#Listen: Student productions from Radio Lab final semester courses – early 2022

A selection of some of the remarkable shows produced by students in my RBD 253 Broadcasting – Radio diploma program and RAMP 5504 Radio and Media Production graduate certificate program final semester courses “Radio Lab” in the Faculty of Media and Creative Arts at Humber College in Toronto. Shows of each student’s own design are pitched and then produced. Shows listed here are connected via Soundcloud links provided by students. (Students – if yours is not here but you think it should be, please contact me and provide a link.)

Audio Drama

Survivor Radio – by Ashlyn Macoretta, RBD 253

We’re Sorry for the Inconvenience – by Lucy Collingwood RAMP 5504

When You Thought You Knew Them – by Nicolas Cloutier RBD 253

The Computer Lab – by Matt Wong RBD 253

The Painful Hero – by Malcolm Daley RBD 253

Audio Storytelling – Fiction

The Backrooms – Part One, by Travis Bennett RBD 253

The Backrooms – Part Two, by Travis Bennett RBD 253

Somnus – by Jay Fleming RBD 253

Nightmares – by Catarina Costa RAMP 5504

Audio Games

Road Trip Trivia – episode one, by Drew Behm RBD 253

Pop culture, history, special interest and pastimes

I am a Miracle – part one, by Mikella Van Cooten RAMP 5504

I am a Miracle – part two, by Mikella Van Cooten RAMP 5504

Toronto Time Capsule – episode one, by Lucas Iannetta RAMP 5504

Toronto Time Capsule – episode two, by Lucas Iannetta RAMP 5504

Matter of Fact – episode one, by Sitara Devayya RAMP 5504

Matter of Fact – episode two, by Sitara Devayya RAMP 5504

Highway to Sunshine – part one, by Carling Marlok RAMP 5504

Highway to Sunshine – part two, by Carling Marlok RAMP 5504

Behind the Trend – episode one, by Mo Adekoya RAMP 5504

The shows in this presentation are all original productions by students in RBD 253 and RAMP 5504 final semester courses at Humber College, Toronto.

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Transmedia and Multiplatform Storytelling: Ways of connecting products from different media platforms

For students in FMST 5003 at Humber College 2021

This is a demonstration of bringing together independent but related bits of media to tell a story across multiple platforms starting with one link that connects them all. The example here is a true story. It originates in the news; but the first piece of media content that gets my attention is an intriguing bit of transmedia storytelling with an agenda: It’s created by a public agency as a means of increasing public support for a controversial project. The “Ontario Line” is a mass transit rail line that would be built through the Don Valley in Toronto and into residential neighbourhoods. There’s both support and opposition. Using WordPress, I can create a story that lets me connect various forms of media touching on different aspects of the story by linking to those other pieces. I can also embed content of my own. But I like the fact of being able to link to connected work, which respects the copyright of those works, and makes distinction impressions on those sites when a user clicks the links in the story I build here.

Let’s start with the transmedia property that prompted me to choose this story as an example for our course. My first exposure to it is through social media. I noticed a Tweet.

The Tweet is intriguing. It invites me to use their sound studio? Let’s go there! I can go there directly by clicking the link in the Tweet. But the URL provided will not let me embed it in my story here. Nor can I copy and paste the link. Hmm. Does this public agency not want interested parties to share the link?


It may be necessary to copy and paste this link into a browser in order to get access. While you’re in there, you can explore the site, experiment with the sound, change the parameters of the demonstration, compare, and so on. Then — as we’re discussing in our approaches to transmedia storytelling — there are ways for users to react. The user experience includes the opportunity to fill out a survey based on their experience, or to seek more information.

So this is a productive piece of multiplatform transmedia storytelling for us to consider. It combines elements of:

  1. visuals – graphics and photographs
  2. moving visuals – videos
  3. user selectivity – ability to choose what to see
  4. audio
  5. user selectivity – which audio to hear
  6. user feedback – survey
  7. access: we can get to it all through one URL
  8. promotion: social media including Twitter, where it first caught my attention
  9. it’s a story with an agenda – however you perceive it – it’s intended to have impact or influence on the user
  10. games – serious purpose, but the overall design has a quality of gameplay to it.

We might find out a little bit more about the story that’s prompting the public agency to create this story by catching up on some news. Here’s an example of some visual news reporting about neighbourhood concerns about the rail line from CTV in Toronto.

