Crisis can expose who we really are

Jun 19, 2023

Last week I was stunned to hear that TSN1260 was off the air.

I found out in a fashion as abrupt as how the station itself went dark:

The text message to me said: “So there’s no more race report?”

For the past 5 years I had the pleasure of delivering the CanTorque Race Report on the Jason Gregor Show (you guessed it, on TSN1260). It aired on Thursday afternoons from 3:40-4:00. F1, Indycar and our exploits in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series were weekly staples. In addition to covering professional racing, we were able to focus on local racing.

Listeners to the show posed really good questions; whether it was offering or requesting an opinion on a racing controversy or asking about how to get started in racing. Engaging with listeners was great.

From a personal standpoint-being asked if I was the guy from the radio by someone recognizing my voice was something that I’ll never forget. Candidly it’s not as though it happened very often but was extremely cool when it did.

With the flip of a switch 1300 staff and 6 radio stations were eliminated. My experience was with TSN1260 in Edmonton, that’s the focus of this blog.

Sunwapta Broadcasting was how I knew of CFRN1260 and CFRN-TV as a kid.  The building located at 184 St. and Stony Plain Road was the first thing that we’d see coming into the city from my hometown of Stony Plain. It was truly a landmark.

I was always fascinated knowing that’s where the sound on our radio was coming from. Never, in my wildest dreams, would I ever have imagined that one day I’d not only get access to those studios but I’d be making some of those sounds!

From the time it was born in the early 90’s I was an avid listener of 100.3 the Bear, one of Edmonton’s Rock Stations. In the 2010’s my in-laws company Campbell Automotive bought spots on the bear which eventually included a visit from Paul Brown, Yukon Jack and Gillian Foote to say thank you around Christmas time. Because CanTorque and Campbell Automotive shared a building I was also introduced to them-they were all high energy and very friendly. Their visit stuck with me.

Flash forward when Astral (the forerunner of Bell Media) salesperson Marc Stevenson stopped by to chat with my brother-in-law not knowing that they had sold their business. We ended up chatting for almost an hour and shortly thereafter CanTorque was an advertiser on the Bear which also included ads on TEAM1260.

Loc and I much younger than we are today.

References to the glory days of radio make me feel my age; but I don’t have a choice. We had a great relationship with the marketing folks within Astral as well as getting to know most of the on-air personalities.  In addition to the Bear Morning Show I’ve become friends with Lochlin Cross of Cruz FM but was the mid-day announcer before moving to drive time at The Bear. His then co-host Warren Barris won a contest of ours to be a social media reporter to 1260 which eventually lead to him being hired full time.

Before the was known as Diesel Warren Barris won our Social Media reporter contest

I did my first hit on 1260 giving a report trackside at the Indy 500 with Dustin Nielson, Wil Fraser and Lt. Eric.

I’ve almost always voiced my commercials and it turns out that there’s more to it than just having a decent voice. Producer Chris was always amazing to deal with and encouraged me to feel like I was going over-the-top when I was actually just barely starting to have a bit of energy….it’s much more difficult than it seems.

The station went through a number of changes with several key personnel being moved around or removed from the Bear and I felt like our ads had run their course.

Cue a call from Jason Gregor in 2018 which lead to a brief meeting and the rest, as they say, is history. I met Gregor many years before and, to be honest, I didn’t really like him-and I’m sure that he didn’t like me. As we’ve done the CanTorque Race Report for the past 5 years I’ve gotten to know Gregor quite well and consider him a friend. He’s someone that I’m extremely proud to be partnered with.  The Jason Gregor Show raised over $3.5 million dollars over the past 13 seasons, Gregor’s Grads provided countless suits & tuxedos for underprivileged grads and Gregor gave generously of his time to multiple good causes.  Everyone at the station gave back to the community.

Having former NHL’er Jason Strudwick as co-host was a great move and Connor Halley does so much in the background to keep things moving that very few people will ever see.  They are all great at what they do and excellent human beings.

Until the covid pandemic changed everything I would mostly do the show from the studio.  It’s only a few min away from my office and I always appreciated the better sound quality than that of doing the show by phone. My phone connection to the station often echoed where my words were bouncing back after a 1/2 second pause…..extremely distracting and likely the cause of my former cellular provider’s lousy service….any guesses who that was?

It is in the crises of everyone finding out at 9am on Tuesday June 13th that in the blink of an eye the station was off air that everyone’s true self came to the forefront.

From the side of Bell Media: they did just as I said, flipped a switch. There was no warning, there was no chance to say goodbye.  Nielson’s show went to a commercial break to cue the 9am news break and in that moment the station was gone. Not only was the signal terminated, all social media was disabled and all signs for what used to be were erased. They pulled the plug and the station was dead.

What I don’t understand is why this couldn’t have happened on a Friday night when the station moves into syndicated programming and the number of listeners is the lowest.  Give staff the weekend to process before getting slammed with questions. Nope, no thought for what people were going to go through; of if they did think about their staff they just didn’t care how hard this would be for the people that had given so much to the parent company.  Bell Media showed who they are.

Ironic that the same parent company claims to care about mental health while causing so much mental and emotional anguish. Sorry, I said Ironic, I meant Hypocritical.

Conversely, if you take a look at the responses from Gregor (with Struddy and Connor), Nielson (with that of Lt. Eric), Lowetide & Tom Gazzola-all have been extremely thoughtful in their messaging. They all have a strong connection to their listeners and each one of them is as focused on the listeners as they are on making sure that they find the next position to take care of their families. They will deserve your listership wherever they end up and whatever they do.

Gregor’s responses:
Dusty’s response:

Keep your eyes open, these guys will land on their feet and the next versions of their shows will be even better than before.

Of course, we will also maintain our connection to community through our network at Crier Media.

Thanks 1260, you will surely be missed.

Colin Livingston

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