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Jeff Winskell: The Wind Just Pushed Me This Way

Updated: May 31, 2023

Jeff Winskell is a bit of an anomaly in radio. Most folks attend university courses specifically tailored to broadcast, which leads them into the industry naturally, but Jeff went from film student to radio show producer in just a few years.

In this episode, we talk about exactly how that transition went, as well as the lengthy radio career he created for himself afterwards. Jeff's been a large-scale program director all across Canada, from Vancouver to Ontario, working with big names like Virgin and Bell Media. He's also been recognized for his work more than most- He has a total of 13 nominations for Canadian Broadcast Industry Awards, with 5 of those being wins (Station of the year, 2x Music Director of the year, and 2x Program Director of the year).


Jeff and I discuss the path he took across the nation, the differences he found between the East and West, and the logistics of being in charge of 21 radio stations at the same time. Yes, you read that right.


As of right now, he's taking a break from radio, and finally going back to his university roots as a camera operator. And as if his story wasn't crazy enough already, he's also got his own woodworking business on the side, making beautiful live-edge tables and home décor. He's a self-described jack-of-all-trades, master of none, but I'd argue his mountain of broadcasting awards says otherwise.


To connect with Jeff, check him out on LinkedIn, or consider picking up something from his woodworking shop, WoodXperts Furniture. It's not every day you get to buy a table hand-crafted by a broadcasting legend.

 

Transcript:


Tara Sands (VO) 00:00:01

The Sound Off podcast. The podcast about broadcast with Matt Cundill starts now.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:01

This week, I speak with Jeff Winskell. He's programmed with Bell Media in St. Catherine's at 97.7 Hits FM, a.k.a. the White House of Rock, and also in interior British Columbia. He's also programmed for Rogers in Vancouver. He has a radio story which didn't start out as a radio story. I love these kind of stories. Jeff Winskell, along with his Australian cattle dog Scully, listening quietly in the background, joins me from Richmond, BC, where we start with a line from a Robbie Robertson song. Just some people grow up wanting to get on the radio, and for others, the wind kind of pushed them there. And I'm here to say that I'm guessing it's the latter with you. Is that true?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:00:52

Yeah, it absolutely is. I always had a love for radio. My parents were television producers. They actually worked for Rogers back in the 80's, and they produced a lot of local programming here when Rogers used to have many community television stations around the lower mainland. So I grew up in the television business, but my parents did a lot of programming that was music related. Beyond Rogers, they did interview segments with artists and comedians and all kinds of people for MTV, Much Music, CBC. So I actually grew up around a lot of radio people because my parents were producers, they were camera operators, they were editors, but they utilized radio hosts as their interviewers for a lot of these segments. So I got to know a fellow named Jerry O'Day, who, you may know, a bit of a West Coast legend out here. And I've known Jerry my entire life. I call him Uncle Jerry. And that kind of plays into my story a little bit later down the line.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:45

So it's interesting because I sort of said, oh, the wind kind of pushed me there, and I really wasn't prepared for an interview with, really, you're a second generation broadcaster and you grew up in a household with broadcasters. So what's that like?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:01:58

It was wild. I mean, we spent a lot of our time as children running around television stations and being dragged out to shoots. And at a young age, still in single digits, we were coiling cables and logging tapes back when that was still a major thing you had to do before you had to do your linear editing. So it was pretty wild. I mean, my parents being leaders, producers and whatnot, the crew parties were often at our house once they wrapped a shoot Friday night. Our place was the place to come hang all the especially the young single men in broadcasting that didn't have family in the area and stuff. Our house was just this sort of meeting place for all these different broadcasters. It was pretty wild.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:44

Anybody famous in your house?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:02:46

Not really. I mean, just a lot of behind the scenes broadcaster types. And, I mean, people like Jerry O'Day would be hanging out at our house. A lot of the sort of local radio personalities and stuff like that. I got to be along for a lot of these shoots with famous people. My parents interviewed Stevie Ray Vaughan. They interviewed Jay Leno. So I got to tag along for a lot of that stuff. Unfortunately, I can't really say we had any of them over for dinner.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:03:12

And then when you finished high school, you went off to not necessarily university, but an art school.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:03:17

