hear a live sports- or not live, but a recorded sports cast, but almost live because it was very new, fresh, and I sold advertising on that. That was my first business.
I mean, it's something that was done in New York, because I remember when I was seven or eight years old, they would have things like Dial-A-Joke and you could call in for the sports and all that stuff. And by the way, I feel your pain with being a Montreal Canadiens fan in that area. So my Saturday nights were in Montebello, where we had a farm. So we'd spend Saturday nights there. And of course, you could get CBC Ottawa, which would just pipe in. But it was always the Leafs game. And so we had to do the bunny ears to get CBMT 6 out of Montreal to appear on our TV. And there was a lot of snow involved. But there was always a better signal on CBC Ottawa in French. And you're right, there was no newspaper on Sunday. The Journal and the Citizen were the newspapers at the time. I don't think either did anything on Sunday. I would get the score from CFRA Ottawa.
Yeah. And I grew up listening to CFRA. And my parents listened to CFMO, which was the easy listening station. Gord Atkinson was the legendary broadcaster there. He had in the past interviewed people like Elvis Presley and Rich Little and Bing Crosby and all of those people. So I grew up in that environment and then ended up working there, which was really cool.
So your mornings were spent with Ken The General Grant.
Absolutely. And we would listen to him. He actually came to my junior high school and MC'd the spelling Bee that I was in, when I was in grade eight, I think. And it was a huge deal that Ken The General Grant was coming to our school. He was huge. He was as big a star as there was in Ottawa at that time. And he did the morning show on CFRA for probably- I can't remember the exact number. It was 35, 36 years, something like that.
So you're not even out of high school, but you get into doing radio at Carlton. How did you fandangle that?
Yeah. So I had a friend at school in Ottawa who was doing a co-op at CKCU, the radio station at Carleton University. And I went with him one day. And I had fallen in love with radio. I used to listen to radio all the time when I was a kid. I would listen to the Mark Elliott Show on CFRA. He would play the hits in the evenings. I listened to ball games, Dave Van Horn and Duke Snyder calling the expose games. They were on CKBY in auto at the time. And then I started listening to Shay 106 and getting the rock music fix. So I was really into radio and I just had this love affair with radio. So going with my friend to this radio station and he introduced me to the people there. And I started working on the high school show. And from there, I just basically started showing up whenever I could volunteering. I did news, I did sports, I hosted shows, I did editing, whatever they would give me, I would do because I just wanted to be in radio.
I won a ski pass from Mark Elliot in 1983. And everybody heard me. And the next day they made fun of me.
I won tickets to see Ted Nugent from Mark Elliot. And we had a rotary phone. And I'll never forget this, Matt: The contest line was 750-3814. I'll never forget that, 750-3814. And he would say, "I'm going to take caller number 35 right now." And I would count in my head imagining him saying, you're caller number one, you're caller number two, you're caller number three, you're caller number four. And I timed- this is when I was like 13 or 14 years old. I timed how long it would take on my parents phone, the Rotary dial phone to dial the number. And when I got to the right, it would have been like caller number 25 or something. I would start dialing to try to time it right for caller number, whatever he said. And one time I got through and I won Ted Nugent tickets, which I sold to a classmate of mine.
And it wasn't so long after that that you started doing overnights on CFRA.
I know literally maybe five or six years after Ken Grant came to our school, I was doing overnights on CFRA, doing what was called a news and out shift. So CFRA eventually became a talk station. But at that time, there was a lot of talk and news, but they also played some music. So overnight I was the newscaster and the DJ both. I was a one person radio station from ten till five, something like that. And I remember the first time I did the shift on my own, and I'm doing the 05:00, a.m. News on CFRA. And I look up and Ken the General Grant is sitting in the studio on the other side of the glass from where I'm sitting as I'm reading this newscast. It's pretty cool. And I was very nervous.
I think that's astounding that you were doing that at such a young age and that CFRA was really the first commercial station that you got into. Did you send in a tape? How did this happen?
