I don’t have a single picture of myself working at CBC Radio. Isn’t that odd?
I spent ten years of my life working at CBC Radio Vancouver, at the CBC HQ at 700 Hamilton Street, and didn’t think to take a single picture of myself doing my work, on-air in a studio, out in the field extending the microphone to the hundreds of people I interviewed, etc.
You could say it was because I left the CBC in January 2007, ten years ago, prior to the inception of Instagram.
But the more I think about it I realize why. I was working REALLY hard. I was a freelancer. Not unlike my previous occupation, which was acting, I was judged based on what I had done last. Sometimes that was working as an associate producer on a current affairs program, sometimes it was gathering sound or interviews and editing an individual documentary or report. In the second five years of that ten year term, I was brought in regularly to cover the regional arts beat as an arts reporter for British Columbia. Incidentally, this last kind of work no longer exists at CBC Radio.
Which is the main reason why I left.
I got wind of how The Arts Report, the Toronto-produced hub of arts reports from across the country, was being phased out. I honestly couldn’t think of what I’d do if that happened. Go back to slogging along as a freelancer…piece by piece? That didn’t sound appealing. More and more work, previously produced by staff, was being metered out to freelancers. The piece of the pie was getting smaller and smaller.
But that wasn’t all. Things in my personal life were not going well. Anyone who has read the initial chapters of my first book Nearly 40 on the 37 knows what was going on. My very young son was showing all the signs to what, I now know, would be diagnosed as autism. My relationship with his mother was falling apart. Then I turned to the freedom of motorcycling to gather back my thoughts. Day rides up the Sea-to-Sky Highway or along Highway 101 up the Sunshine Coast were how I coped. The enjoyment of riding a motorcycle and, eventually, writing about the experience, would get me out into my home province. As opposed to writing a story about a place I’d never been to before, doing interviews over the phone, I could go to that place and gather the material first hand. I discovered a new way of applying the training that I had received working at CBC Radio.
Today I’m in a positive, loving and supportive relationship with my wife of seven years, Laura. My son Michael, diagnosed with autism in 2009, has transitioned wonderfully to high school and is in a technology immersion program that gives him fulfilling ways to apply his talents. I have a five-year-old son, Marc, who I live vicariously through as he sees for the first time the world around him and absorbs everything. I’m a happy husband and father.
I passed the much-changed edifice of the CBC building over the Christmas holidays. The sweeping staircase I always got a charge climbing has been replaced by a White Spot restaurant, jumbo television screen and shiny upper-floor TV news studios. I used to love passing the plaques for Bruno Gerussi, Robert Clothier and other figures that had been pioneers in the public broadcaster’s early decades as I climbed those stairs. Change is inevitable, but I do miss that old grand concrete staircase leading to a place where I was proud to work, that I had felt a connection to growing up. I will forever be indebted and appreciative of the journalism training, work and opportunities that I received at CBC Radio Vancouver, but now I’ve got to move on and make peace with the place that I blamed for dismissing The Arts Report.
Here’s the thing…as a freelancer I knew I was on the fringes. I knew that I would not be working if I didn’t pitch something really good after the story I was working on. I was never on staff, but I had a CBC Radio business card. At best, I was a contract player who could pick up the phone and preface a conversation with a potential interview subject or story contact with “Hello. I’m Trevor Hughes with CBC Radio.” Like Al Pacino’s line in The Insider if you take the ‘with CBC Radio’ out of that sentence, no one returns your phone calls…or emails.
At least for awhile.
For the last five years I’ve been using that journalism experience and freelancer mentality in the field as I’ve been travelling the province and beyond on my Kawasaki KLR650. It is paying off. People weren’t at first, but they are returning my phone calls and emailing back. It does take time, but I’m enjoying a connection with my home province I haven’t experienced before…and enjoying the ride.