Participants — and news media — might have found out about the event through social media, used by an advocacy group concerned about the project:

Web searches — as of December 1/21 — are not revealing any follow-up content from advocates, or video of the funeral for trees. But this user-generated video from earlier in the year connects with the group’s concerns:

The Ontario Line sound studio piece is obviously not the only piece of content public agencies have produced regarding the project. The agency building the line — Metrolinx — has produced many videos and other products, including this piece available through YouTube, in which representatives suggest ways they are addressing community issues related to the line:

Of course, various activists are also making use of social media, YouTube, and so on to express their concerns and tell their side of the story. Here’s a snippet from a live event one group staged outside the Ontario Legislature; captured on video by a citizen, and posted out through YouTube:

And…you can continue to add content any time. More to come. And…we can share anything we create on this platform…in a variety of ways.

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Summer 2021 schedule of broadcast of student works from RBD105 RBD253 RAMP5504 on Radio Humber CKHC-FM

For students in Broadcasting – Radio and Radio and Media Production programs at Humber College. Shows can be heard on CKHC-Fm 96.9 in northwest Toronto; online at radio.humber.ca on on various apps including TuneIn and Radio Player.

As scheduled by the staff of the radio station:

May 2021

   5pm – Unsigned: Matt Zadkovich  9am – BLM Levy Part 1 12pm – BLM Vandyke Part 1 3pm – BLM Levy Part 1 6pm – BLM Vandyke Part 1

June 2021

   5pm – Unsigned: Alex Lagett  9am – BLM Levy Part 2 12pm – BLM Vandyke Part 2 3pm – BLM Levy Part 2 6pm – BLM Vandyke Part 2
   5pm – Unsigned: Dan Kelly  9am – Doc: Outbid 12pm – Doc: Pandemic Dating 3pm – Doc: A Sad Day to Go Clubbing  
10am – Doc: Outbid 1pm – Doc: Pandemic Dating 6pm – Doc: A Sad Day to Go Clubbing  5pm – Unsigned: Diago Manssur  9am – Drama: Whistleblower 12pm – Drama: First Pitch 3pm – Drama: Crane 1 6pm – Drama: Crane 2
10am – Drama: Whistleblower 1pm – Drama: First Pitch 6pm – Drama: Crane 1 8pm – Drama: Crane 2    5pm – Unsigned: Izzy Cenedese  9am – Drama: The Proxima Run 12pm – Drama: Our Beloved Neighbour 3pm – Drama: Inertia  
10am – Drama: The Proxima Run 1pm – Drama: Our Beloved Neighbour 6pm – Drama: Inertia    5pm – Unsigned: Jeph Haven   

July 21

      9am: Poetry Corner 12pm: The Rise of Fentanyl 3pm: Mental Health During the Pandemic Ep 1 6pm: Tech Talk Ep 1  
10am: From The Ground Up Ep 1 1pm: Behind the Music Ep 1 6pm: Welcome to Excelsior Ep 1 8pm: Shopping in Canada’s Past Ep 1  5pm – Unsigned: Merideth Brown  9am: Curling Talk Ep 1 12pm: Advice You Didn’t Think You Needed 3pm: Antique Jewelry Ep 1 6pm: What to do Before You Go  
10am: Learning in Covid 1pm: A Ticket for One 6pm: Critical Comfort Ep 1 8pm: Strong Girl’ Story  5pm – Unsigned: Nancy Hope  9am: Poetry Playground 12pm: From the Ground Up Ep 2 3pm: Behind the Music Ep 2 6pm: Welcome to Excelsior Ep 2.  
10am: Mental Health During the Pandemic Ep 2 1pm: Tech Talk Ep 2 6pm: Curling Talk Ep 2 8pm: Antique Jewelry Ep 2.  5pm – Unsigned: Serena Salvosa  9am: Critical Comfort ep 2. 12pm: Shopping In Canada’s Past Ep 2.  
   5pm – Music Feature “The Fugitives”   
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Final semester audio projects from graduating students in #RBD253 and #RAMP5504 Radio Lab class projects in the #RBD radio diploma and #RAMP post-grad radio and audio media programs at Humber College

Black Lives Matter

“Life Through A Black Man’s Lens” – written and produced by Justine Van Dyke, RBD 253

Episode One

Episode Two

“Through Her Mind” – written and produced by Xaria Levy, RBD 253

Episode One

Episode Two

DRAMA: Audio Drama for Radio broadcast and podcast

The Proxima Run – written and produced by Jon Camacho, RBD 253

Whistleblower – written and produced by Duarte Da Silva, RBD 253

Inertia – written and produced by David Sporich, RBD 253

Well-being, lifestyle and personal interest shows

Dating in Your 20s – by Abigail Zahra, RBD 253

Critical Comfort – Episode One – by Abigail Zahra and Maria Ibrahim, RBD 253

Critical Comfort – Episode Two – by Abigail Zahra and Maria Ibrahim, RBD 253

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Guilty on all Counts: How Radio covers the verdict in the George Floyd murder

For the use of students in RBD154 and RBD253 courses at Humber College, Toronto

Explore the links in this document to discover how radio stations in different cities and different countries cover the verdict and the events that follow on April 20, 2021. In most cases, the links here take you to the Twitter accounts of the various radio stations or networks. You can check out the post that caught my attention; and explore that station’s feed further if you wish to examine further what the station and its news staff have been posting.