I had started doing some freelance work for Shay 106. So when I was in University back then, I heard you talking with Jim Lang about this, about how FM radio stations in those days would have a lot of what was called foreground programming. They did a lot of public affairs programming. They didn't just play music 24 hours a day like they do now. And so Shay 106 had a requirement for somebody to go out and cover things from time to time. And I was doing some of that. And somebody connected me with Steve Maidley at CFRA. He was the news director at the time. I went in and saw him and he said, We've got an opening for a part time overnight person. That's all I've got. And I did that for a few months. And then I ended up getting a job, a permanent job at Shay 106. And I went to Shay 106. I had a great time doing that.
And there were a lot of requirements that we had to do back then. I remember Shay 106 used to have one called the Open Quarter, which was 15 minutes of music that really all had something to do with one another. And I thought it was for a 13 year old, this is too deep for me. And a little over my head. I just wanted to hear like, Cindy Lopper and break my stride and all those 80 songs and the top 40 wars that were going on between Cfgo and CFRA. And eventually 540 came on board.
Cjsb yeah, there was a lot going on. And I think, you know, Matt, Ottawa has always had a crazy number of radio stations because of the French and English communities in Ottawa and the CBC, there's always been just extraordinary. I think at one time we had the most radio stations per capita of any city in Canada.
There's a lot of cross pollination of sports as well. So you've got Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators don't come along until 1993, but you've also got the Expos and Blue Jays. So there's enough sports content and you found your way into working with some of these properties through the radio station.
Yeah, it was a great time because Shay 106 at the time was doing all this amazing programming. Randy Burgess was the sports director and he became a mentor to me. Great guy. Ken Rockburn was the news director at Shay legendary broadcaster in Ottawa, who went on to CPAC and the CBC. And Randy would send me off to cover sporting events in other cities. I mean, it's crazy to think of that now, but I would go to Montreal and cover the Stanley Cup playoffs when the Canadians were playing in the playoffs. I would go cover, expose games and come back and I go in the locker room and interview everybody and come back with tons of tape they would use on the sports cast the next morning. And I would go to Toronto and cover Leafs games and Blue Jays games and the great cup if it was in Toronto. I went to New York City one time into Boston to cover some games in the NHL playoffs. I don't even think I realized how big a deal it was at the time, but I was incredibly lucky to have those kinds of experiences. And I mean, I was 19, 2021 years old while that was going on. It was just great.
And to think of how spoiled we were in that era with sports, I was living it, too. But in the early 90s, the Blue Chase are coming. They're ascending. The Expos start to put something together. In 1992, the Montreal Canadians go to the Stanley Cup final. Toronto had a very compelling hockey team. Wow, it was Mardi Gras.
It was a great time. It's funny you say that, Matt, because my son and I were chatting. My son is a big sports fan now. He's twelve. And we were talking last night and we realized and I think I'm right about this. The last time that a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup was Montreal in 1993. And the last time that a Canadian team won the World Series was Toronto. So that was a great time. And the Expos were really strong at that time, too, as many people know, they would have. I grew up in Expos fan. They were the favorites to win the World Series in 1994 before the strike. So there was just a lot of great stuff happening at that time. It was a lot of fun to be covering sports, and I would get in a Shea 106 car. I think we had like a Ford Escort with the Shay logo on it, and I would drive to Montreal and cover a Canadians game and go down in the locker room after, get some tape, and then drive home and be at work the next day was great.
And I'm also thinking back to 92, 93, 94. I never would have ever thought that I'd ever be a fan or pay attention to the AAA links, but they were an affiliate of the Montreal Expos, so I always had my eye on what could be coming up and going down at that point. And you did some play by play. What's it like to do baseball.
Play by play, so much fun at that time. That was really my dream job. I think my dream job was to be the Montreal exposed play by play announcer. But of course, the job was taken. Dave Van Horn, legendary now in the hall of Fame, just retired last year from the Florida Marlins, Miami Marlins now. And so I did everything I could to have the opportunity to do some play by play for the links. And CFRA did about 20 games on the radio every year, and Rogers TV, the community channel, did about 20 games as well. So I would get to broadcast about 30 or 40 games every year on either TV or radio. And I did that. It was different situations sort of year in and year out, but I did that for the better part of 1213 years, part time on the side, and it was so much fun because I love baseball and I don't think there's anything on radio quite like a ball game. It's a special kind of intimate conversation between the baseball announcer and the audience. It's a different pace from other sports. And so I just relish that. I loved it. It was a blast. It's not a great lifestyle being a major League play by play announcer, because you're basically working every day in the evening. You never see your family. But when I was single and in my 20s, it was kind of my dream job.