Yeah, I went to the Art Institute of Vancouver. Burnaby. My dad was actually starting to- he just started teaching there maybe a year or two before teaching everything from film and television to Photoshop courses and things like that. And I really wanted to get into the film business. I wanted to kind of take what I had from television and go a little bit beyond that, more into feature films. And my real goal, sort of in my 510 year plan, was to become a camera operator for feature film and hopefully eventually, you know, become a director or cinematographer. That was where my real passion lay. So with my dad being a teacher there, I actually had a discount on tuition. I had half price tuition, and I thought, you know what? This is perfect to go to Vancouver Film or BCIT for the television broadcast program or anything like that. And it cost me a lot more money. So I had an opportunity, and I knew of some of the teachers that were already there, like a really amazing audio engineer and composer and entertainment lawyer named Jeff Young. So there were people there that I wanted to learn from. So, yeah, fresh out of high school, I went straight to the Art Institute and went into the film program. But the problem was, when I graduated the film program, it was soon after 911. And what ended up happening was the American economy. They're doing everything they can to they could to keep it going. And California started offering massive, massive incentives to productions to stay down south rather than running up to BC. So two thirds of the union guys were out of work. There were guys that had 1015 years doing camera that were doing second assistant camera. So my opportunity to get into the business kind of dried up. I had a line on something before all that happened, and then I found myself with a film degree and not a lot going on.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:04

And when we think of the type of film you were studying, again, it's around 9/11, turn of the millennium. What are you learning in school about shooting film? Is it digital, or are we still using tape?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:05:16

At the time, it was tape, but it was going digital. So it was when we were getting into the mini DV format, for example, that was kind of the popular format to be using in film school, especially since real film was so expensive. There were a few projects that we did on 16 millimeter, but most of the stuff was centered around digital. The Sony and the cannons that had fantastic cameras at the time that you could put through some good color correction and filtering and make it look like it was filmed. So, yeah, we were mainly learning the digital platforms. We were learning compositing special effects, we learned copyright law. It was kind of an all encompassing course, which is really good. You even learned the basics of being a PA on a film set.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:06:00

And we're on the cusp of HD. I mean, I still think you're two or three years away, but I think that you, being in the film industry, knew that high definition was on the way.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:06:09

Yeah, absolutely. So we got to play with some of the new technology that was coming down, but we didn't have access to it as students. Pretty much everything we were working with was Mini DV based, which is still a great format. I mean, the resolution on that was quite amazing from sort of the previous level of cameras in that range that were the highest stuff.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:06:29

What was your first job after graduation?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:06:32

So, after graduation, it's kind of funny. So this is where it kind of leads me down the path towards radio. I was struggling to find work. I was taking on the odd production job for my parents company, but even their business was very slow. Worked on an independent film as a volunteer camera operator. I was doing that kind of stuff. And so Jerry O'Day had at the time, he was program director, morning showman and music director for 650 CI, the oldest station here in Vancouver, which was standard radio at the time. And he had a side business with another radio guy, Matthew McBride. And their side business was a voice tracking company for small markets. It was a little bit ahead of its time when this was happening early. Two thousand s. And so they were producing shows that would be sold to small markets and be able to fill time slots that they didn't necessarily have the budget to fill. And Jerry and Matthew, you needed help with some web stuff. I mean, those guys are both great radio guys, but they didn't have the skills to build a website and stuff. So I started helping them build a presence online. And we were actually meeting every Sunday at a place called O'Hares Pub here in Richmond. And it's a great little spot, great neighborhood atmosphere, Irish pub. And one day I came in and sat down. There were already beers on the table, as there often was at these meetings. And Matthew, at the time, he was managing cluster stations in the Nimo that was independently owned at the time, central Island Broadcasting, that's been bought by Jim Paterson group since. But he was general managing that group. And he said to me, Jeff, I know you're looking for work, you're struggling right now. I've got a job as a copywriter in Nanaimo that I'm having trouble filling. And I know you can write copy. Maybe you haven't done 30-second radio commercials, but I know you can do it. Do you want to come out for 30 days? If you don't like it, you can head on home. No hard feelings. If you like it, you can stick around. So literally the next week, I packed up my futon and all my clothes into my 75 Dodge Dart and took the ferry over to Nanaimo and started as a copywriter, which would have been 2003, I believe.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:08:46

And that's a pretty nice part of the planet, and it's a pretty nice job. I know a few people who have been in that spot, I think, actually at that radio station. And it's still a pretty good gig if you can get it.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:08:57

Yeah, I mean, the one thing I will say, that's kind of the downside. Maybe the staffing levels are better than they were, but we had two writers for, I think it was about six stations in total, if I remember correctly. And so many of these are local clients, very few national clients, and a lot of them are running weekly sales or changing their copy of either every week or every month. And we were sometimes writing 30, 40 spots a day, which can get a little tiring. And at the time, I was making $8 or $9 an hour.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:09:26

So what are you thinking about when you're writing this? Because now you're doing this writing for radio. So here's somebody who's in the film, learns about film, very visual, very visual. And now you've got to change the visual aspect of the whole thing and write for people's. Theater of the mind.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:09:41

