That’s My Commentary For This Week, I’m Philip Shaw

Phil comment450
I want to thank Simon Crouch, Bob Becken and all the staff at Blackburn Radio in Chatham for their support for my radio commentary over the last several years.  I would also like to thank Carl Veroba, Andy Watson, Sid Myers and countless others for their support in getting my radio commentary started 12 years ago.  Last week I learned that there were major budget cuts at Blackburn radio across the board and across the province and my radio commentary was one of those.  I very much appreciate the opportunity and privilege Blackburn radio gave me and I owe many thanks to them.

It’s a long story on how I even got in front of a radio microphone.  12 years ago Andy Watson who at that time was starting up a new farm department at CFCO radio in Chatham called me and asked if I would do a weekly radio commentary.  It was completely out of the blue his call and after a visit to the station I set out on my radio career.  The Thursday commentary was supposed to be my day and it was up until last week.

Of course I didn’t know how to do a radio commentary.  So what I did was take my newspaper column and simply read it on the radio.  What else was I supposed to do?  I had no training but it was obvious that many people had enough confidence in me to not yell fire in a crowded theater.  My initial thought was that I sounded pretty good on the radio but that there was something not quite right.  I had to put inflection in my voice, breath a little bit better and shorten everything down.  Believe it or not in those first short weeks on the radio my commentary was about five minutes long.  It was crazy.

Over time I cut everything down.  For instance I realized that the written word is nothing like a radio script.  So in other words I had to edit everything down to a point where I thought it sounded good on radio.  So at the end of the day I edited a five-minute piece down to about a four-minute piece.  The rest as they say is history.

That meant that every week I would have to visit the studio in Chatham.  That meant that every week I would have to go to the studio and ring the doorbell.  You might wonder how a doorbell would mix with on-air disc jockeys that are live on the radio.  I did too but I was told that the on-air personnel would see a light flashing and then they should know to go to the door.  So you could just imagine all those nights when the disk jockey didn’t see the flashing light and I was outside the door freezing to death hoping they would notice the flashing light. Needless to say somebody would come running out and opened the door for me.  Then I would sit down and record my commentary and if I had trouble somebody would help me edit it.  It was a weekly activity.

Through the years that all changed with computer technology.  Near the end of my 12 years at CFCO I was able to use computer technology to record my commentary at home and e-mail it to the station.  This was a lot more efficient and less costly for everybody involved.  Is also saved me a lot of problems by not having to stand in front of a closed door anymore.  It was all a work in progress but one that I really enjoyed.

I think the highlight of my radio career was winning a bronze medal for radio commentary in 2006 from the Canadian Farm Writers Federation.  The topic of that commentary was the Ottawa solidarity farm rally. What I remember about that was it was totally unfiltered.  I had been at the microphone of the Ottawa Solidarity rally with 10,000 farmers in front of me.  That night I wrote the script and the next day I called Simon Crouch and read it into my cell phone while he recorded it in the studio.  A few months later I won my award. It’s a funny thing sometimes how things happen.

On my way back from Bangladesh in January 2009 I received an e-mail telling me that there were cuts at Blackburn radio back home.  I know the economics of AM radio and I know they are shaky at best.  Even though there was no recession in the farm economy over the last two years, quite the contrary actually I knew the pressure to cut costs and to change the a.m. radio paradigm was intensifying.  During this time I cut back my commentary from four minutes to 2.5 minutes and it seemed to me with the advancement in technology and the different listening patterns of younger people the future of agricultural commentary may surely be at risk.  In other words the management at any a.m. radio station would be severely challenged to continue without drastic change.  I could feel the changes coming; in fact I think everybody could.

It is truly an evolution.  I really enjoyed my time as a radio commentator, giving listeners an unfiltered, high-level, agricultural economic approach to our common farming problems. Thank you Blackburn radio. Thank you Simon Crouch, Carl Veroba and Andy Watson.  I appreciate everything you did for me.

How about one more time..that’s my commentary for this week, I’m Philip Shaw