You see, I actually had that job, but it was a self created job. It was called being a professional fan. I would pay myself to go out on the road and see the Expos because of course they were going to win that year, and 94 and whatnot. did you ever think about moving to Montreal to do radio?
Yeah, Montreal or Toronto. And I think there was a time when I would have jumped at the chance to go to Montreal. I love the city. I spent a lot of time there covering Canadians and expose games and got to know some of the people at the radio stations there who were also covering the games. And it just never worked out like I would have happily at that time in my life, I would have happily moved to Montreal and I wanted to be in a city that had major League sports teams, but it just never worked out. Sometimes timing and luck are part of the equation and it just never materialized for me. So I ended up staying in Ottawa, doing a bunch of business things and then continuing my radio journey with CFRA and 1310 News, which is now City news and having a great time with that.
Yeah. So after the 1990s began to sort of fizzle out sports wise and you work your way through the 90s, how did you spend your time on air?
I started doing some entrepreneurial stuff. I was involved in the launch of the Ottawa Business Journal newspaper. I was one of the co founders, and so for a couple of years I focused on that, but I always kind of kept involved in radio. And Mark Mayhew became the general manager of the Chum radio stations in Ottawa, including CFRA. And I had a great relationship with him. He was a mentor, terrific guy, and we would chat regularly. And whenever I was sort of less busy with my entrepreneurial stuff, I had a home on CFRA, which was great, and I would come in maybe for a couple of years, do the afternoon show, or I would fill in for Steve Maley, who is now doing the morning show in Lowell Green. I'd be there kind of regular replacement. And then eventually I ended up going back full time, trying to think the timeline on that. I became part of the succession plan there because they had Steven Lowell and they were approaching sort of the normal retirement years. And Mark and his successor, Chris Gordon, wanted me to be around so that as they were taking more and more time off and maybe one day they would retire, I could slide into one of those roles. And so that was the plan for a while. And I had a great time. And for whatever reason, you kind of have this love affair with radio generally. And I had always thought I was going to be doing a lot of sports, but I ended up being sort of streamed into news because that's where the opportunities were. And I've always been interested in the news and always followed politics in my community very closely. So I ended up doing a lot of talk shows.
And you really do fit Ottawa quite well because we got the sports down. You're in the middle of radio stations, like whether it's 1310 CFRA. Those are pretty big radio stations. You've got a business background, you got the auto a business Journal, you know, politicians. I'm careful here not to say that you're intertwined with politicians because that could mean just about anything. But that's really the way Ottawa works. These are the facets of Ottawa. You're very Ottawa marks that cliff.
Yeah, I've lived my whole life here. My parents aren't from Ottawa. They're immigrants to Canada. But I've lived my whole life here. I probably will never live anywhere else. I didn't expect it to play out that way. But I now have very deep roots and deep connections here and love the city, love the community. And you're right, Ottawa. It's become, over the last 10-15 years, a much bigger city, population over a million now. And we've got an NHL franchise now. We had it for 25 years, but it still has a little bit of that smaller community kind of feeling where people know each other well and where they're connected. It's not a big city like Toronto. It's still a very connected, small community in a lot of ways.
But if I add in Hull and maybe we'll add in Gatineau and we'll toss in Kanata and then Nepean- This is not a small place.
No, it's a big geographic area, big community, challenging to govern. I think the city of Ottawa was amalgamated and it's a big city. You could fit Toronto, Montreal and Calgary geographically into the city of Ottawa. That's how big the city is. So there's a rural part of it, there's an urban part, there's a suburban part. So it's challenging.
I played a couple of years of hockey for the East Ottawa Vanier Voyagers, and from that managed to really understand the city of Ottawa because we would have to travel to various arenas, all sorts of crazy hours. And my parents were like, Why did you sign up for this team again? And the coach would come in the room and he would threaten us and say that if we didn't get our act together, Aaron Ward, who is a year younger than us, would be replacing us at a moment's notice.