I wish I could say there was a lot of opportunity to do that, but in reality, it was very price point type ads. This is what's on sale. This is what it costs this week. There wasn't a lot of opportunity to be very creative. And there was another writer there who is 20 years my senior, who is a brilliant radio guy as well, and he would often be the guy to write the More Theater the mind spot. So as much as I have a year of copywriting under my belt for my first year in radio, I would never claim to be a great copywriter simply because of that fact that I never really got the opportunity to really explore that until later in my career.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:10:18

But sometimes the genius is keeping all that information down below 30 seconds.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:10:23

Absolutely. Especially when you got these small market clients that are adding in extra sentences when the spots are already time to 30. And now you've got 45 seconds of copy, and you're going back and forth with this client who's insisting that all this information is in there. And that really strengthened my customer service skills to be able to work with some pretty tough business owners that are very insistent, yet I've still got to get this down to 30 seconds. And some of that stuff was networked as well. So if that spot wasn't time to exactly 30 seconds, the back end might get chopped off. So trying to balance the two of making the client happy, getting all the information and that they want with our time constraints and needing to keep things to 30, it was quite challenging.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:11:04

I guess you stayed longer than 30 days.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:11:06

I did, yeah. Stayed for a full year. And to be frank, at the end of the year, I was feeling a little burnt out. I was making barely $9 an hour and feeling pretty burnt out. Having a conversation with my dad at the time and he had a bunch of projects coming up that we're going to pay $30 an hour. And so I gave them my notice and came on back to Vancouver to work on some projects. And that was a lot of fun while it lasted. But again, those kind of dried up and I started looking for work again. And that's when I got another call from Jerry O'Day, who said he was looking for a show producer at 650 Seat.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:11:42

And you started producing a show?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:11:45

Well, not right away. So I actually started producing for Red Robinson. So I took over the Red Rock Diner on Sunday afternoons. It was noon before. Red is such an amazing guy to work with. He's a legend. He's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He's one of the pioneers of rock and roll radio, and he's just one of the most kind guys ever. It was a really cool way to enter a major market building because a guy like Red, I had a person train me, quote unquote, on the board, which the training lasts maybe an hour. And then they said, all right, have a great day and walk out the door. So I'm still intimidated here. I'm pushing buttons when I shouldn't and all kinds of stuff. And Red was the kind of guy who would come into the studio after doing that and go, don't worry, kid, you're going to get this, man. You're going to get this. Just keep focusing. You're going to get this. No problem. He was that kind of guy. I remember working, opting for other people in the next few years that you hit the button at the wrong time and they're flying off the handle on you the minute they're off the air. Right. But Red was just not that guy. And that's something that really stuck with me my entire career, was the way that Red was just relentlessly positive with me. Yeah.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:00

I also get the feeling when I hear you tell the story of Red encouraging you that he's telling you he knows that it's challenging and there's an art to it and there's some finesse and it's kind of like driving a race car and flying an airplane and going to the moon all at once. Which it is when you're working with somebody like him on a station like that.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:13:20

So for a little more context, just on the challenge of operating his show, probably about anywhere from a half to two thirds of the music that he was playing on his show, because it was a specialty show, wasn't in the system. So I'm running CD card decks. It's like the old days. I'm stacking up all these records well, CDs, even though we still called them records at the time, and I'm playing the odd song out of the machine. Then there's a placeholder for a song that's got to be played off a CD, and then half the time those old denim CD cards wouldn't fire. So it was beyond just the sort of taking it out of auto and hitting the button when you're supposed to. There was a lot of juggling and focus involved in that show. So it was pretty challenging for a newbie to step into something like that without much training at all.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:14:06

And those records are under three minutes. All of them?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:14:10

Yeah, one of the shortest ones. Red would always use this to time up at the back of the show if he needed a record that was just a little over a minute. Long Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows the amount of times you'd hear that song at the back end of the Red Rock Diner says probably one in four shows.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:14:29

And you're inside a building that has Z 95. And you wound up on that station, too, right?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:14:35