We’ll start in Minneapolis: WCCO 830 is a news/talk station owned by Audicy. Its stream is not available in Canada.

I listened to Minnesota Public Radio (NPR) over TuneIn Pro to hear radio reporters in Minneapolis. Here is the moment of verdict, anchored on MPR and then a throw to a reporter on the scene for a live, unscripted hit.

You would expect there’s also extensive coverage from NPR national accounts.

News and News/Talk stations in other big cities across the U-S have been quick to post stories and updates over Twitter, in support of what they are doing on-air on the radio.

Here’s WBBM Chicago – an All-News station for decades.

WWL 870 New Orleans came up in our introductory lecture, back in September.

Here’s WOR – News/Talk station in New York.

WBEN Newsradio 930 in Buffalo is the closest to Toronto:

As you would anticipate, the story will be on radio and tv around the world. BBC World News captures reaction on the street in Minneapolis as the verdict comes out.

After reporting the verdict and posting on Twitter, Talk Radio in London starts looking for listener reaction.

BBC Radio 4 is quickly out with a feature on the MInnesota Attorney General who led the prosecution on the case.

The story is also treated as Breaking News on Nationwide FM in Kingston, Jamaica.

It’s breaking news too, of course, on CFTR – 680News here in Toronto.

Global News Radio AM640 Toronto has Humber Radio Broadcasting alum Reggie Cecchini on duty in Washington, D-C watching for federal reaction.

I hear ABP Radio in Mumbai, India reporting on the case, in Hindi. It has services in several languages. I don’t yet see the story on its Twitter feed.


And fitting with our move into Radio commentary in A6 in RBD154, here’s a start – from Samantha Bee – a Canadian with a weekly tv show in the U-S featuring political commentary. It’s called “Full Frontal”.

We’ll discuss the coverage in class.

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Cross Talk: Season 4, Ep 16. On toxic talk radio

Cross Talk
Season Four – Episode 16

“On Toxic Talk Radio”. Runs 8:08. May 7/20

Please note: Transcription of audio used yet to be completed.

Audio Montage: Mark Levin show theme–>Savage Nation show ID–>Rush Limbaugh show ID

The very sound of these radio show themes and I-D’s – as we call them – speaks volumes about the way the show hosts see themselves; the attitude of their show…what they see as their place…in public discourse in America.

They’re big. They’re bold. They’re tough.

Behind them…are some brilliant communicators. Political analysts with encyclopedic memory. But a very…narrow focus…in the messages they want to deliver. And a very mean spirit toward people who…don’t share their…vision.

These themes represent some of the most powerful hosts…in Toxic Talk Radio.

I’m Paul Cross. This is Cross Talk. Media History, Commentary, and analysis…Season Four, Episode Sixteen.

Presented well, information on the radio helps us shape or re-shape our own opinions, or attitudes toward people…issues…events…change. Radio exposes us to new ideas; different voices; different cultures and attitudes and realities. Presented fairly…and in balance with other sources of information…information from the radio is valuable.

Can the same be said…if the source of information I choose…reflects only the attitudes and ideas I already hold? If the host I hear…reminds me of myself in the mirror…but bolder…tougher…and more…powerful?

Research tells us, people listen to radio hosts…with whom they can identify. I wonder how listeners think of themselves, then; the listeners…who listen to three hosts I want you to hear today.

In Season Four, Episode Two I introduced the concept of toxic talk radio. I selected some examples of right-wing talk radio hosts, and their reactions, the morning after the start of the impeachment trial of U-S President Donald Trump.

Today…samples of three very prominent hosts…in what I call toxic talk radio. These hosts are not on the air in Canada; but each can be heard, over AM radio stations many Canadians might be able to tune in at night-time. Their shows are archived in a variety of ways after the broadcast; including, officially and through fan postings, on platforms such as YouTube. X3

Just who listens…and why…is a worthwhile class assignment. It’s entertaining, sure; but I imagine listeners must generally agree…if they’re going to keep listening to someone like Michael Savage. On air, he calls people who disagree with him, or promote other opinions…idiots. His show Savage Nation is right-wing; often critical of republicans for being…not right enough…and absolutely…anti-liberal. In his criticism of Nancy Pelosi for tearing up her copy of Trump’s state of the union speech…Savage claims she makes the U-S look poorly to the world:

Audio: Savage SOTU Pelosi:…remove her if she isn’t…41

I find it…intriguing…when Savage yells…lets himself build up and explode. Mark Le-vinn does that sometimes, too. He’s also very right wing. He’s very pro-Trump. He thinks government should play a very small role in American life. He’s really upset…about businesses being shut down by government order during the covid-19 pandemic; livid about people being arrested or ticketed for opening their shops, or going to a beach:

Audio: Levin roundup:…just American citizens on a beach…38

Le-vinn…Like savage…is carried on about 400 radio stations across the united states.