Yeah, that's a great way to get to know the city is through the hockey arenas all over the place.
Actually, I want to wind it back just a little bit 1995, because you mentioned Lowell Green, and there were moments when you did have to go in for that show. Could you tell everybody what that show was like? Because everyone listened to it. But if you had to go fill that in, we're getting a different show today. And I especially remember the referendum in 1995 and just how passionate he was and how everybody really did gravitate to 580 CFRA. So in that era, what was it like to have to fill in for them?
It wasn't easy, I'll tell you that. So, as you say, Lol is a talk show pioneer, right? I mean, if you go back to the 70s in talk radio in North America, Lowell was one of those big voices, those big presences on the radio, like a Rush Limbaugh, that kind of really engaged, active, call in show where the entire community is gathering, everybody's listening. People are just loving the interactions he's having with callers, some of them friendly, some of them not so friendly. The debate, the discussion, the positioning of the issues. And I genuinely think anybody in Ottawa, including federal politicians, were either listening to the show or having somebody listen to the show to know what was going on in the minds of the residents, because that's the role that Lowell played in the community was to bring everybody together and have that discussion. And he was so good at it. He had a natural talent for it. But I can tell you as well, he put a lot of thought into what he was going to say and the approach that he was going to take to every single show. He was a performer and a pro, like he was a true professional doing that show. So when I would step in for him, of course, it was a different show. I'm not lowgreen. I don't have that big personality. I'm not as opinionated as he is. I'm not as confrontational as he is. So I took a different approach and I acknowledged it right up front. We had some fun with the fact I wasn't low, and I just tried to, as much as possible, give people a chance to talk and have the same conversation but not pretend to be Lowell or anything like him.
And you've also had to cover some things as well. So I mean, I get the idea that if news breaks, somebody finds a cliff, let's bring him on because he's probably involved somewhere in Ottawa and has his eyes on it. So I'll mention the death of the Princess of Wales, which really touched anybody- I know that occurred across the ocean in Paris, but you have a cell phone and now you're going to be doing some coverage.
Yeah. So I got called into the radio station. I happen to live near the radio station at that time. And when the news broke that she had been in this accident in Paris, I got called into the radio station and I went on the air and we were in all news station at that time, news talk. And so if there was breaking news, we were going to cover it. So we dumped out of the regular programming and I was live on the air bringing in various reports from our wire services. We could use CNN audio at the time as well. We were a CNN affiliate, so I was using some of that. We were getting people on the phone from Paris who were near the scene, and I basically was on the air for a couple of hours while this was going on, and then we got the bulletin that she had passed away and the reaction we started taking phone calls from people, and the reaction was immediate. And I'm sure you remember, Matt, the emotional reaction, the connection that people felt to that story here was someone who they'd never met before and who was a member of the Royal family living a very different life from all of us. But for whatever reason, people felt this deep bond with her. And when that happened, there was just an outpouring of grief and other emotions, and people started calling in and sharing their feelings about it. And I can't remember exactly how late I stayed on the air, but it was a long night, and we ended up talking about that for days to come. But I'll never forget being on the air when that bulletin came across and learning that she had passed away and that her life was over.
And the shooting on Parliament Hill, I mean, we think Ottawa is a place to go and visit and learn all about our nation's capital, but stuff does happen there. And there was a shooting, and you found yourself in the middle of that, too.
I'll never forget that day as well. Of course, Nathan Cerillo died that day, and everybody remembers him and has this extraordinary attachment to his story. I think I had just finished my show that day when the news started to break and we heard the news and we just immediately switched. It was actually during Lowell's show. Lowell was still broadcasting at that time. And so Steve Lowell and I basically were on the air together for the next I'm going to say four or 5 hours covering the story as it was unfolding. And the thing I will always remember about that, it turned out it was one shooter. And by the way, the radio station is, I'm going to say 700 meters from Parliament Hill in the Bywood market, so very close by, and there was a lockdown kind of put into effect. It ended up being a story of one shooter, but we didn't know what was going on until that was confirmed. And I remember there were undercover and plain closed policemen who were on the streets of Ottawa responding to the situation. And there were some bystanders who mistook them for armed combatants and thought that there were multiple people with guns in the downtown core, and there was a lot of fear about that. And then the other thing that happened that day, Matt, that was interesting is we started getting calls from American media outlets asking for us to share our perspective with them. So I ended up doing interviews with radio stations in the US. And then that night I was on Bill O'Reilly show on Fox News. They arranged for a camera to be set up somewhere. And I went and stood in front of the camera, and I was the first guest on Bill O'Reilly show on Fox News that night, sort of telling the story of what was happening in Ottawa.