I did. So after about three months of producing Red's show, I became Jerry Odysse morning show producer as well. So at this point, I was working 5 hours a day, monday to Friday with Jerry and then working Sunday afternoons with Red. I just started picking up everything I could with the radio station. I was producing talk shows for some of the paid talk programming that was happening on the Am station in the evenings and the early morning weekends. I was doing promotions. I was setting up broadcast lines and remotes tear down, all that kind of stuff. So I was doing basically every single thing I could. And I really wanted to get into music. Music has been one of my biggest passions as well. I've played music most of my life, my first guitar, my 7th birthday. So music was really where I wanted to go with it. And Jerry at the time, and I loved this man to bits, but he was a little bit protective of me doing other things. He wanted me to focus on the show and not be doing all these millions of other things. And he had taught me to reconcile logs, so I would go through all the paper logs and delete or add in the songs that were changed on the logs. But I wanted to do more. And Jerry was a little bit holding me back a little bit from doing that stuff because he wanted me to focus on the show. But I was talking with Gary Russell at one point. He was our general manager at the time, and Gary was a great general manager. And he said, Jeff, what do you want to do with yourself? You're doing all these million different things. What do you really want to do? He said, I love to get into music. I would love to be a music director, but I'm having troubles getting opportunity to get on selector at the time. And Gary said to me, you know what, for the next little while, I'm going to go and unlock his door. He leaves at about one or 02:00 every day. I'm going to go unlock his door. You go in there and you play around and you self teach yourself. Just don't fuck anything up. I'll have a conversation with Jerry, but this is how we're going to start it. So you go and you start messing around. Just don't screw anything up. So I just started staying late and unpaid hours is just self teaching selector. And then when we implemented Music Master, I was right in there and absolutely love Music Master, still do to this day. I love it so much that Malcolm Sinclair from Music Master has become one of my great friends in radio because I spent so much time on the phone with him. And then we just became so close. So I really just dove hard into the music thing. And the opportunity for me to really get into music and start working with Z 95 came when Astro Media bought the radio station out. Gary retired very quick after I don't know if that was his choice or not, but he retired very quick after that. And Kira K at the time was the music director for Zed, and she just announced that she was off to, I think it was Calgary at the time. I think it was vibe. So Brad Phillips came in as our new general manager, and very soon after that, Eric Samuels was shown the door. And we had no program director and we had no music director. And so Brad saw the skills that I had with Music Master and basically tapped me to be the temporary music director for Z 95. Actually, it was in its brief history as 95 Crave at the time. Basically, Brad told me, this could be months, we're going to fill your old job. So I was now in a position where I'm in a temporary role as music director. They're filling my old job. I might not have any job once this all progresses. It took them months to hire the new program director, which was Ronnie Stanton, imported from Australia, of course. And Ronnie and I worked together for about four or five months before I finally said to him, hey, man, I need to know if this is permanent or not. Otherwise there are other opportunities that are coming up that I should probably pursue since I have no job to go back to. And he had a contract on my desk within a week. And I became the permanent music director for Zed, which we quickly launched to Virgil Radio that January. Wow.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:18:27

So you got into a rebranding situation fairly quickly.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:18:30

Absolutely. Yeah. I'm six, eight months into being a music director with a lot of APD roles as well, without the title, helping with scheduling, all those kinds of things. And here we were rebranding a radio station which was so much fun to be involved with. Little interesting because the rebrand was working within. Virgin has all these really real brand standards that you have to adhere to. So it wasn't just all of our concepts in the boardroom that get executed. You got to do things the way that Virgin does things as well. So it was a wild experience.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:19:03

Are you also in the building at the time when Astral gets purchased by Bell and then you have this long period, I think it might have gone like a year and four months before it even got approved. Are you part of that shit show?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:19:15

Yeah. So basically this is another kind of interesting part of my story, just to give a little bit of more background to it. So Mark Burley, who was in Cologne at the time, he would come down and visit us regularly and Mark would always come in and sit in with me and watch how I was programming the radio station. We were doing things a little bit different from most programmers. We were hand placing every single song and element on the log. So Mark would come in and sit in with me and watch how we do things. And him and I started to develop a relationship. And Mark called me about a job opportunity in Colonial. So this is now about four years into me being a music director there. He had a job opportunity for me as the assistant regional program director, the music director for SunFM, and the program director for Am 1150, the news talk sports station with Bell there. I was thinking at the time, this feels like a lateral move. It was a heck of a lot more responsibility with a lateral move financially. So I was leaning away from taking it, even though I really would have liked to work with Mark and whatnot. I was two years into a relationship with my now wife, who I met at Virgin Radio, actually. And I had somebody come to me and say, hey, Jeff, you need to take that job. What do you mean? Well, you're not going to have a job in a few months if you don't. They were working towards one of their plans of reducing staff, and apparently I was on the list they didn't have room for a full time music director anymore, and they ended up combining the shift with one of the on air announcers. So one of the on air announcers, Taylor Jukes, who is a fantastic programmer now in Miami. She was mid days at the time, and she took over the music director role. So I did take the job on. That person advice, thankfully ended up in Kelowna, and it was right around that time that the transition happened to Belle. I think I was in Kelowna for a few months before the transition actually happened.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:21:15

In just a second, more with Jeff as he heads east first to Kelowna and then to St. Catherine's. And if for some reason you've grown tired of our dulcet tones in your ears, you can grab a transcription of this show and read the rest of it on our website at soundoffpodcast.com.