And then there’s Rush Limbaugh:

Audio: Limbaugh virus short: …common cold, folks…:04

Limbaugh is also extreme right. Like Levin and Savage, he’s been accused of various forms of…intolerance. He has derogatory names for those who don’t see things his way, and for those who do things…he disapproves of. Limbaugh…is heard on more than SIX-hundred radio stations every day. His various comments about covid-19 have had a lot of coverage elsewhere; sometimes…reduced to just those three-point-seven seconds. I think it’s useful to hear them in a little more context. Here’s more of what he says, leading into that…during his show on February 24th:

Audio: Limbaugh corona: …weaponize bio…weapons…1:02

My point here today is not to argue with any point made by any of these hosts; but again, to provide a taste…of what they offer their listeners every day. These hosts reach millions of listeners every day…over radio. They may be talking to people who…generally…agree with their ideas. But they have impact. They re-enforce stereotypes and personal arrogance. They have influence…they are influencers. They argue…persuasively; they’re better communicators than most journalists or newscasters; and they do it…without a script.

As communication, it’s high art. But its substance…is toxic.

This is Cross Talk. I’m Paul Cross. I study, and I teach…Radio.

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Cross Talk: Season 4, Ep 15. On the failure to warn the public

Cross Talk
Season 4, Episode 15
For April 30/2020

“On the failure to warn the public”.

Please note: Transcription of audio used yet to be completed.

Audio: no montage use Scene 1:…going on down there…11

We don’t typically get to hear this type of audio in Canada. This voice…seeming relatively calm, in a routine-sounding relay of information…is from an RCMP officer’s radio call. Audio that is not usually released to the public. But this audio…is from the early moments of what would turn out to be the worst mass murder in Canadian history.

This is Portapique, Nova Scotia…on a Saturday night in April.

No one could have known that in the span of about 12 hours, at least 22 people would be murdered.

But some of the killings might have been prevented…had anyone taken more direct action to warn the public.

I’m Paul Cross. This is Cross Talk. Media history, commentary and analysis. Season Four, Episode 15.

It may be hard to imagine why the police arriving at a scene to find bodies near burning homes would not think it was urgent to warn residents in a wider area. I’ll come back to this.

The criticism of the RCMP for its apparent failure to communicate urgently and sensibly to the public during the mass murder rampage is deepening. Why did the Nova Scotia RCMP use Twitter? Why did it not ask the emergency measures office of the provincial government to issue an “emergency alert”? Why, at no time, did the RCMP issue any information directly to newsrooms across the region, so radio and tv would be prompted to get the warning into the news?

But it’s not sufficient – and may not be ethical – for radio and tv news organizations and newspapers to be pushing the RCMP for failing to recognize the value of getting an emergency alert issued.

The question needs to be answered inside the newsroom first: Did we get the story on the air as soon as we possibly could have?

Did we catch the very first tweet issued by the RCMP and start reporting on air, calling the cops, developing the story?

Or…Did we miss it?

Did the events play out for hours, at a time when we had no staff in the newsroom, no scheduled news casts, and no one watching out for important news?

The 24-hour newsroom is rare now. There are no overnight live radio newscasts originating in Nova Scotia. You might think tv or newspaper newsrooms would still have their feelers out in this province of nearly one-million people; but apparently not on this particular night.

I’m cautious about blanket statements; but it seems obvious now…the newsrooms of Nova Scotia were asleep.

I don’t know whether the Nova Scotia RCMP assumed newsrooms were not active at 10:30 on a Saturday night. Whatever else they thought, Superintendent Darren Campbell goes before the microphones five days later, to explain…at the time of the call we heard earlier…police thought the killer too, was likely inside one of the burning homes. They thought he had three replica police cars; and there were three at the scene. No reason for any urgent effort to spread information; they put out a tweet, urging people nearby…to stay inside and lock their doors.

Audio: No Alert 1…at that particular time…37

But not very many people in rural Nova Scotia USE twitter, according to their comments since the case broke. Residents interviewed on the news are incredulous; you used Twitter?

So…did anyone see the RCMP tweet?


