All posts by Mike McCulloch

Five broadcast language clutches that irk me

Anyone who has spent any length of time in broadcasting and/or journalism has used these terms on the air and in their stories. Including me.

And if you watch and listen to enough content you are likely to hear each of these little gems of nonsense.

For the offending broadcaster, sometimes the realization of how godawful these terms and words are only comes after their ridiculousness has been revealed by a  colleague, superior or listener moments after uttering them into a microphone.

I present to you five of those shudder-inducing broadcast-isms that I have come to hold in contempt.

1) “It’s a crash-free drive.”

I used to say this one in about every “crash-free” traffic report I delivered up until it was pointed out to me how backwards it is. The way it was phrased to me by my superior was something like, “we would never report a knifing-free night in Kitchener.”

So report what the drive is, not what it isn’t. No crashes to report? It’s a smooth drive, it’s a great drive, typical drive-time volume. Just not a crash-free drive. Please.

2) Use of the word “blaze” in place of “fire.”

I’m guilty here too. But honestly, why say it? We hear it all the time when the announcer tries to soup-up their script with synonyms to fire. Sure, by definition a blaze is a very large fire. But is an overnight kitchen fire really worthy of being elevated to the status of blaze? And is this word even really used in conversation? Between human beings? Just say fire.

Additionally, overly flowery writing in broadcast makes me scratch my head. Just say it.

3) “Give yourself extra time.”

This phrase, while well-intentioned, is absolute nonsense. If I could give myself extra time I would win a Nobel Prize, because it’s impossible. Time is intangible. Time is fleeting. Time is a human construct used to measure the rotation of planet Earth.

Time is not something one can give themselves more of.

This little treat of poppycock language is dragged out of the broom closet and dusted off every time the road conditions turn for the worse. What the announcer means is either “leave early,” for where ever you’re off to, or “leave extra space,” between your vehicle and others on the roadway, because it’s covered in a slippery substance known (on the radio) as “the white stuff.”

Which brings me to 4) “We’re going to receive 10 to 15 centimetres of the white stuff today.”

I can honestly say I have never conjured up this phrase for use in person, on the air or online (except right now). Why? Because it’s another one of those things that only broadcasters say. Broadcasters, just do yourself and the public a favour and call it what it is; snow.

5) “Welcome back.”

Usually heard in talk radio after a commercial break. I wonder to myself, “where did I go?” when hosts use this phrase. Includes the variation “we’re back.”

What are some broadcast language crutches that irk you? Remember, by bringing them forward we can improve the quality of our collective radio and television experience together. Get me on Twitter, @McCullochKW.

Kitchener council candidate Harald Drewitz smears incumbent Bil Ioannidis

Smear campaign
1.  a campaign to tarnish the reputation of a public figure, especially by vilification or innuendo.

Harald Drewitz is running a negative, or smear campaign in his bid for a Kitchener city councillor position representing Ward 7, centred around the Forest Heights, Westheights and Highland Hills areas.

Take for example a portion of a post on Drewitz campaign website where an apparent letter from an anonymous Ward 7 “senior” named Gary is featured.

The post is titled ‘A senior’s reaction to the Roger’s (sic) Cable Ward 7 debate’, which as you may know, I had a front seat for as the host-moderator.

This excerpt is from the third and fourth paragraphs of Drewitz post:

“Mr. Ioannidis’ excessive rhetoric betrays his fear to tackle a potentially difficult issue.  He speaks a lot and says nothing.  I want the person who is going to represent me to be able to stand in front of a group and make a presentation with the courage of their convictions.

Mr. Ioannidis spoke at length about the high number of seniors in the ward. Why then did he fail to address the concern that I as a senior spoke about at the debate?”

This last part is where I get confused. There was no one named Gary at the debate. In fact, we did not have a live audience or any live interaction from television viewers. So who is Gary? And what concerns did he speak about at the  Rogers TV debate?

Whether Gary is real or imagined to push Drewitz agenda, this type of negative politicking bewilders, and frankly, disgusts me. Get me on Twitter @McCullochKW with your opinion.