Mary Anne Ivison (VO) 00:21:32

Transcription for the Sound Off podcast is powered by Poddin. Your podcast is an SEO goldmine. We help you to dig out. Start your free trial now at Poddin.io.


Tara Sands (VO) 00:21:32

The Sound Off podcast.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:21:46

You are you get to Kelowna you weren't sure at first, but you're working with Mark Burley, so what could possibly go wrong?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:21:53

It was an amazing experience. Working with Mark is one of my absolute favorite times in my entire career. Mark and I have different styles in many regards, but the same styles in many regards as well. I learned a hell of a lot from Mark. He's a great coach. I've watched all the talent that he's coached. I'm good friends with many people who have worked under him, whether it was at the same time I was there or not. And it was just such a great time in my career to learn from an awesome programmer. And we had Don Shaffer there as our general manager, who was a tough guy to work for sometimes, but he was fantastic as well. Brilliant guy, and then just so many great people that I was getting to work alongside with. Gord Visuti, who is our news director, brilliant news guy. Phil Johnson on the morning show There there's just so many great talents in that cluster for a small market to have such great talent, not just in that building, but the other buildings as well. It was a bit of an eye opener. I wasn't sure what to expect getting there. I always heard kind of the crap talk about small markets understaffed beginner talent, and a lot of that building wasn't that I got to work with Andy and TJ on Easy Rock and Kevin and Sonya on Sun FM. There's just so many great talents in that building.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:23:08

I mean, I brought this up a few times, and a lot of past have gone through Cologna for a small market. Oh, I did my small market time in Cologne. I mean, that's like saying I went camping at the Holiday Inn in many.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:23:21

Regards, it is I will say cologne. The one major downside is just the cost of living there is so high. But wow, what a great place to go cut your teeth on the air if you're a newbie. It's in my opinion, probably the best small market that you could wind up in to grow your jobs.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:23:40

Yeah, I think that's been well established with the number of people who have gone through. I would also like to give a shout out to Fort McMurray. Again, expensive. The wine is not nearly as good in Fort McMurray and the price of everything is triple everything. But still, it's a great place to go get radio experience.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:23:56

Absolutely. Listenership in Fort Mac is pretty high. There's a lot of people listening to radio there. You can be a celebrity in a small town there if you're on the air. I know a lot of people have gone through there. I have hired people who have been through Fort Mac night and day, living style compared to Colonial.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:24:15

So is this a place where you're really picking up a lot of management experience even if you're just watching?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:24:22

Yeah, I will say I wasn't just watching because I had the PD, the news talk station, which is quite an experience for a 30 year old guy who's managing half the team were north of 55, 60. So I was getting the experience there with some great people, but also just being able to watch Mark do his thing. Like that's the kind of education you just can't pay for because, you know, a lot of the great coaches are not teaching. There are some great, great radio people that are teaching, like Bruce Gilbert Out East and Niagara, what a great programmer he is. But yeah, you can't buy that kind of teaching.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:24:55

Well, speaking of Out East, cause Bruce Gilbert did the White House of Rock and 97, seven Hits FM and that's eventually where you wound up, right?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:25:03

Yeah. So Bruce is a good segue on this. So while I was in Colonial, I wasn't there too long before I got a call from Bob Harris, who was the general manager there at the time. And Bob and I were talking about the PD role for Hits that was open and we were pretty far along in the process to the point where we were at the offer stage when Bob called me and said, you know what, you are our number one, until we had one of our former program directors come out of the woodwork that is interested in coming back. So unfortunately, you're now our number two and we're going to go with this other fella who it turned out was Bruce. Bruce and his wife Sarah were moving back down from Ottawa, I believe it was at the time. And so Bruce came back to PD Hits and fast forward to 2014 and Bruce decided to head off to Niagara College to teach radio program there. And Bob called me back and said, jobs open again. You want to come out? So that's how I ended up out of the White House of Rock. What an experience that was. It's another one of my favorite times in my career there.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:06

So I have negotiated for that position before, and I don't know what you put in your offer ask, but I asked for Buffalo Bills season tickets. What did you ask for?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:26:17

What did I ask for? I think I asked for about five grand more than what they had offered me. And it would surprise me if buffalo Bills tickets if that would have killed the opportunity for you because I don't think they're very expensive at the time.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:30

No, it won't. And everybody would know exactly where to find me on Sunday at 01:00. I mean, listen, it's a remarkable radio station in a remarkable part of the planet, st. Catherine's, Ontario. What was your experience like at the White House of Rock?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:26:45

