By now, anybody tuning into cable news channels has grown accustomed to seeing hosts and reporters discussing the day’s events from a living room, kitchen or den setting, what with the novel coronavirus forcing people from all walks of life to punch the clock from home, sweet home, as much as possible.

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This article was published 24/4/2020 (550 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

By now, anybody tuning into cable news channels has grown accustomed to seeing hosts and reporters discussing the day’s events from a living room, kitchen or den setting, what with the novel coronavirus forcing people from all walks of life to punch the clock from home, sweet home, as much as possible.

While radio personalities broadcasting remotely don’t have to concern themselves with many of the same variables as their television counterparts — namely, toddlers or pets video-bombing the proceedings — for some it has been a work in progress, all the same.

Home Twang no holiday for host

Stu Reid, host of the radio show Twang Trust.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / FREE PRESS FILES

Stu Reid, host of the radio show Twang Trust.

Stu Reid is the host of Twang Trust, a two-hour radio show devoted to "country, roots and big, dumb rock and roll" that has been airing on University of Winnipeg campus radio station CKUW-FM since the late 1990s. The same as a lot of folks around the dial, Reid has been forced to produce his show from home since the beginning of April.

"There were two shows I did at university near the end of March, after classes had been cancelled, but a couple of weeks into this whole ordeal, the powers that be pulled the plug on that, too," he says.

Stu Reid is the host of Twang Trust, a two-hour radio show devoted to "country, roots and big, dumb rock and roll" that has been airing on University of Winnipeg campus radio station CKUW-FM since the late 1990s. The same as a lot of folks around the dial, Reid has been forced to produce his show from home since the beginning of April.

"There were two shows I did at university near the end of March, after classes had been cancelled, but a couple of weeks into this whole ordeal, the powers that be pulled the plug on that, too," he says.

Ordinarily, Reid does his show live in studio every Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Presently, however, he's pre-recording the program in its entirety, a turn of events that has resulted in it taking him almost twice as long to do the show as it would if he was doing it live.

"First, I have to put some thought into what I'm going to play on a given night and once I do that, I start to have a clue what I'm going to talk about between segments, instead of me just winging it," he says, noting his playlists during the pandemic have been peppered with a few tongue-in-cheek selections, such as the late Warren Zevon's Splendid Isolation and Rank and File's I Don't Go Out Much Anymore. "I record everything into a little mini-disc player but because I now have the luxury of time, I find myself spending way too long editing out all my ums and ahs, that sort of thing, to get it just right before I send it in, a few hours before it airs."

One of the other fallouts from COVID-19 has been the shuttering of the Reid residence's Stu-Dome, a home-concert venue that has hosted the likes of Mike Plume, Devin Cuddy and Joe Nolan. Reid was especially "bummed" to have to cancel a sold-out performance by Jim Bryson that was scheduled to take place at the Stu-Dome, last Saturday night.

"Ten years ago (Bryson) made a record with the Weakerthans called the Falcon Lake Incident, and he was coming back to town to re-record those songs with John K. Samson and Jason Tait," Reid says. "While he was here he figured he'd do a few shows and one of them was going to be at my place. Of course that all fell apart and the way they're talking, it might be next year before the Stu-Dome is open for business again."

Adam Glynn is the host of the Full English Breakfast, a light-hearted affair that airs Sundays from 9 a.m. to noon on 93.7 CJNU Nostalgia Radio. Since the third week of March, Glynn, also CJNU’s station manager, has been doing his show live from a home office, a set of circumstances that has forced his better half to, uh... speak now or forever hold her pee.

"My office is right next to our main-floor bathroom, so there is currently a moratorium on my wife Jenna’s using that space Sunday mornings unless she wants our entire listening audience to know she is taking a shower or flushing the toilet," Glynn says with a chuckle.

Hal Anderson, host of Hal Anderson Afternoons on 680 CJOB, says despite the spare bedroom that presently serves as his weekday studio being partially soundproof, it’s not 100 per cent ideal. The microphone will still pick up a degree of background noise, such as when his wife is watching TV in an adjacent room, he says.

"Of course it works both ways," he’s quick to point out. "If I’m on air and start yakking too loudly, she has no choice but to listen."