A third candidate, Fauzia Mazhar is also running to represent Kitchener Ward 7.

Election day is nine days from now on October 27.

Vote wisely my friends.

Dan Glenn-Graham appears to have contradicted himself

Kitchener mayoral candidate Dan Glenn-Graham is embroiled in controversy with ten days until the October 27 election due to an email he claims was sent by a team member using his campaign iPhone.

The email is written in first person and is signed “Dan”. It appears to show Glenn-Graham asking Kitchener Ward 2 councillor candidate Wasai Rahimi to withdraw from the election and support competitor Dan Graham.

Both CBC Kitchener-Waterloo and 570 News have produced thorough stories on the matter.

In reading and listening to each outlet’s coverage, I have identified at least one contradictory piece of information gleaned from the interviews with Glenn-Graham which you can find attached to the stories I have linked above.

In the CBC interview aired Friday at 8:25 a.m., host Craig Norris asked Glenn-Graham to name the person who sent the email in question. He responded “I don’t think that would be appropriate.”

Then in an interview aired on 570 News Midday Show Friday at about 11:10 a.m., host Eric Drozd asked, “Do you know who sent the email?” Glenn-Graham’s response was, “At this point, it’s not clear to me, so no I don’t.”

Both interviews were presented as live conversations.

The key discrepancy here is that in the CBC interview, Glenn-Graham appears to be shielding the identity of the campaign staff member in question implying he knows who it is. Yet in the 570 News interview, he is no longer clear as to who that person is.

Campaign fairness

Meanwhile, I asked a (rhetorical) question on Twitter surrounding campaign fairness that elicited a number of responses from current municipal candidates. The question followed this statement regarding candidates being able to live with the choices they make in order to get elected.

What do you make of this latest plot twist in the race to form Kitchener’s next council? Get me on Twitter, @McCullochKW

James Rhodes drops Kitchener mayoralty bid; endorses Dan Glenn-Graham

And then there were four.

James Rhodes has dropped out of the race to become the next mayor of Kitchener.

Glenn-Graham expressed his appreciation to Rhodes for the endorsement. 

However, Rhodes name will remain on the ballot on October 27, because the deadline to officially withdraw from the municipal election was September 12.

Certainly an interesting turn of events. Rhodes sudden change of heart less than two weeks before the election seems a little odd. People don’t often enter a race for political office only to call it quits and endorse a competitor during the home stretch.

Election campaigns aren’t cheap. Rhodes has a website, campaign signs and has made the time commitments to participate in a number of debates.

Glenn-Graham, Berry Vrbanovic, Peter Martin and Slavko Miladinovic remain in Kitchener’s mayoralty race.

Poll: Do you intend to vote?

In three weeks from Monday, residents of municipalities across Ontario including here in Waterloo Region, will elect new mayors, councillors and trustees.

However, voter turn-out – especially in municipal politics – is awful. Anywhere from 25 per cent to 35 per cent of eligible voters actually cast a ballot.

For example, let’s look at the Cambridge mayoralty race in 2010, which had three candidates, Doug Craig, Andrew Johnson and Linda Whetham. According to the City of Cambridge website, out of 80,714 eligible voters, only (and I mean only) 23,494 people voted.

That means 29.1 percent of eligible Cambridge voters took the time to elect their mayor.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, or are truly disengaged and didn’t know, Doug Craig won. He collected 47.8 per cent of the vote.

That means of eligible voters, Craig was elected into another term as mayor by merely 13.9 percent of eligible voters.

13.9 per cent.

That’s it. That’s all.

Nothing against Doug, but that is not exactly an overwhelming mandate.

And this is nothing new. The case is the same in virtually every city, in every ward and for every position up for grabs.

Municipal governance is the layer of politics both most responsive and most likely to affect our day-to-day lives. And yet, very few people seem to be engaged in a democratic right that people have given their lives to deliver. A right that is supposed to under-pin our society.

