680 News Storm Centre Exposed - An Exclusive

SnowIt snowed last night. Not a lot, but enough to get the local media excited. 680 News, for example, opened their Storm Centre for the first time.

It was about six years ago that I first wondered aloud as to what opening their Storm Centre would entail.

I wonder what setting up the Storm Centre entails exactly. As far as I can tell, it's business as usual with more time devoted to the top story of the morning, our little snow storm. Media outlets like 680News thrive when their listeners in are in a state of fear. Listening to them you'd have thought we were all buried and trapped in our homes living off the food and drink we have stored away. In reality, it's not that bad. Really.

The Storm Centre guy back then was Scott Simpson. I had a chat with Scott Simpson and got an exclusive inside look at the 680 News Storm Centre. We'll call this "680 News Storm Centre Exposed", because that sounds a lot more exciting. The words below belong to Scott.

Setting up the storm centre basically entails somebody telling me, "Simpson, you're on standby for Storm Centre tomorrow." That means I try to get to bed early, but end up tossing and turning until 4:15am when I call the newsroom ... I say, "It's not even snowing. The Weather Network says we're only getting 5cm." They say "Well, it's hit Chicago and they've cancelled a ton of flights. Come on in, you're our man."

That's about it. I get in, I see if any schools are closed, I find out what's up at the airport, maybe call Gary Welsh from Toronto Transportation to see what gear they're sending out, load up the admin side of the web site, and climb on the news wheel ... There's no time to run back and forth into and out of the control room, so I sit at a desk (the proverbial "Storm Centre" which, internally, is dialed up as CHFINEWS, even though they haven't done CHFI news from the newsroom in ... erm ... well, I don't think they ever did. Legacy tech, natch.) and broadcast from there, getting up now and then for fluid management.

So I sit there at the desk, and every half hour they throw to me, I read a sponsor or two, and try to tell it like it is .... sometimes it's a brain-bending five-hour whirlwind of bus cancellations and school closures (how many Montessori schools *are* there in the GTA, and why can't they get their kids to class when it snows?!) though, thankfully, most days I end up saying "Well, there's no big storm here ... but if you're travelling by air, you're screwed." I would rather be the voice of "everything's fine, get out and live your lives!" than the voice of doom and gloom when there's nothing to freak out about. I don't want to get a reputation as Chicken Little. If anything, I downplay the severity of what's going on out of the fact that I don't drive.

I saw Bowling For Columbine and some other stuff that has convinced me that keeping listeners "in a state of fear" is a terrible thing to do. I also don't like "neighbourhoods in a state of shock" or "outraged residents" or such things. I have two rules: tell the truth, and never be boring. They rarely clash, because the truth well told is usually a really interesting story.

There you have it, a Toronto Mike exclusive. Since Scott's left, I think they've gone all "state of fear" on us. Now be afraid... very afraid. White substance has fallen from the heavens!

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Humble and Fred's First Ever Network Cable Special

musicI recently wrote about the Humble and Fred network cable special that aired on Rogers 10 back in 1993. Thanks to Ryan at Rogers 10, I now have in my possession the opening for "Humble and Fred's First Ever Network Cable Special".

It's got some great footage of the old CFNY studio and a very young Humble Howard, Fred Patterson and Dan Duran. Fans of the old Humble and Fred morning show and CFNY alike will want to check this out.

Nice ponytail, Humble! Nice moustache, Fred!

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Hodge and Stockwood Out, Humble and Colleen Remain @ EZ Rock

RadioI'm hearing from usually reliable sources that Rick Hodge and Kim Stockwood are no longer part of the EZ Rock morning show. It's now a two person booth with Humble Howard and Colleen Rusholme.

A lot of noise was made by Astral when Rick Hodge left CHUM-FM for EZ Rock and CFRB last year. Roger, Rick & Marilyn on 104.5 CHUM-FM was a Toronto radio staple, and my mom's favourite morning show. Apparently, the EZ Rock / CFRB experiment failed.

I'll preface the following editorial with the following. I've met Kim Stockwood twice: at a party at Humble's house and when I sat in on the EZ Rock morning show to live blog everything. She's absolutely lovely, and I'm very sorry to see she's become yet another Toronto radio victim. Rick Hodge, however, is another story.

I didn't blog everything I witnessed that morning. I was there from before 6am until the show ended at 9, and since they were nice enough to let me into their off-air world, I understood some things weren't fit for print. The main event that morning never made it to this blog.

** Note: I just did something I haven't done in 9525 entries. I've removed a paragraph. **

Furthermore, I don't believe a four-person crew can truly work. I realize a number of three-person teams have succeeded, such as the aforementioned Roger, Rick and Marilyn and The Dean Blundell Show, but the best morning show teams seem to consist of two people. When this new morning show launched on EZ Rock, my initial thoughts were it would be better as Humble and Colleen. They were the pillars. Kim Stockwood seemed too green and it always felt as if Rick Hodge was being forced into the show with a shoe horn. It never sounded natural and it was entirely too busy.

So Rick Hodge and Kim Stockwood are gone at EZ Rock, and the show is now Stu and Colleen with Humble playing the role of Stu. They're also playing nothing but Christmas music starting now, but I doubt they'll be playing Stockwood's "Marshmallow World". That's too bad, I've always liked her version.

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Ranking the Radio Listener Outcries

radioIf my memory serves me correctly, I've written about five radio stations flipping formats in the past seven years. I'm sure more stations heard in Toronto have changed their formats during this period, but I've only blogged about five.

Here are those five entries and the number of comments left by frustrated fans of the abandoned format. The total for the Country 95.3 entry is as of this moment and will most likely have increased by the time you read these words.