And of course, today they would just ask you to get a Skype connection.
Exactly. Back in those days, you had to hustle somewhere, get a studio or get an uplink of some kind. And now you can just interview anybody on Zoom.
In just a second, Mark tells us why he decided to do a podcast. We also touch on the biggest story out of Ottawa in 2022, which is the trucker convoy. And I offer up some silly trivia, like how many Canadian Prime ministers have appeared on Mark's show? And who do you think the biggest download is? I'll give you a spoiler. The political people get less downloads than the figure skaters. And if you're a political junkie like me, you love to have the television on CPAC for all the latest parliamentary shenanigans. You know, it took about 300 episodes, but we finally have a CPAC personality on this show. You know the podcast has made it when. That, and you have transcription. And there's a copy waiting for you at soundoffpodcast.com.
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The Sound Off podcast.
Who watches CPAC? I watch CPAC.
Tell me why we should watch CPAC. Are you on CPAC now, by the way?
Yeah. So I do two things for CPAC. I used to do a weekly show every Sunday morning, sort of Sunday morning political chat, like so many other shows, only we would take calls from the audience as well. We'd have a panel of journalists, but we'd also get input from the audience, which was fun. I did that for a number of years. The two things I do now are whenever there's an election, we do a show called Have Your Say. And basically every weekday during the election, we're on the air for 2 hours taking calls from all over the country to get reaction to what's happening on the election campaign that day. So it's a great show for political junkies. It's a great show for anybody who's interested in how Canadians are reacting to the unfolding election campaign. And I've done that now, I guess, for maybe the last four or five elections. And it's been incredibly interesting and fun to do. And then the other thing I do is I do a daily podcast that's about 20 minutes long called CPAC Today in Politics. And so every day I have a journalist come on and we talk about the big political stories of the day in Canada.
So you're the perfect person to answer this question because you've been answering phones for so many years and talking to the callers. And I don't think it matters if it's CPAC or if it's CFRA. But is it getting weirder?
It's definitely changed. So I can remember when I was doing talk shows on CFRA in the 1990s. You'd throw out a question. I remember one day we were talking about the Robert Latimer case, the Saskatchewan farmer whose daughter Tracy was severely disabled, and he chose to end her life. And it became this big ethical and legal debate in the country. And we had ten phone lines at that time, Matt. And the second somebody hung up, somebody else would call in and there would be nine callers on hold while you're talking to one person on the air. And that was a big topic, obviously. But, you know, on any given day, if you on my show, on Lowell show, there were tons of callers. We would often finish the show and have six, seven people on hold who had been waiting for 40 minutes to get on the air and didn't get their chance that day. And there was often a busy signal. By the time I stopped doing phone in shows, it had changed a lot. I think a couple of things happened. Number one, people just don't talk on their phones as much anymore, right? We call these devices phones, but we actually use them as phones maybe 5% of the time.
It would be faster for you to use the Rotary phone at your parents'house to call in to figure out how to do it on Apple iPhone.
People just don't talk on the phone as much. That's one thing. And I think the other thing is there are so many other outlets now for people social media and chat rooms and all these other ways that people can have their say. Whereas before social media, if you had an opinion about something, you either wrote a letter to the editor of the daily newspaper or you called a talk show. Those are the two ways you can make your voice heard. Now, everybody can be on Twitter or Facebook sharing their opinions about everything. So the inclination to call into a radio station or a television station that's doing a talk show and wait on hold for maybe 30 minutes before you get to go on the air for four or five minutes and have an interaction with the host, just not as many people are doing that anymore.