Oh, man, it was so wild. I mean, I walk in there and I've got Bigs and Bar and pasty Jamie on Mornings and what a team they are. I think it took a little while for me to build a rapport with them and have some respect and whatnot. Again, I'm some kid coming in, managing some folks who all have some years on me, and it was challenging the first couple of months. I have an amazing relationship with them now. We built quite an amazing relationship. They're some of my favorite people to work with. I got to bring in Jesse Mods, who's now mornings on CJ and Calgary. He was my afternoon drive guy. And Jesse is just one of the best in the biz, in my opinion. He's so fantastic to work with. He kind of has the same attitude as me as this relentlessly positive attitude. So Jesse would sometimes step over the line and get a CVSC complaint and him and I would have a conversation in my office. And they were one of the most easy conversations to have with an announcer on a complaint like that and just so incredibly talented. And Paulie Morris, like, wow, what a guy. The guy is such a legend, and he deserves legend status. He's one of the best music guys in the biz, hands down, and one of the most kind human beings. He's just such an amazing guy. You just go out for a beer for him and you want to just keep having more beers because you want to keep hearing more stories and just spending more time with the guy. It's just amazing. So the experience of the White House of Rock was awesome, and I got to work alongside Sarah Cummings. At the time, she was the PD for Kayla and Hamilton and Ez. Rock in St. Catherine's Niagara. She's an amazing person, great programmer. This is my first time working with a programmer who came up through the promotion side rather than the programming side of things, and she was amazing at what she does. And Lisa Peters there as well. She was promotions director, who has now replaced Sarah Cummings in the group program director role there. So St. Catherine's is just one of those places where there are so many great people there. It's kind of like cologne that way. I've been really lucky to work in markets where it might be a smaller medium market, but wow, the talent and 610 CKTB. The hosts over there. Tim Dennis, Tom McConnell, Larry Fedora, who's now gone, kevin Jack, Bonnie. Heslop on the news side. They're all star teams there. They're just amazingly talented people and just fantastic humans.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:29:08

Not a coincidence, I think, that again, you have wound up in a market where there's a lot of wine.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:29:14

It's funny because when I got the job offer for St. Catherine's, I actually called my aunt who lives up in Ottawa. I said. Hey, Jill, what's St. Catherine's like? And she said, well, on the bright side, you're moving from one wine country to the other. It's really beautiful. But Jeff, I think it's a little more blue collar than you're used to, being a Vancouver and Kelowna boy. So she kind of warned me a little bit about it being a very different city. But my wife and I, we fit it right in. Love the area. Great craft breweries, big craft beer guy. I like my wine, too. I'm not very educated on it. Most of the time I spent at wineries down there was when my aunt was down for a visit. But you can never get sick of rolling hills and vineyards. It's just a beautiful site. Whether you're a wine guy or not, it's just beautiful site.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:29:59

I think one of the best things about 97 seven Hits FM has been its durability. And I think he kind of answered the question by talking about his blue collar roots. And you got Buffalo on one side, you've got Q and the Edge coming in on the other side, and then you've got Rock stations and Hamilton in your face. And here's the radio station going untethered through the entire process for three decades.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:30:23

Yeah, it's funny because under leadership of the company, the programming leadership, there was not a lot of attention paid to Rock. Us rock guys were kind of almost left to our own devices. And so in other experiences, other roles, especially in the Top 40 side, I might have a VP calling me or format leader calling me, going, hey, why did you add that record? I never had a single phone call anywhere along those lines while working with Hits and leaving it up to myself and Paulie Morris and the rest of the team to all be involved. We had an open music meeting. Anyone and everyone was allowed to come to it. Even if you weren't on the Hits side, you're allowed to come and have your say and we got that radio station back up to number 125 54, and we were often beating Why Want to Wait in the Hamilton Diary market as well. We had great numbers in Toronto, although we weren't paying for that anymore to see it, so we couldn't really monetize stuff up there. It was just incredible. You drive the Hits cruiser downtown Toronto and people are yelling at you on the street. Yeah, it's fabric on. It was a ton of fun. You said untethered, and that's kind of what it was. We were just left to our own devices and we won some station awards. We won morning show awards. Jesse Mauds got his Alan Waters Young Broadcaster award. We did some really great things in the few years that I was there. It was a ton of fun.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:31:51

Oh, like the Tragically Hip scalper bit.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:31:54