Radio and tv and newspapers…they all missed it. I have searched the Twitter feeds of the most significant newsrooms in the province. NO ONE…re-tweeted the Saturday night Tweet from the RCMP…ON Saturday night.

The story…did not become news on Saturday night. But it could have and should have.

Come early Sunday morning…as radio newsrooms across the province are waking up…likely around 4 or 5 in the morning…I would expect they’d be scanning police social media and making phone calls.

But my own search of radio twitter accounts and radio station websites leaves me the impression most were having a pretty routine, slow-start Sunday morning…in the time preparing for their first newscasts of the day. That’s 6 in the morning for most stations.

It’s not until after 7 in the morning, that the story starts showing up in Tweets, and website posts; and those would coincide roughly with the first time the radio station…broadcast something about the story on the radio.

It’s also this time of day when the RCMP realizes – apparently, because of a witness who was assaulted and then hid in the bush overnight – that the killer is still on the run…with yet a fourth replica police car.

The police…decide…close to 8 ‘clock Sunday morning…they need to attempt to communicate an update, since the case is obviously still active. Again…they issue a Tweet. On April 28th, Chief Superintendent Chris Leather finds himself offering an explanation:

Audio: No Alert 2…by the RCMP…50

So again, Sunday morning, the RCMP relies on Twitter, and the hope that someone sees and reacts to tweets. It’s the emergency measures organization – the people who can issue an emergency alert in nova scotia – that contacts the police to say, hey…we can get an urgent message out for you! The RCMP cannot quickly decide what needs to be said.

At newsrooms throughout the province, a sleepy Sunday morning starts to involve tweets, and re-tweets of the RCMP…peeps.

CBC seems to catch the Saturday night tweet first…but it’s aleady Sunday morning. Pure Country CKTY in Truro tweets, apparently after the RCMP’s first tweet of the morning; a few minutes later, News 95-7 in Halifax is tweeting; in the next hour, CTV in Halifax, Global News in Halifax, and the Halifax Chronicle-Herald newspaper all clue in. Nothing about the story hits the national newswire, the Canadian Press…which goes to pretty well every newsroom in Canada…until 9:10 Toronto time. It’s already 10:10 in Nova Scotia.

This is just minutes before the suspect is shot and killed. By then…he has killed 22 people…mostly before there’s a single word on the news.

One of the reasons it’s thought we need to get emergency alerts on our phones…is that too many people won’t get the information from broadcast radio or tv. Too many people…don’t use a lot of traditional live mass media these days.

The emergency alert that would have gone to phones across Nova Scotia, had one been issued, would have also gone automatically over every radio and tv station broadcasting in the province or distributed over regional cable or satellite providers.

Theoretically then…almost everyone in Nova Scotia could have known Saturday night, that there was a very dangerous situation in progress.

An emergency alert would have helped. This is a case that meets any test of urgency; certainly, once a witness came out of hiding Sunday morning. There’s absolutely no doubt an alert should have gone out.

But why radio and tv across Nova Scotia did not spot and react to the tweets from the RCMP; and get potentially life-saving information on the air sooner…there’s another…really big question.

Radio and tv need to answer for how they missed the story for so many hours. Complaining there was no emergency alert…is just a little too much abdication of their own responsibility and shortcomings in this extremely rare and tragic case.

This is Cross Talk. I’m Paul Cross. I study, and I teach…Radio.

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How Radio adapts in the time of the pandemic

This is the script for Cross Talk, Season 4, Episode 14
For weekend of April 17, 2020 update: produced April 23/20.

How radio adapts in the time of the pandemic. 8:31

Please note: Transcription of audio used is yet to be completed.

Montage: M1Caller on CFRB “thank you for taking my call” M2Bit from AM740 about their basements M3John Tory on 1010.

We’re hearing some of the most significant, enduring attributes of radio right here. Comfort…companionship…information.

I am so pleased…with the way radio in Toronto is responding to the covid-19 pandemic. Everyone in media is working extra-hard, yes. But radio…is soaring; doing more and more for its listeners.

Over the past six episodes, I’ve been examining radio’s response to this ongoing crisis. With decades and decades of experience behind us…it’s only right, that radio is getting…better…in our current time of need. This time…I want to recognize and celebrate that.

I’m Paul Cross. This is Cross Talk. Media history, commentary, and analysis. Season four, episode 14.

