Thursday 4 July 2013

Kirk of All Trades

My partner Kirk started his career in radio in 1967. (I was two at the time...) On the third day he'd ever set foot in the tiny radio station in Galt, Ontario he was left alone - completely alone - for a six hour shift. He spun the records, read the news and the sports - ripping the stories off the wire. He didn't really have a clue about how to do any of it - but he got through it and didn't completely embarrass himself. He vividly recalls the day he read the news that Bobby Kennedy was shot. Later he overhead his dad telling someone in their town that the best news report he'd heard about that event was by Kirk Mason, his way of letting Kirk know he was proud. It was unique having access to the news wire at that time - giving you a front row seat to history - a feeling I can relate to having worked in a newsroom myself and knowing as your eyes passed over incoming stories that people in their homes hadn't seen what you'd seen - no Internet competition when I started either. You may not have been physically there, but you could pore over the accounts and pick and choose what seemed most important.
While he spent a couple of years away from it - the bulk of his life has been spent in a radio station. His stories are legendary and there is not a moment of it that he hasn't loved. This week marked his 24th year at the Victoria station where he currently works - an anniversary he wasn't even really aware of until a co-worker pointed it out. I marvel at the fact he has stuck with one job, in one place for so long. I could never stay still, never stop imagining something better around the corner. But Kirk is one of those rare sorts who literally never complains about going to work and has never even contemplated retirement. He loves the people he works with, laughs every day and other than when the Malahat shuts down and the phone calls from the public become taxing, none of his work-related stories resembled any of my old work-related stories which often involved a lot of shouting, frustration and stress.
But it is also about his capacity to be content and carry on, his aversion to conflict and yes, his genuine love of the radio and the unique communion you have with people who you may never see. The business itself is a world away from when he first started - fewer and fewer independent owners, ever more intrusive consultants and play lists that don't exactly encourage innovation and the financial constraints that challenge every media medium it seems. And yet through it all, there is Kirk - his voice deep and his delivery unmistakeable - the tools of his trade completely altered but not the work itself - and his daily conversation with a group of strangers about what has been going on in our crazy world - summed up in less than five minutes. I can't imagine a world without that voice or how Kirk would cope if he were to leave the vocation he's followed for over 40 years. So here is to Kirk and the fact he still hasn't lost the magic of the radio nor the privilege of loving what he does so well.

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