Yes, that was a Jesse Maude thing, and that was one of the most wild things I'd ever seen. He got that featured on competing rock stations across the country. US stations played it, it was featured on US broadcast television even. It was absolutely wild. We just really felt the passion for that band and the anger that came along with someone trying to make money off a dying man's last tour. And that actually is what sparked. We did the hippiest Canada Day ever and rebranded to Hip FM for the day and played the entire discography of the tragically Hip from front to back, chronological order with inserting a whole bunch of different interview snippets and live cuts, all kinds of stuff. It was one of the coolest days in radio that I've ever had. Kudos to Polly and the whole team there, because everybody put in a ton of work on that. But without a guy like Poly Morris in the music chair, you can't pull something like that off to the level that we pulled it off. We saw our streaming numbers spike by, I think it was like 20 or 30 times, and we already had really good streaming numbers at the time, but we were getting streamed all across the country on Canada. It was pretty wild.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:33:13

What do you think when you hear the news or you read that 610 CKTB didn't have anybody show up for their morning show a few months ago? I mean, you're in the building, so that's weird.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:33:26

It is weird. There's probably just a miscommunication somewhere. One of the things that's really been challenging for them, I'm sure, since my time there. While I was there, we had to eliminate one of our four talk show hosts and we started piping in stuff from either Toronto or Ottawa since then. Larry Fedora was also shown the door. So they're down to two hosts there, as far as I know. I think maybe three, but it's such a slim operation and there's not a lot of people available to fill in who know the market. And if you've got someone lined up to fill in, and all of a sudden they've got covet and you don't have the gear to quickly set them up for a home broadcast. It's that challenge that comes back to constantly reducing staffing levels and something goes sideways with someone, you're stuck, you're taking CFRB or something else. And one of the problems with that is you can get CFRB across the lake in St. Catherine, so all you become is a repeater for a station that's already coming in fairly clear. So it's one of the sad state of the industry of seeing reduction in staffing levels. But I get it too. I've seen the decline in financials year to year to year, so I don't have all the right answers. I just know it's a sad situation for the business to be in this kind of situation.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:34:45

Yeah. I guess what I'm saying is, I didn't think it would ever happen to us. When I think of radio, I think, oh, okay, the phone call is coming. Nobody's coming at six. I'm the PD, I'm now the host, and I'll be there at 610. And I think we're used to it always working that way, and it doesn't really work that way anymore. And we've seen festivals canceled across the country. Montreal couldn't put on a pride parade. We don't need to talk about Pearson. It's really everything in the labor market. And I just didn't think, this is where I feel radio is mortal. And I thought it was immortal to this sort of stuff, because let's face it, everybody, they want to be on the radio except for this particular day at this particular station.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:35:24

Yeah. And you know, I think the willingness to move people see the odd person who might have had that opportunity to start in a major market and grow their entire career in a major market that is so rare and so many people are not willing to go to Fort Mack or Left Bridge, Alberta, and put in some time in a smaller market and really develop the talent. I also think that we've sabotaged a lot of the opportunity for people to cut their teeth on the air. So we kind of took away a lot of those opportunities. And I was even seeing that before I left Vancouver to go to Colonial the first time, we no longer had these late night shifts that were live no longer had live weekends. I mean, Ronnie actually did a good job of bringing some of that back with some live weekends and things like that, but the opportunities were kind of disappearing for, say, a BCIT student or a Columbia Broadcasting student to come in and do an internship. So we actually started a program called the Honor Boot Camp, where I put them through two weeks of offer voice tracks that would get critique every single shift. We'd critique everyone. Every day they go in and record a new one, so that for two weeks, two weeks of voice tracking that would actually go to air in overnights and then two weeks of coming in and doing overnights live. So over six weeks we could grow or at least see the potential for growth in some of these young students. And that was the kind of opportunity that also gave them great air check content to be able to send out demos. So I brought that program along with me to Colona. I brought it to Hits FM. We just don't have enough of that stuff these days. And I understand PDS are really stretched in taking on more than they ever have, but we've also got to commit to making time to grow the young talent. It's kind of a double edged sword. There is an issue of maybe commitment levels, willing to move, all those kinds of things, expecting a big job right out the gates of school to the industry not having enough opportunities.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:37:24

And you move again after this because now you moved twice. You went from Colona now to St. Catherine's and you head back to British Columbia, which is probably a move that brings you closer to home.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:37:34

It is. And you know, David Corey was our VP of Programming at the time and I had been expressing to him that my wife and I want to start a family. We want to do it on the West Coast, doesn't need to be Vancouver, but we'd like to get back to BC, or at least close to BC. And David was really good about telling me, listen, Jeff, I want you to hang in there. We're going to find that opportunity for you. When something opens up out west, we're going to get you back out west. I don't want to lose you. He was really great about assuring me that there was something coming that I didn't need to leave the company to get back out west. And it was a very bittersweet phone call to get the call that, hey, this is the opportunity. One of my mentors, Mark Burley, he's shown the door and I'm being tapped to come out and replace them. It was incredibly bittersweet because of my love for Mark, my relationship with Mark, obviously not wanting to see him be shown the door. Never expected a guy like him to be shown the door either. I mean, that was quite a shock to all of us. But I also wasn't going to turn down the opportunity to come back out over my personal relationship with Mark. So it was a very bitter, bittersweet kind of situation. But we took it on and we went driving back across the country.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:38:49