The mayor of Toronto, John Tory, did not have to take the time on April 14th to go inside the nearly-empty, strictly sanitized studios at Newstalk 1010…CFRB…in the heart of the entertainment district in downtown Toronto. He didn’t have to take that chance. But he did. Tory…who was doing the afternoon drive talk show on 1010 before he ran for mayor…has a long history in broadcasting as an executive, talk show host, and as a reporter. And there he is, hosting a call-in show on the radio, with one guest: The city’s chief medical officer of health, Doctor Eileen De Villa. She’s the point-person for public health response to the pandemic in Canada’s biggest city. And here they are together, nearly a month into the state of emergency keeping millions at home and hundreds of thousands of others fearful about their safety at work…answering calls from listeners…who are looking for answers:

Audio: TORY 1 Tory going to call, clip through to her voice saying “mister mayor”…

The radio station, does something unusual for this hour, as calls and texts stack up on the lines and message boards: It goes commercial-free. Nothing in this hour…except…direct access to the newsmakers; not even a regular host to intervene. This is as close to unmediated messages as we’re going to get.

Earlier the very same day, I’m listening a little further down the dial, to AM740. The morning hosts at CFMZ are working from home; and have been for several weeks now. Morning news anchor Jane Brown is still going directly in to the radio station, for access to all the news content and software – so are the newscasters at many Toronto stations including Newstalk 1010 and 680 News. But the other morning co-hosts…are working from home:

Audio: 740 1…neil and Samantha up to “than it used to be”.

So let’s listen in, and let Neil and Samantha tells more…about how they’re making radio together, every morning…along with Jane…all in separate locations, without being able to see each other. And this, is coming directly to us…from those basement locations:

Audio starts with Neil “I’m connected to the radio station…” up to “not a bad thing”..(add a fade)

Radio hosts across Canada…and around the world…are adapting; thousands of them, broadcasting from home…and they sound…pretty much…like they’re face-to-face, on mic, in the radio studio.

That’s just a taste…of how radio in Toronto…is adapting…to keep bringing information to listeners as this social-distancing, physical-distancing…stay-at-home mandate drags on. Thank goodness for radio. And next time…I’ll dig some more…into ways radio continues to serve the listener.

Oh, you were wondering, I imagine. Yes…there’s an indication…even from the early weeks of the campaign to stay home: Numeris, the radio ratings company in Canada…reports Radio listening…is increasing.

This is Cross Talk. I’m Paul Cross. I study, and I teach…Radio.

Transcription of audio used yet to be completed.

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#novascotiashooting No emergency alert? Is that why local broadcasters missed the story?

The criticism of the RCMP for its apparent failure to communicate urgently and sensibly to the public during the mass murder rampage in Nova Scotia is deepening. Why did the Nova Scotia RCMP use Twitter? Why did it not ask the emergency measures office of the provincial government to issue an “emergency alert”?

Important questions. But here’s what I also want to know:

Did the RCMP issue any “news release” or other type of information directly into the newsrooms of radio stations, tv outlets, newspapers or other mass communication organizations in the affected area or through-out the province during the emergency?

Was the fact there was a killer on the run reported on the news on the radio first thing Sunday morning when newsrooms put their first newscasts of the day on the air?

Was the story on the radio?

How soon was the story on the air?

It’s not sufficient – and may not be ethical – for radio and tv news organizations and newspapers and the national news wire service to be pushing the RCMP for failing to recognize the value of getting an emergency alert issued.

The question needs to be answered inside the newsroom first: Did we get the story on the air as soon as we possibly could have?

Did we catch the very first tweet issued by the RCMP and start reporting on air? Did we make contact with them right away to try to find out what it was all about? Did we do everything we could have in our newsroom?

Did we miss it?

Did the events play out for hours, at a time when we had no staff in the newsroom, no scheduled news casts, and no one watching out for important news?

The 24-hour newsroom is rare now. There are no overnight live radio newscasts originating in Nova Scotia. (If I have somehow missed a station that has live newscasts on air overnight on Saturday into Sunday morning, someone will correct me on that.) The story could have been on the air Saturday night!

But even as radio newsrooms wake up on a Sunday morning – around 5 o’clock; perhaps as early as 4:00 – did the RCMP tweets or any other information about the situation immediately get picked up, developed, broadcast as the top story?

We’re going to have to put pressure on them too, if they’re going to be part of the crowd putting pressure on the RCMP. It’s hard to know what they did and when without access to their loggers that store everything that happens on air. Do their own websites and social media feeds reflect the urgency with which they reacted to and broadcast the story as it the events were still playing out?

Question: What did broadcasters do for their listener?

News 95-7 in Halifax is probably the most active and influential radio newsroom in the province. It’s a Rogers station that operates a news wheel like the Rogers flagship 680News in Toronto in certain dayparts, and news/talk at others. It appears the first time News 95-7 tweeted about the crisis was after 7:36 Sunday morning, when it attached a story from its related website Halifax Today. That was followed by re-tweets of RCMP tweets: at 10:07 and then 10:28.