So again, I've got the perfect person to answer this question because you're connected to really all the facets of Ottawa. And we're about two or three months removed from the trucker convoy protest. And so it all takes place on Wellington, which again, is the intersection of politics of Ottawa and civics, but it's also the center of Ottawa. So as we look back on that, how do you grade what happened? How strange was it? What happened exactly? And how can we look at this in the rear view mirror and just put a little normal context into it?
So I think there's a couple of things there, Matt. So first of all, it was very strange. As a resident of Ottawa and I don't live very far from downtown. It was really unsettling to have this going on and for it to be stretching on for so long and to feel like there was no control over the situation, that the people who are occupying downtown Ottawa were in charge. And I kept thinking of that movie, Captain Phillips, where Pirates take over the ship captain by Tom Hanks's character, and that one of the Pirates says, I'm the captain now. And that's a little bit what it felt like was that the people in charge of this protest were running downtown Ottawa and the police in the city were not. One of the things in my career, Matt, is for whatever reason, I don't feel a deep attachment to the news stories that I cover. I'm a little bit more of a dispassionate observer. That's just my inclination. I find things more interesting and fascinating than I find them emotional or I'm just not a polarizing sort of person. But I felt really strongly about what was happening in my city. And I found myself watching the news more and more and wanting to know what was going on and wanting it to be over. And I think it's one more example of how our world has changed in the past 20 years. I mean, you've spent a lot of time in Otawa. I remember my dad used to work at the Department of National Defense in downtown Ottawa. There was a road under that building. So before the Oklahoma City bombing, before the first World Trade Center bombing, I used to always think, like, after those events happened, I used to always think, what's stopping somebody from parking a car under that building? There's a road under our National Defense headquarters. There is not a road under the Pentagon that people can just drive on on their way to work or to go shopping. In downtown Ottawa, you used to be able to drive your car up on Parliament Hill just without anybody stopping you. We would go there and look at the Christmas lights every December. There was always this sort of relaxed attitude towards security in Canada with the idea that we're Canada, those things don't happen here. And even going back to the shooting on Parliament Hill in 2015, when that event happened, it was the kind of thing that nobody would imagine happening, right. Somebody shooting someone at the war Memorial and then making it all the way, not just onto Parliament Hill but into the Parliament buildings with a gun. And I don't think anybody was ready for that. And again, this time around, I don't think anybody was ready for the idea that a group of demonstrators would not just come into the downtown core and do a demonstration and then leave peacefully, but that they would stick around and start building structures and having a hot tub and basically planning to stay for as long as they could. Nobody was ready for that. And I think we need to adapt to a very different kind of era in politics now where more of these events are going to happen, and we need to be prepared for them.
And I did have a few people that I spoke to in the area. By the way, one of the podcasts we work with, we had to delay the release of it for a month because there was just too many honking horns. I think about all the levels of government in that area and everybody who's responsible for the area. And I'm thinking that it's like baseball and three outfielders converged on a fly ball for the third out of the inning. The ball hits the ground. Everybody looks at each other to go, what now? And then it takes another 45 minutes to get out of the inning. So you understand that baseball analogy, then I think you understand what happened in Ottawa. And I get the feeling that that's what it was.
I think there's one more thing, too, Matt, which is that there have been incidents in recent memory in Canada and elsewhere of the police being accused of overreacting to a situation. So the G 20 summit in Toronto, that kind of event where the police cracked down too soon and there was tear gas and there were confrontations and the batons came out and somebody got hurt. And I think the mindset, for better or for worse, the mindset of the authorities with the awareness that this protest was coming to Ottawa when the trucks were on the highway heading to the capital, the mindset was let's not end up in that situation where we're facing an inquiry six months from now on why we responded and not be accused of police brutality and violence. Let's not do that. Let's be accommodating. Let's cooperate with them. Let's figure out and they just didn't anticipate that if they were so cooperative, the end result would be an occupation.
And you triggered a memory, the Sargent Pepper incident, why did you want to start a podcast called Digging Deep?
