Press Recognition


My Interview with The Canadian Press

newsI got an email from a reporter with The Canadian Press. Here's a bit of what he had to say:

I'm working on a story about the state of and future of citizen journalism, including blogs and hyper-local sites, and would like to talk you. I'm interested in hearing from you about your blog's evolution from a small personal web site to a widely-read blog that's broken some stories before the mainstream press.

Now that's a subject that speaks to me. I conversed with the reporter this afternoon for about 45 minutes and I'm told the article will hit the streets some time next week.

We'll see how many of my fantastic quotes hit the cutting room floor this time...

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When Your Favourite Radio Station Flips Formats

radioAs a life long fan of radio, I know how attached you get to your favourite stations. You get familiar with the personalities, the schedule and the genre of music. When your favourite radio station flips formats, it can be jarring to fans.

Last Friday, Country 93.5 out of Hamilton stopped playing country music and started playing oldies. I wrote about the switch, and thousands of Country 93.5 fans found the entry. As of this writing, 258 comments have been left, almost unanimously calling out Corus and General Manager Suzanne Carpenter. Country music fans in the GTA are pissed.

I chuckle to myself when I think that I'm now the go-to place for country music fans to voice their displeasure at the format change, because new country is probably my personal least favourite genre of music. I can't stomach the crap.

The Hamilton Spectator even covered the format flip today and included quotes from this blog.

As soon as the last country song died on the station, listeners crowded onto online discussion boards to voice their disapproval. At torontomike.com, a fan with the screen name Sheila moaned, "The last thing this area needed was another Rock station ... Talk about bad judgment."

Jared T declared, "Country 95.3 was a fantastic radio station and a great refuge from the kind of radio 95.3 has now become."

If the lack of country music in the GTA has you down, join the support group at https://www.torontomike.com/2009/11/country_953_quits_country.html.

Yee haw!

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Globe Interview About Raymi and Remembering Toronto 1

newpaperThe Globe and Mail is writing an article about fellow Toronto blogger Raymi and they had a few questions for me about her and her recent breakup. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it's true. The article should appear in tomorrow's Globe and we'll see if any of my quotes made the final cut. I got a juicy quote last time a Globe reporter chatted me up.

Coincidentally, exactly six years ago today, I wrote about my big break. A producer with Toronto 1 wanted me to appear on a Toronto Tonight panel regarding someone who believed Star Wars was their religion.

Remember Toronto 1? It's now SUN TV and it's still horrible.

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The Ballad of Martin Streek and Me

NewspaperOver the past week or so, I've been communicating with Bert Archer who's been writing an article for the Globe and Mail on CFNY / Edge 102. Bert and I had a nice phone conversation and exchanged several emails and Gtalk messages. He was interested in where CFNY was going following the dismissal and subsequent death of Martin Streek.

I got involved because I broke both Martin's firing and his suicide. CFNY is also one of my favourite blog topics, as it's been my go-to radio station for over 20 years. Even today, as I analyze their song repetition habits and question their playlist, it's the closest match to my musical tastes on Toronto terrestrial radio.

Today, Bert's article about CFNY and Martin Streek was published. You can read it online on the Globe site, or peruse it below. As you'll read, I'm mentioned several times and even quoted.

The Ballad of Martin Streek by Bert Archer, Special to The Globe and Mail

The night 102.1 The Edge fired DJ Martin Streek, he showed up for a birthday party at Andy Poolhall on College Street. Amid a swarm of guests, he bumped into David Marsden, the Toronto radio veteran who'd hired him almost exactly 25 years earlier when he ran the station known as CFNY. According to his former boss, Mr. Streek came over and hugged him, whispering in his ear, "I've just been fired."

Outside the world of sports, personnel decisions rarely make the news. And it's very likely that program director Ross Winters's decision on May 12 and 13 to fire two disgruntled DJs, Mr. Streek and Barry Taylor, wouldn't have either.

Though several Facebook groups sprang up in support of the jockeys - one of them reaching a membership as high as 950 - news of the firings did not go mainstream until July 6. That's when the stunning news of Mr. Streek's death broke in the form of a comment from a friend of Mr. Streek's on torontomike.com. Its proprietor, long-time Edge fan Mike Boon, also added that that Mr. Streek had killed himself.

Soon, the news and comments started popping up on other sites, often in the form of direct attacks on the station whose call letters Mr. Streek had tattooed on his right glute. "The Edge killed Martin," said one torontomike.com commenter.

The Edge is hardly the only radio station in flux, but Mr. Streek's unrelenting enthusiasm for new music made him a symbol of the old, raucous days of radio, a channel of nostalgia unto himself.