At about 10:40 the radio station re-tweeted an RCMP tweet saying the gunman was “now in custody”.

Let’s check another radio station that we might expect to be active on the story while the events were in progress Sunday morning.

At Pure Country 99.5 in Truro, Nova Scotia – CKTY FM by its call letters, owned by Bell Media – it appears the first time the story was posted to their website was 7:16 Sunday morning. Yet local news staff also seem to have written and posted three other stories – including a Covid-19 update and two routine RCMP arrest stories surely based on routine news releases – between 5:30 and 6:00 in the morning Sunday. I wonder if the radio station…simply was not aware of the events in progress at the time. Or maybe the timeline shown on the big story has changed. I’m just not sure who has time in a radio newsroom to write routine stories for a website when there’s a really urgent story that should likely make them way too busy to worry about the routine arrest news releases.

Significantly, though: Pure Country tweets at 7:14 Sunday morning, and it’s not a re-retweet of an RCMP message. It’s written by a radio station employee, and reads “BREAKING (hashtag, and in upper case) and then: “N.S. RCMP are on scene of an “active shooter” situation in Portapique. The public is urged to stay away from Portapique Beach Rd, Bay Shore Rd and Five Houses Rd along the Cobequid Bay. Stay inside, lock their doors, call 911 if they see someone on their property.”

This is available directly to the 29-hundred and some people who follow the radio station on Twitter; but it has detailed information about the areas thought or known to be involved in the situation at that moment; and we can assume, the radio station is broadcasting at least the same level of detail over the radio, likely by 7 in the morning. News; about an urgent situation…while it is still happening.

CBC appears to be taking a very active role in examining the RCMP’s lack of a decision to request an emergency alert. CBC Nova Scotia appears to have issued its first tweet about the ongoing situation at 5:35 Sunday morning; earlier than the other broadcasters noted so far. It reads “RCMP tells Portapique residents to lock doors following firearms complaint”. And there’s a link to a web story; updated since, so I don’t know its original content.

CBC Information Morning, its weekday morning show out of Halifax, is not on the air on weekends – national shows would be on – but someone was tweeting from its account starting at 8:38 Sunday morning, then retweeting CBC News and the RCMP; before tweeting at 9:32 that CBC was carrying special news coverage of the crisis.

As for the RCMP: RCMP Nova Scotia tweeted, at 10:32 Saturday Night. The tweet reads the force “is responding to a firearms complaint in the #Portapique area. (Portapique Beach Rd, Bay Shore Rd, and Five Houses Rd.) The public is asked to avoid the area and stay in their homes with doors locked at this time.”

This is 10:32 Saturday Night! Even if radio newsrooms were shut down for the night…tv newsrooms and the national wire service should have caught this. It should have been news right away! Who missed it? Why…did the story not get major awareness?

The RCMP tweets…a local warning…at 10:32 Saturday night. Its feed suggests it does not tweet again…until 7:02 Sunday morning.

A follower responded to a follow-up tweet from the RCMP after 9 o’clock suggesting…this is the kind of information for which you should be issuing an emergency alert.

Did the RCMP try anything else?

A search of the RCMP data base suggests there was no media advisory issued until Sunday afternoon, when the Nova Scotia division released a “statement”. The statement is focused on the death of the officer killed during the events, and makes reference to a second officer being wounded. It indicates “This tragic incident has also resulted in many victims outside of the RCMP” but gives no further information and does not hint at how many people may have been injured or killed. The police force investigating a mass shooting…is focused in its communication to the public…on its own officer tragically killed in the line of duty. On Monday, the RCMP sent out a media advisory, saying it would give an update at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The advisory indicated that the events of “yesterday” had resulted in multiple deaths, including that of an RCMP officer.

The national news service – the Canadian Press – which has a bureau in Halifax…and would have had staff on duty at the national newsroom in Toronto where it was only 9:32 Saturday night when the RCMP first tried to get attention: Appears to have sent out its very first report of the story at 9:10 Toronto time Sunday morning.

This is a short time before the suspect is shot and killed, in Nova Scotia. As I write…we are led to believe he killed 22 other people…since the night before…while the news media was largely silent, for many hours.

One of the reasons it’s thought we need to get emergency alerts on our phones…is that too many people won’t get the information from broadcast radio or tv. Too many people…don’t use a lot of traditional live mass media these days.

The emergency alert that would have gone to phones across Nova Scotia, had one been issued, would have also gone automatically over every radio and tv station broadcasting in the province or distributed over regional cable or satellite providers in the province.

Theoretically then…almost everyone in Nova Scotia could have known Saturday night, that there was a very dangerous situation in progress.