Earlier this month, a Nielsen survey reported that 83 per cent of respondents said they were listening to as much or more radio as they were prior to the pandemic. "Radio is a local lifeblood for millions of consumers and... as is the case with local TV viewership in times of crisis, radio and on-air personalities present a connection to the real world that listeners gravitate toward and trust," a Nielsen representative said, comparing radio to comfort food such as chili or chicken noodle soup.

We couldn’t agree more, which is why this week we reached out to a few radio types — Glynn, Anderson and Randy Parker, who co-hosts QX104’s morning show with Brody Jackson — to chat about everything from how each of them is staying connected with listeners and co-workers while they’re stuck at home, to how their daily routine has changed now that their commute to the office can be measured in metres, rather than kilometres. Here’s what they had to say.


"I’ve fielded that question a lot lately," Hal Anderson replies when asked whether, during his 36-year radio career, he can recall any event or occurrence that compares to what’s currently taking place because of COVID-19.

"About the only thing that even comes close — and it’s so different — is 9/11. I remember being on-air that morning, playing tunes and cracking jokes when all of a sudden the world changed," he says.

Hal Anderson, host of Hal Anderson Afternoons on 680 CJOB, says broadcasting from home has its challenges, including his microphone picking up stray audio when his wife is watching TV in the next room.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Hal Anderson, host of Hal Anderson Afternoons on 680 CJOB, says broadcasting from home has its challenges, including his microphone picking up stray audio when his wife is watching TV in the next room.

"I think the comparison between the two is the unknown. We didn’t know what was going to happen then — were there going to be more attacks? Was there going to be a war? — and we don’t really know what’s going to happen now. Nobody can tell us when everything’s going to return to normal, or even what normal is going to look like."

Anderson says Corus Entertainment, the Toronto-based company that owns CJOB and close to 40 other radio stations across the country, made the decision in mid-March to have as many of its employees work from home as possible, to avoid spreading or contracting the disease. Soon thereafter Anderson sought advice from Alan Cross, an associate of his who has been producing a radio program, A Journal of Musical Things, from home for years.

"I asked him what’s the deal, and could he give me and our listeners a few tips," Anderson says. "No. 1, he said, is to get up every day at the same time you normally would, jump in the shower, get dressed and treat things as if you’re going into the workplace, even if that’s just down the hall."

First thing every weekday morning, Anderson "meets" with his fellow ‘OBers via conference call, to discuss what each of them will be touching on that day, as well as who’ll they’ll be interviewing. He gets down to business immediately afterward, writing and researching for his own show, which airs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. Obviously he spends a good deal of the program discussing the latest developments surrounding the coronavirus, but lately he’s also been reserving time for a segment he calls ABC, short for "anything but COVID."

“I’ve been a news director before so I know it’s essential to dissect the headlines, but I also think it’s important to touch on the lighter side of things, the sort of stuff that gets you through these difficult times.” – Hal Anderson

"I’ve been a news director before so I know it’s essential to dissect the headlines, but I also think it’s important to touch on the lighter side of things, the sort of stuff that gets you through these difficult times," he says.

Also, while social distancing has become a catchphrase lately, you won’t hear that term coming out of Anderson’s mouth.

"I much prefer to call it physical distancing because I believe we still have to try being as social as we can with one another. Last week at the end of every show, I started doing something called Hal’s Housecalls, where I get in touch with a listener who’s reached out through Twitter or Instagram, to chat on the phone for a few minutes after I’m done for the day. I’m going to try and do that every afternoon until this is all over, if only to say, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ and remind them that we’ve all got each other’s back."


Unlike Adam Glynn, 29, the majority of the on-air hosts at CJNU are in their 60s or 70s. For that reason, the largely volunteer-run operation, with a main studio located in the downtown Lombard concourse, was more prepared than most when news of a possible, worldwide pandemic began to circulate in January, Glynn says.

"We were already well stocked up on things like hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes due to flu season, which hits our volunteers quite hard every year," he says when reached at home, where his two cats are observing him "with a degree of... pleasure isn’t the right word, more like disinterest."

"But because we could sort of tell which way the wind was blowing in terms of the virus, we drafted a memo just after St. Patrick’s Day, letting everybody know we were concerned there would be too much exposure if we continued asking people to report to the station to do their show. That’s when we informed them that, wherever possible, we would be happy to help them get set up to broadcast from home instead."