So it begs the question. Are you going to exercise your civic duty, and make your opinion count?

Do you intend to vote in the municipal election on October 27? free polls


When I quit smoking

Nearly eight years ago I quit smoking.

And Guess what? It was hell; one of the most difficult things I’ve done.

But I had help. I used a prescription drug to get me past the overpowering cravings that followed in the first few days and weeks after my last cigarette. I also had family and friends who encouraged me to stay on course and permitted my irritability. Oh yeah, I also had a co-worker who used my predicament as an opportunity to try to get under my skin for his schadenfreude-fueled amusement. His plan worked.

And I also had willpower. I wanted to quit. I’d grown disgusted by smoking. The taste. The odour. The stinging sensation from smoke that had risen into my eyes. I was also concerned about the huge physical and financial toll of my near pack-a-day addiction.

I realized a major component to beating nicotine was patience. I had to learn to wait-out the cravings. That being said, the first few days combined to form a virtually continuous craving. It felt as if there was a nagging little voice in the back of my mind working to justify just one more cigarette.

I also learned that my addiction to nicotine had become ingrained into my daily routine. Wake up? Have a cigarette. Eat breakfast? Wash that down with smoke. Coffee? Smoke. Leave home for work? Smoke. Exit any building? Yep.

I had to  recognize that each of these day-to-day moments triggered cravings.

The good news is the intensity of these urges subsided over time. The same cravings that once seemed so absolutely physically and psychologically compelling gradually became mildly annoying and then almost non-existent.

Today, I’m only occasionally tempted by nicotine cravings. But it’s almost always when I am confronted by a waft of the seducing aroma generated by the lit cigarette of a downwind smoker. Or if I see cigarettes portrayed in a movie, television show or video game. Gone are the days when my daily life was filled with craving triggers.

I quit smoking on October 2, 2006.

However, my self-imposed “quit-date” was actually the day before, October 1. I had several cigarettes left-over for what I convinced myself were for, you know, just in case I couldn’t handle it. I struggled most of that entire day before I gave in to the cravings and relapsed. I smoked two or three cigarettes in a row.

That last nicotine-induced rush of dopamine-laced euphoria quickly turned to regret. I pulled the last two cigarettes out of the pack and crumbled them in my hand.

I haven’t looked back.

Quitting smoking was absolutely difficult. But none of the best things in life are easy. The time that I have spent not-smoking  has been enjoyed by my family and friends, and has been invested into leisure and work. The money I haven’t spent on cigarettes has been spent elsewhere. And finally my overall health is undoubtedly better.

My Conestoga College admittance demo

I was disappointed to learn that the Conestoga College Broadcast Radio program (from which I am a proud alum) no longer asks for a portfolio when prospective students apply.

I was disappointed because when I applied to the program in June (or something) of 2009, I worked tirelessly on a demo that included a few parody commercials.

I was (and still am) proud of the work I put into these recordings. Listening to them today, I feel like they offer a glimpse into the not-so-distant past when I was dreaming upon a star to get my foot in the door of the radio business.

When listening, please keep in mind I had no formal training at the time. I was also using a crumby little dictation microphone not suited for broadcast-quality audio.

So without anymore throat-clearing, I present to you; me trying to be funny five years ago. Be gentle.

Waterloo Regional Chair debate 2014

Waterloo Region municipal election debates

The races of candidates clamoring for your votes in the 2014 municipal election are well under-way.

Election signs dot the boulevards and front lawns along busy arterial roadways and neighbourhood streets around the region, mass-mail out election brochures are cluttering our mailboxes and recycling bins and apparently at least one candidate has incorporated the generally maligned yet arguably effective tool of robo-calling into their messaging arsenal. I have heard from two of my friends that each received a call from anti-LRT Regional Chair candidate Jay Aissa.

Another sign that election-season is clearly upon us is the deluge of debate programming found on Rogers TV Cable 20. I have the honour and privilege of moderating these debates on The Local Campaign Waterloo Region. The goal of this high-quality community programming is to help you inform your vote ahead of marking your ballot on (or before) October 27.