So I always had this idea. I always had great guests on my show. And if I had the chance to talk to them on the phone, if they were a phone guest or in this green room before they came on the air or even in the studio during a commercial break, we always had these terrific off air conversations. And you know what that's like? You know, your politician comes in, an Olympic medalist comes in, and you have this great conversation. And then when you go on the air, you got a limited amount of time. Normally, an interview on a talk show is eight to ten minutes. You've got a limited amount of time. So you've got to zero in on the topic of the day, especially in the 24 hours news cycle. Now it's got to be the topic that's related to whatever is going on in the news. What's going to be the clip from this interview we're going to play on the newscast next hour. So I was doing all these very short eight minute interviews, usually about the same thing over and over again. And yet off the air, I was getting to know another side of some of these people and finding them really fascinating. And I just thought it would be great to have these sort of longer, timeless conversations with some of the people that you're used to seeing in the news on your television, on the radio, having longer conversations and really getting to know them better, telling their whole story. And so I gave it a shot. I decided I was going to do ten episodes. I picked a bunch of people. Some of the first few people I interviewed, former Governor General David Johnston, Daniel Dale, the CNN fact checker, who was followed by millions of people when he was fact checking Donald Trump, Tessa Virtue, the Olympic gold medalist figure skater, and did these interviews with them. And they were even better than I thought they would be. And I just had such a blast talking to them and learning from them. And there were so many things that came out that you didn't hear in other interviews. And so I decided to keep going. Really, it's just been fantastic. I've thoroughly enjoyed it.
Do you have an alarm Bell that goes off in your head that says, okay, this conversation is going to wind down because these are deep conversations, but do you have an idea in your head about how long you want it to be?
So I usually start out thinking it's going to be about an hour, and it ends up being longer than that because we just get going, right? Like you end up in this great conversation and goes all these places. I do a lot of research before the guest comes on, and I'll have ten or 20 questions or aspects of their life that I want to get into, you know, how this works. And then we'll end up talking about something I wasn't even expecting. And we'll go down that tangent for a while, and then what will end up happening is half the questions I had on my list we don't even get to. So that's part of the fun of it for me, too, is inevitably you end up talking about something you never expected and you learn something about the person that they rarely ever talked about before because they've never had the opportunity. Maybe it was some job they had before they became famous or some experience they've had or what their expectations are for the future or something. And you end up having a great conversation about that. And you have to shelve a whole bunch of other stuff. But I always feel like I'm running out of time even after an hour of talking with these guests.
How many former prime ministers have you had on so far?
Two, Joe Clark and Jean. And the amazing thing, every single one because I launched the podcast during the pandemic and because many of the guests aren't in Ottawa, every episode of Digging Deep has been recorded. Like what you and I are doing right now, where we're looking at each other over the Internet and recording the interview. We're not in the same room, but Jean Katie actually came to my house to record the podcast. So he came to our home, met my wife and my kids and sat in this very room and I set everything up with two microphones. And it was kind of a surreal moment, having a former Prime Minister of Canada sitting in my office talking about his life.
So when you bring him in, were you using Zoom to record or do you find another way to do it?
No, I just recorded it on a digital recording device. Yeah.
This is now the kind of conversation that podcasters have.
Absolutely. Yeah. And then, of course, I was paranoid that I'm not a big fan of digital. I'm old enough to remember when I first started working at Shay. I was typing out my scripts on a typewriter. I remember when we got the first computer at the radio station and we would make a carbon literal carbon copy with carbon paper for the producer. And I remember, of course, recording on cassettes. Right. Recording on cassettes and recording on real to real. And I'm still nervous recording anything digitally because I can't see the thing turning right. And I'm always worried that I'm going to finish the interview and there's going to be nothing there. So I was very nervous. I think I even had a backup recording going with Jeancratching here because there was no way we were going to have that conversation twice.
You know, that's a very genuine thing to do, right? To make sure that it's recording and to make sure your hands run everything. And Millennials and Gen Z, they're totally chill with their squad. Caster your Zencaster or your Zoom. Everything's great in technology land. Do you know what your biggest episode is?
I don't know what my biggest episode is.
Okay, that doesn't surprise me.
So why is that so big?