  1. Country 95.3 Quits Country - 308 comments
  2. 1050 CHUM Now CP24 Radio 1050 - 83 comments
  3. Kiss 92.5 All Hits Radio Born From Ashes of Jack FM - 71 comments
  4. Virgin Radio 999 FM - 13 comments
  5. WBUF Drops the Rock - 0 comments

Don't go messing with a country boy.

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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, 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

Yee haw!

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Country 95.3 Quits Country

radioCountry 95.3, a station with the call letters CING-FM broadcasting out of Hamilton, Ontario, billed itself as "Canada's Most Listened To Country Station". I didn't know that until exactly two minutes ago when I found out they've flipped formats. Country 95.3 is now The New 95.3: Southern Ontario's Greatest Hits.

"Southern Ontario's Greatest Hits" apparently means classic hits, or oldies if you prefer. There's no market in southern Ontario for country music, even if it's "Canada's Most Listened To Country Station".

Recent Toronto area radio ratings revealed there really is nobody listening. They scored a 1.1, the lowest score this side of CP24 Radio 1050.

Farewell New Country 95.3. I hardly knew thee...

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"No Interest" in Returning to Edge 102 Following Death of Martin Streek - Strombo

RadioMartin Streek took his own life in July. The last time I saw Martin, he was chumming around with his pal George Stroumboulopoulos at the Casby Awards. Here's a clip of them that night.

The first Sunday following Martin Streek's death, I tuned in 102.1 the Edge to hear The Strombo Show. I was hoping for a tribute of some kind. When 102.1 the Edge didn't air The Strombo Show and didn't utter Stroumboulopoulos's name, I asked aloud whether Strombo had quit Corus. I put on my detective badge and started to follow the clues.

Last Sunday, I noted that CFNY did not air the first Strombo Show following Martin Streek's death. I was speculating that perhaps Strombo, a good friend and fan of Martin, made this happen. His show did air on other Corus stations. I'm a big Strombo fan, and I was interested in his tribute to Streek. For my money, nobody could impart their passion for good music the way Streek and Strombo could.

In a new interview with CHARTattack to promote his new CBC Radio 2 show, Strombo has admitted that Streek's death played a role in his decision to leave Corus. Here's an except:

And to be honest, after [friend and colleague] Martin Streek died I had no interest in going back on The Edge [in Toronto]. So Corus was not the best place for me to be.

Radio may well be a business, where people are hired and fired all the time, but that doesn't mean it has to be entirely void of integrity. Strombo made a business decision with his heart, refusing to be a part of the machine that fired his friend after 20+ years of passionate service – his friend who literally had the station's call letters tattooed on his ass and remained one of the last links to the days at CFNY when spirit mattered. George took a stand and I admire the shit out of that.

Well done, George. Thanks for proving me right.

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Toronto Radio Ratings (Now with PPM!)

radioNow that we have Portable People Meter (PPM) technology, we have a better grasp of true Toronto radio ratings. Mondoville just tipped me off that David Bray has published the latest Toronto PPM figures for September 2009.

% Share of Hours Tuned
(Mon.-Sun, 5a-1a)

Station A12+ W25-54 M25-54
Oct  ‘09
Oct  ‘09
Oct  ‘09
CBC Radio Two 1.8 1.1 0.9
CBC Radio One 9.6 7.5 6.2
AM 640 Toronto 2.6 1.1 5.3
Classical 96.3 FM 4.2 1.6 1.2
102.1 The Edge 5.3 5.9 9.3
News Talk 1010 CFRB 4.4 1.4 4
680 News 8.4 6.9 7.9
Flow 93.5 1.7 1.2 3.3
AM 740  Prime Time Radio 2.8 0.2 0.3
98.1 CHFI-FM 12.1 14.2 7.4
CP24 Radio 1050 0 0.1 0
104.5 CHUM-FM 12.8 20.4 11.8
Z103.5 2.7 4 3.5
Q107 8.6 8.1 13.8
New Country 95.3 1.1 1.1 1.5
The FAN 590 2.9 1 5.7
97.3 EZ Rock 6.3 7.7 6.8
Jazz FM 91 1.7 0.7 0.7
88.5 The Jewel 1.2 0.7 0.2
Virgin Radio 99.9 6.7 11.6 7.1
KISS 92.5 1.8 2.1 2.1

Here are a few of my thoughts as I take in the numbers. David Bray has a nice September vs. October chart, btw.

What do you guys think?

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Nobody's Comparing Phil Kessel to Ovechkin or Crosby

notepadOpen letter to Bob McCown: Nobody is comparing Phil Kessel to Alexander Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby.

This morning I heard a promo for Bob McCown's Prime Time Sports on The Fan 590 in which he belittled Leafs fans for comparing Kessel to Ovechkin and Crosby. I chat up several Leaf fans a day, follow several more on Twitter and dive into the Barilkosphere frequently to read what's on the minds of fellow Maple Leaf fans, and I've never heard this once.

We're not stupid, Bobcat. We're hopeful, but not stupid.

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Streets of Ontario, Chalk Circle Love and More Nick Charles on CFNY

radioI like this vintage CFNY Spirit of Radio clip because it opens with a great deal of Chalk Circle love. Chalk Circle, celebrated in this clip for winning a CASBY in 1985, was the first band I ever saw live.

This Nick Charles clip closes with a promo for Streets of Ontario, a show that aired on CFNY every Sunday afternoon between 4 and 5. Streets of Ontario previewed "some of the best of the non-recording-big-time tours and all massive things like that but right down to earth independent releases".

If you're now hankering for more Chalk Circle, I've got your "April Fool" right here.

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