"There's something about the 'Spirit of Radio' and what it once was," says Mr. Boon, referring to the old CFNY tagline that inspired a Rush song, "and there's a collective sadness about how radio's devolving in recent years. Martin was a guy who was always there, always solid, extremely likable. When he was let go a couple of months ago, it seemed like a final nail in the coffin."

Yet as Alan Cross sees it, habits have changed as well as taste. A renowned alternative-music historian who preceded Mr. Winters as program director at The Edge, he says, "It was just easier to leave the dial on your favourite station. Now you've got 24 pre-sets."

Mr. Cross, who still works for Edge's owners, Corus Entertainment, was a long-time friend of Mr. Streek's, but rather than casting him as a martyr, he sees the dismissal in practical terms. "A radio station is a business like any other," he says. "People get hired, and sometimes people are let go."

Adapt or die: That's the bitter, and, in Mr. Streek's case, chillingly literal truth. "Our vision is to serve the young adult audience of the GTA," Mr. Winters said in a recent interview, his first since Mr. Streek's death. "We target 18-to-40-year-olds, though mostly the 18-to-34s, and we lean that towards the men."

Though he refuses to comment on the dismissals, he does say that Mr. Cross "had put together a great radio station, but it had its challenges. And when I say challenges, I mean ratings problems."

According to broadcast research company BBM, The Edge is seventh in the Toronto market by number of listeners, with 507,500 people who tune in for at least 15 minutes a week. That's roughly half CHUM-FM's numbers, and 180,000 fewer than its classic-rock brother station, Q107.

Though The Edge might lack listeners, it still enjoys a mythological aura. Originally run out of a little yellow brick house on Main Street in Brampton, the rebellious clarion of alternative music had such a weak signal that fans in Toronto often had to improvise coat-hanger antennas to be able to pick it up. It's the sort of image only a serious lack of money can buy.

But by 1992, star DJs Chris Sheppard, Lee Carter, and Dani Elwell all resigned - Ms. Elwell read out her résumé on air in lieu of notice - because the new program director, Stewart Meyers, was reducing the play lists. But it was still different enough from the rest to attract the current generation of Edge purists, including both Mr. Taylor and Mr. Boon, who only started listening to it after the shift.

Mr. Streek had started out in his last year at high school lugging equipment for the CFNY Road Show - essentially an off-air roving party DJ gig. The '92 shakeup was his big break: he got Mr. Sheppard's old job. From there, he went through a variety of shows, outlasting Mr. Marsden, Steve Anthony, Dan Duran, Live Earl Jive, Kim Hughes, Humble and Fred and Mr. Cross to become the only staff link the station had to its CFNY days.

But as soon as Mr. Winters took over from Mr. Cross last September, Mr. Taylor says both he and Mr. Streek started feeling marginalized.

"Originally, when Alan was program director, Martin and I were participants in the music meetings," he says. "When Ross came in, he just sort of switched the time of the music meetings and made it closed door and didn't let Martin or I know."

The tenor of those meetings had changed, too. According to Mr. Winters, "Our music is not picked by the disc jockeys, it's not picked by me." It's picked by listeners. The station now does three types of audience research every two weeks, and bases its play lists on the results. "If the 18-to-40-year-olds want to hear Foo Fighters and Guns n' Roses, then that's what we'll play."

Mr. Taylor says that he and Mr. Streek made it clear around the office and on the air that they were not happy with the decreasing diversity of the music they were being asked to play. It was a long way from the mid-eighties, when, under Mr. Marsden, listeners were promised $1,002 if they noticed the same song being played more than once in 24 hours. The official limit now is 7 times in 24 hours.

"Martin and I, we both had opinions and would share them on the radio," said Mr. Taylor. "I was told never to talk about anything to do with politics, and that I talked too much about the music." Ditto, he says, for Mr. Streek.

In the last couple of months before they were fired, according to Mr. Taylor, rumours started that the two were on the chopping block. Mr. Streek's own burden got heavier when his long-time romantic relationship dissolved. (Sources would divulge neither her name nor the circumstances of the breakup.)

Then, on May 12, Mr. Taylor got called into a meeting just before his shift. "Ross had an envelope, and he said, 'Ratings at The Edge aren't doing well,' " Mr. Taylor recalls, " 'so we're going to have to make some changes,' and he gave me the envelope, and that was it." The envelope contained his letter of dismissal. According to Mr. Taylor, Mr. Streek was called in for a similar meeting the next day, when he got his own envelope. The last link to the Spirit of Radio days had been severed.