An emergency alert would have helped. There’s absolutely no doubt about that.

But why radio and tv across Nova Scotia did not spot and react to the first tweet from the RCMP; and get potentially life-saving information on the air…there’s another…really big question.

Listeners are owed an explanation.

Update April 24: Please note: Times given here for the issuing of tweets by the RCMP and radio stations in Nova Scotia are as they appear on the Twitter feeds of those organizations. In my own work as a radio newscaster, one of the sites that is always open on my desktop is the Twitter feed of Toronto police. In my experience, newsrooms constantly monitor and check the major police services covering their listening area. But yes, this is surely a case for an emergency alert.

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#covid-19: What if you turned on the radio and there was nothing there?

This is the script – text – that accompanies the podcast Cross Talk: Season Four, Episode 13.

Here is the audio for this episode:
Cross Talk: Season Four, Episode 13

Cross Talk
Season Four, Episode 13
April 8, 2020

“What if radio was not there?”

What if you turned on the radio…and there was…nothing there?

What if your favourite radio station…was just…noise? Your favourite host…not there? Your music…gone?

These things are…un-thinkable to people who work in radio. We have to be there. No matter what.

In the time of the pandemic…radio…is doing some remarkable work; radio…is still there.

I’m Paul Cross. This is Cross Talk. Media history, commentary and analysis. Season Four, episode thirteen. (Note: I say twelve. It’s actually episode 13 for this season!)

Imagine…if radio disappeared.

This is the first time I have started a regular episode of this show…without bringing in sound; I always start with some contemporary – or historic – audio, connecting with the episode’s main issues.

This time. None.

In times of crisis, we need something to help maintain the structure…routine…dailiness of our life. Even if activities we consider “normal” are no longer possible.

The covid-19 pandemic plaguing the world today is one of those times. Radio…helps maintain our sense that life goes on; that the things we miss…will someday return.

Radio is doing a lot…a lot…to help us fill the void, with so many people working from home, and missing their workplace social contact; their time with family and friends; their routine shopping and social outings; watching a live game on tv, or going to the arena; stopping at a pub; going to a movie or a concert or a live performance of music or theatre.

Radio is talking a lot…about what’s on the viewing platforms…like Netflix, Prime, and Crave; where to find live streams of concerts, or re-runs of old sports; how to care for your family.

Who’s talking…about Radio?

I will. Today…just a few highlights…from radio in Toronto, in the time of the pandemic. These are the kinds of stories I would expect someone studying to work in radio…to be telling me.

Item: Just before 8 o’clock in the morning, I hear Stu Jeffries on Boom 97-3, talking about setting up to work from home this week; his family has gone into quarantine as someone recovers. He introduces one of his sons, whom he has asked for some help…and says…so what do you think? His son answers: All this equipment you have set up in the living room; it’s totally outside my experience…but what you are doing…is pretty cool.

Wow. What a moment between a parent and teenager…on radio station aimed at parents of teenagers!

Item: Less than an hour later…G-98-7. The morning show sounds pieced-together; but there’s co-host “Jemini” giving her daily entertainment segment; focused today, on the death of rapper “Black Ripper”. Several minutes long; stories about her memories of first hearing his music…samples of two of his songs…a feature, on commercial morning radio.

Item: even earlier in the morning…waking to the news-talk station we use to start our day. There’s John Moore on Newstalk 1010 – CFRB – with his medical expert, Doctor Mitch Shulman. This used to be a weekly feature. Since the pandemic hit, it’s been made a daily feature. Usually at 7:20 in the morning. Today, it’s on early. Because “Doctor Mitch”…has to suit up…he’s on duty, about to start his shift…in the emergency room of a hospital.

Item: every weekday, JazzFM afternoon host Brad Barker taps in from his make-shift home studio, to the extended morning show, to catch up with Heather Bambrick. Two friends on air together for a few minutes.

Item: Radio Humber, at Humber College…starts a weekday feature: Band Together…a live show on air, with a video stream available…of a local songwriter, performing in their own home. It’s entertainment, sure; it’s a big effort to make it happen. It offers the performer, a way to be heard when there are no live shows in bars or music clubs. Maybe…someone taps in and buys their music download…or their “merch”.

Sharp companies…are using radio. Here’s this really cool ad, on morning radio…urging me to call someone tonight, to check up on them and say good night. Urging us to care for each other…and to sleep well…even in these troubled times. It’s an ad from Sleep Country; a giant Canadian mattress store company.

In times of trouble, radio is…here. Other media, benefiting from radio’s attention, will probably never acknowledge it. But you and I know…radio….is here.

This is Cross Talk. I’m Paul Cross. I study, and I teach…and I make…and I listen…to…Radio.

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