We have filmed the debate for Regional Chair, and the mayoralty debates for Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Wilmot. We have also completed all the wards in Kitchener less Ward 1 due to a scheduling conflict and Ward 3 due to John Gazzola’s acclamation. Check the Rogers TV website for a list of air-times. Immediately after one debate airs, it’s uploaded to the Rogers TV website and is archived for your viewing and vote-informing pleasure. So long as you’re a customer of any Rogers product (including cellular and high speed internet), you can create a free Anyplace TV account.

By the end of next week, our team at The Local Campaign will have waded through the debates focused on the eight Cambridge wards, and the Woolwich and North Dumfries mayoralty races. If you would like to ask a question of the candidates vying to be your municipal representative, send a tweet to either my twitter handle or to Rogers TV Cable 20.

Get involved by exercising your right to vote, but please make sure you make an educated decision. Whether that research is conducted through reading candidate websites, media reports, tuning into our debate coverage, or a combination of those mediums and others. Soon, we’ll each be chipping-in to pay the salaries of the people who are ultimately elected into office.

Make sure you do your due diligence to act as the check-and-balance that hopefully elects the best people for the job to represent us.

International Women’s Day

I have shared March 8 with International Women’s Day for my entire life.

From my centre-of the -universe perspective, the late winter date less than two weeks from the first day of spring was once more about birthday cake, seeing friends and family and growing older and wiser.

In fact, as a young boy, International Women’s Day was nothing more than a light-hearted punchline at my expense when various people in my life would inevitably realize my birthday falls on the same date in the calendar that the world honours women.

Even my mother ribs me to this day about the coincidence.

After a few more spins around the sun I have come to realize the greater meaning of International Women’s Day and sharing my birthday with it has become a privilege.

Since its origins during the first world war and after being officially recognized by the United Nations in 1975,  people around the world pause on March 8 not only to celebrate the many achievements made by the women’s movement, but also to cast an eye to the future at the pains still underway on the road to equality and women’s rights.

Because March 8 falls on a Saturday this year, I assume myriad gatherings of women (and men, but sadly mostly women) to mark the occasion will be scattered onto various weekdays. I had the pleasure of reporting on one such early International Women’s Day event put on by the Zonta Club of Woodstock this week at Quality Hotel & Suites.

At this event, I was enlightened (and frightened) by harsh realities highlighted by Christal Earle, the night’s keynote speaker. Earle spoke of continued human trafficking, slavery and the overall exploitation of women and children. These grave injustices are being carried out to this day, not only in the far reaches of the globe, but right here at home in Canada.

I believe it’s important that as a global society we do not tolerate oppression. As passive bystanders to injustice, we allow it to continue.  If we do not raise our voices when we see something wrong, then we have become part of the problem.

On International Women’s Day, remember that we can eradicate the maltreatment of an entire sex of people, if we stand together.

And less importantly, don’t forget to wish me a happy birthday.

Part-time job

I have some good news to share, as the title of this post might suggest.

I am now working part time for 104.7 Heart FM in Woodstock. As it stands now, I understand it is a short term arrangement meant to help the news team as they transition between news directors.

How did this come together, you ask? Allow me to explain.

Earlier this month I applied for that aforementioned news director role, but I didn’t get it. However, I was offered a chance to do some fill-in work, mainly reading news on the weekend but also doing various reporting assignments when needed. I started a couple weeks ago and most recently, I toured the Woodstock Hospital to check out a new digital record keeping system for medication and tests called Healthcare Undergoing Transition, or HUGO. Coming up Wednesday, I will be reporting from the Oxford County council meeting, and on Thursday I will be at an event put on by United Way Oxford. So this part-time job has quickly turned into full-time hours, at least for the interim.

While I would have loved to take on the news director position, getting back to work in any capacity is not only a relief but a breath of fresh air. Yes, it’s a temporary arrangement as it stands, but it allows me to keep my demo fresh and to keep practicing the type of work I love to do.