It was that night Mr. Streek showed up to the party on College Street and ran into Mr. Marsden. After a couple of pleasantries, Mr. Streek, who had turned 45 three weeks earlier, leaned in to Mr. Marsden. "You're the only person who ever interviewed me for a job," he said. "I don't know how to interview for a job."

This was not unfamiliar territory for Mr. Marsden, who'd been through several firings, a name change, and now works a 10-hours-a-week jockey gig at Oshawa's 94.9 The Rock. "What we are on the radio is what we is," Mr. Marsden says, remembering the last time he saw his old protégé. "When your job disappears, you ask, 'Who am I,' and too often the answer comes back, 'Nobody.' "

It's a good article that answers some questions we've had these past few weeks. In my quote, I suggested the firing of Martin Streek was the final nail in the spirit of radio's coffin. In actuality, the final nail might be this disturbing fact from the above article.

According to Mr. Winters, "Our music is not picked by the disc jockeys, it's not picked by me." It's picked by listeners. The station now does three types of audience research every two weeks, and bases its play lists on the results. "If the 18-to-40-year-olds want to hear Foo Fighters and Guns n' Roses, then that's what we'll play."

Determining CFNY's playlist is simply too important to be left to the masses.

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COED Magazine Picks Up On The Party Playlist

hyperlinkA couple of days ago I wrote about the attention my Best. Party. Playlist. Ever entry was getting thanks to Stumbleupon. I've had to explain myself in the comments of that entry because thousands and thousands of people were dropping by and now think I'm quite the loser for thinking that's the best music out there. It was a corporate retreat, it was designed for the masses and it was meant to be chock full of guilty pleasures, I swear!

I'm still seeing all this extra Stumbleupon traffic over there, but now there's a new source. Something called COED Magazine is asking if it's the best party playlist ever. That question is currently on their home page, making me look like a total douche bag to a whole new crop of web surfers.

This is a good lesson for bloggers out there. Be careful what you post and in what context it's posted, because you just never know what's going to go viral in this day and age.

coed

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1:28 That Spoke To Me

PodcastHere's 1:28 from the 2-hour Humble and Fred podcast that really spoke to me.

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Making a List of Greatest Canadian Song Lists

canadaA blog called "like a muffin or a beet" has listed greatest Canadian song lists. I'm pleased to see my Top 100 Canadian Songs list made the list. I also like how it sees my work as the work of many.

TorontoMike posted their Top 100 Canadian Songs: The Definitive List in 2007 (#1: The Tragically Hip – New Orleans Is Sinking)

This Toronto Mike site is so amazing, so thorough and so complex, it couldn't possibly be the work of one man.

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I've Been Farked

MouseI just took a peek at my site stats for today and it seems I've been Farked.

For this photoshop contest on FARK.com, Cornponebread submitted an image based on the infamous Libby's Zoodles can and included this note.

There is a story behind this label. Click here to find out all the sordid details! (Slightly but not really NSFW-ish, but you've been warned)

Go ahead and click that link if you want to see Zoodle Uncensored. It's actually SFW, so you don't have to hide it from the kiddies.

Zoodles are indeed animal noodles.

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Fast Company Links to My Digital Newspaper Entry

NewspaperSince this blog is all about me, I'm going to create a category to track references and links to TorontoMike.com from the mainstream press.

Fast Company's article, UK's Guardian Newspaper Embraces Future With Free Digital Content , by Kit Eaton, links to my How Should Newspapers Make Money Online? entry from last month.

Video killed the radio star and the web is just about done with the newspaper.

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CBC Radio 2 Likes My Hockey Music

CBCI know when a web site links to mine when it shows up in the referral logs. Still, I somehow missed this CBC Radio 2 blog entry about hockey music which references my hockey music entry.

This morning while Tom Allen was talking about "blow drying geese," the headline Introducing Hockey (in a BBC RSS feed of music news) jumped out at me. (So did Tom saying "blow drying geese." Never did catch the rest of that story.) Anyway, the Hockey that BBC was talking about is a band from Portland, Oregon.

But such is the nature of the web that one thing surfs to another, and so this "introducing hockey" post is for those who love the game...and its related music.

There are The Zambonis, from Connecticut, who claim to be "North America's Favourite ALL-HOCKEY Band!"

For a hockey music clearing house, you'll want to look at the Canadian website, Hockey Music. Among other things, there you will find forums about Hockey Music. You may freely discuss your computer set-up for sound at the rink; which teams use live organ music, and so on.

But the greatest find has to be "Toronto Mike's" list of best songs about hockey, illustrated with video examples. To have a look and listen, go to Hockey Songs: The Best Music About Our Game.

The entry is dated January 6, 2009, but I only caught traffic flowing through that page this morning. It doesn't seem my Crocs goldrush will repeat here.

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