"As much as we’re using technology like video chats to make things feel semi-normal, it’s still hard to have the same kind of flow you get when you’re seated right next to one another," Adam Glynn said.

MIKE DEAL / FREE PRESS FILES

"As much as we’re using technology like video chats to make things feel semi-normal, it’s still hard to have the same kind of flow you get when you’re seated right next to one another," Adam Glynn said.

During his own show, Glynn, who moved to Winnipeg from his native England in 2015, regularly trades barbs with a trio of on-air partners, "radio mum" Anna-Maria, "chief technical wizard" Mark, and "fount of musical knowledge" Casey. Maintaining their usual banter without tripping over one another’s words has been the biggest challenge of toiling together from afar, he says.

"As much as we’re using technology like video chats to make things feel semi-normal, it’s still hard to have the same kind of flow you get when you’re seated right next to one another," he explains. "Presently, we’re waving our hands back and forth toward the webcam, trying to get each other’s attention whenever we feel we have something important to say. It’s bizarre, to say the least."

Glynn feels that if any radio station was prepared to broadcast remotely for an extended period of time, it was CJNU, which, since its inception 14 years ago, has regularly set up shop in shopping malls and facilities such as the Reh-Fit Centre, in order to personally interact with listeners.

"What we’re doing now is certainly a bit different than that — for instance, each of us is controlling the equipment in our downtown studio from wherever we happen to be — but that doesn’t mean we can’t make it work," he says, adding one of the advantages of working from home is that if somebody calls in with a song request and he has a copy of it on CD or vinyl, he can simply walk across the room, retrieve it and play it for them. "I’ve laughingly said, if push had come to shove, we would have happily shouted from the rooftops or strung cans together with string — anything to ensure we were still up and running."


Reached at home, Randy Parker says this coming Monday will mark seven weeks since she reported for duty at QX104’s downtown headquarters. Heck, she’s been delivering her shtick from her kitchen table so long, she’s not entirely sure she still has an assigned parking spot, she adds with a laugh.

In early March Parker visited her boyfriend, who was feeling under the weather during her stay at his home near Ottawa. Upon returning to Winnipeg, she developed a cough, and, after learning that was symptomatic of COVID-19, immediately went into self-quarantine. About 10 days later, by which time the province had changed the criteria for testing to include people who’d traveled to other parts of Canada, she was given a test that, thankfully, came back negative. Nonetheless, she has continued broadcasting from home since, relying on FaceTime to connect with Brody Jackson, her on-air foil.

Randy Parker, the cohost of the morning show on QX104, spends most days in her pyjama pants and slippers because they're the most comfortable.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Randy Parker, the cohost of the morning show on QX104, spends most days in her pyjama pants and slippers because they're the most comfortable.

"Our chemistry is so easy, it always has been, so we’re still pretty good in that sense," she says, taking a break from a jigsaw puzzle she’s been pounding away at for three weeks to chat on the phone.

"The thing that’s the hardest — for me, anyways — is I’m a really touchy person, always giving everyone I pass in the hallway or promotions office a hug. Not having that human interaction on a daily basis has been really tough."

Parker laughs again when asked if, like Hal Anderson, she’s been maintaining her usual morning schedule. No, her clock is no longer set to go off at 4:15 a.m.; rather she’s been "sleeping in" until 4:50 a.m. Monday to Friday instead. As for her next water bill, that’s going to be negligible, she’s happy to report.

"I have a hard time with showering at the best of times and now that it’s just me and my dog in the house, I find myself putting that off as long as I possibly can," she says, adding she does run a brush through her hair and apply some makeup before switching on her webcam, "so I don’t look completely dead to Brody."

After the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Manitoba, Parker wondered whether her and Jackson’s show was still on point; that is, how could they take to the airwaves every morning at 6 a.m. and spend the next four hours laughing and kidding when people all around them were losing their jobs or worrying about their loved ones getting sick.

"That was definitely challenging at first, but then we began hearing from so many people who told us how much they enjoyed listening to us that morning, and how we put a smile on their face just by being our regular, obnoxious selves," she says.

"That made me realize we’re all in this together, that eventually we’re going to get through this and until we do, it’s important to stay positive and laugh at life a bit."

david.sanderson@freepress.mb.ca

David Sanderson

Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.

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