Well, I think she has a huge fan base, so that's a big part of it. I think she's an incredibly nice person. She's absolutely lovely. My daughter is in competitive gymnastics and it was during COVID, so she was home from school, and so my daughter came over and I wanted to introduce her to an Olympic gold medalist via Zoom. And she came over and Tessa was incredibly kind and supportive to my daughter Kate, and gave her lots of encouraging words. And that's just who she is. She's a absolutely wonderful human being and really smart. You can look at an athlete like that and think she's really talented. But her gold medals and Scott Moyer his gold medals, their gold medals together are the result of a lot of hard work, of course, some talent, but a lot of very strategic thinking as well, and a lot of that. We were able to drill into that in the episode of the podcast. They thought very strategically about their careers and about how they approach practice, about how they approach competition, and they were really smart about it. And they would practice how to recover from a fall instead of trying to avoid falling. They would practice how to recover from a fall. And there were just so many life lessons like that that we were able to pull out from that conversation. I work with business clients now. I coach entrepreneurs and CEOs, and I know a lot of my clients really found those lessons really applicable to leading a business, which I thought was really interesting.
Also shout out to Chris Jones, another very big episode that you have. I'm constantly looking at the traffic on this stuff to see where it's coming from.
I know, and thank you. You've been a huge support and resource for me and the people that helped me with the podcast during this whole journey. So I'm very grateful for that because we would not be doing this without your help and guidance and wisdom and expertise and support. So thank you.
What's been the big takeaway for you since you started this? And by the way, you started it right at the time when everybody started a podcast like March 2020 and April 2020, you can see the sound off podcast taken off. But when we look today, and I just saw this number today, a lot of people have abandoned them. A lot of people have given it up.
You've kept yours going.
You've done one every week. You've been incredibly disciplined, which means an absolute lot when you do a podcast to be consistent and to stay on brand and consistent with your message every week. But how has it shaped you with your business and your networking and the people that you're meeting?
It's been really great, actually. I love it. A friend of mine said to me at one point, what's the business model for this? Like, how are you going to get paid? And I remember saying, first of all, if any one of these people asked me to lunch, I would go in a heartbeat and I would pay for the lunch. Just getting to have these conversations with people has been amazing. So the opportunity to have that one on one dialogue with world famous athletes, musicians, politicians, business people, leaders of all kinds, authors, subject matter experts. I've learned so much from that and I've gained so much from that experience personally. And I am able to apply a lot of that to the work that I do as an entrepreneur and as a business coach now, which is where I spend most of my time. But I think it's been great for my brand. I think the people in my universe, business owners, and CEOs probably look at that and think it's interesting that I get to talk to so many fascinating people. And I have created a little bit of a revenue stream from it because I have a couple of sponsors. It's not the way I'm going to retire, but it still helps pay some of the bills, which is great. I would do it just for the love of doing it. If it works out that that turns into lots of listeners and an income stream. Fantastic. But I would keep doing it just to have the chance to talk to these people and share their lessons with the existing audience that I have, because there are so many terrific lessons from these people's life stories and their experiences that I don't think you can find in a lot of other places.
And I know some people are hearing this, and right now they're thinking, oh, here's a radio guy who's doing a podcast. But I think the reason you do very well at this is the time that you spent working at the Ottawa Citizen. And I think newspapers and writing have so much more to do with podcasts and trying to capture a story than radio does. The only thing you have in common with radio is just the microphone. And you were talking about these conversations that you have with people. Okay, they're going to be six, seven, eight minutes. We're going to get to the crux of it. We're in the now. But when you have to capsule-ize a story, that has more to do with radio and getting the story out for the next morning for the Ottawa Citizen.
Yeah, maybe so. I never thought of it that way. But it is very much storytelling. It's long form storytelling. It's almost like magazine writing, even more so than newspapers. Right? It's long form storytelling, for sure. So that's a great point. I never thought of it that way. But I think you're right. That it is. I mean, I almost think of this as chapters of a book. Each episode is like a chapter of a book. And it's not like a typical radio interview at all.
No. It does have more in common with magazines than radio, of course, outside of the microphones that we're speaking into now. But, Mark, thanks so much for joining me on the podcast. I don't think I missed anything. I think I got most of it. How deep did I dig? Out of ten?
You're Digging Deep, Matt. This is great. It's so much fun. And I've been listening to your podcast. And again, I'm so grateful for the support that you have given to me and to the Digging Deep, the little team of people that I have helping me with Digging Deep. I'm really grateful for this opportunity to chat. It's been a pleasure.
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.