Well, I'm glad you mentioned Mark because I wanted to bring this up because Marty Forbes was on this podcast a few weeks ago and talking about a number of things that get taken away from radio that really you shouldn't take away. And sometimes I think, listen, not everybody can do this forever. But I think when you take away someone like Mark Burley, you're making the business poorer, you're making the art of doing radio just a little bit less. So I can totally understand what you're saying. And of course it's weird to go back and replace the master, as it were.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:39:21

Yeah, it was very tough and it's sad when you see people like that not in the business anymore. I mean, I know Mark's really happy, him and I still communicate and he's happy doing what he's doing, he's loving life. But the industry lost one of the greats. I mean, he's coached so much great talent over the years. It's a shame that he's not coaching full time, working for various media groups on a contract basis even.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:39:48

Yeah, I mean, listen, we asked the question to somebody who works at a corporation are you better with this person or without? They look at the salary, they say without and you and I can have the discussion go oh, well, with of course, yeah.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:40:00

I mean, it looks a lot different on a line item on your salary sheet. Right. And I can see how some people have to look at it from that perspective because that's their job. It's just too bad that those decisions have to be made.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:40:14

And then you're in charge of 21 radio stations. How does that work?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:40:19

Well, it works with a lot of support and a lot of local APDs or program directors in various markets. So as much as your regional program director for 20 plus radio stations, the focus of that role really is the Okanagan. Naturally there's all kinds of work that has to be done to support the other markets like the Terrace Hub, the Fort Mack, Hub Trail, Nelson, BC kind of area. There's kind of sectioned out with some really great people that are leading those teams. And when I got back there with some people moving on and whatnot, I had the opportunity to give some other folks in that cluster the opportunity to do more. For example, Amy Gilbert, who's now actually the Mark Burley or the Jeff Winskill of colonial. She was doing music and afternoons in Nelson and so we managed to promote her into manage the Penticton Group as program director shannon Carr later on. Shannon Carr is a great talent as well. She's a host on Easy Rock and she got promoted into being the music director. There's lots of great people there that we got to promote into management opportunities, leadership roles and that's the way that I think that whole cluster should really operate. It should be basically a farm team, a combination of really great talents who want to stay there forever and people who are looking to move and move their way up and take on more opportunities. I can't remember where we started on that one, but so many great people, right? And my mind starts going, yeah, well, that's it.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:41:55

Like I said, how do you keep track of 21 radio stations? It's like, okay, we're off track a little bit because there's so much going on, but how many kilometers did you put on a vehicle that year?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:42:04

You know, what's funny is not a whole heck of a lot, because, again, with the reduction of spending that was happening, most of the travel budget had been yanked. And so in the two years that I was in that role, I was out in the Nelson Trail area twice. I never got budget to go up to Terrace or go up to Fort McMurray. So you're doing a lot of video calls. There are some folks that I managed that I never got to see face to face. And that's a real shame because I think there's a lot of things missing with building relationships through video. You just can't accomplish everything that you could in person.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:42:42

That is excellent training for a Pandemic, by the way.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:42:46

It was I think back to it, it was like, wow, this is a lot like what the pandemic was like.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:42:51

And finally you get to go home to Vancouver.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:42:53

Yeah. So I've been talking to Paul K on and off about some roles that had come up with Rogers over the years. He and I had a couple of meet ups in Toronto for coffee and things like that. And when I saw the role for Jack and Vancouver come up, I emailed him and I said, hey, Paul, if we're going to work together, this is the one. And the process ensued. And a couple of months later, I was coming back to Vancouver. And it's funny you say Bell for 13 and a half, almost 14 years I was there. But it was actually standard radio astral media, Bell Media. But I was essentially with the same company for almost 14 years. So here I was making a big leap, going to a new company, building new relationships with the leadership. So it was intimidating. Also coming to a major market to be a PD for the first time. Obviously, I'd worked in a major market seven years, but to be the leader, it was a little scary, but so much fun. The team there is just amazing. Marcy Mayor, the promotions director, is one of my favorite people in the business. Corporate. Rezer is the national music director for the Jack Group. And now he's PD. And Calgary as well. Just so many great team members there in that building and next door as well. Like Charmaine Silva, the News director for News 1130. She's just spectacular human. I could go on and on about the people in that building. It was fantastic experience working there.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:44:16

So you had two years at Rogers. Can you grade it?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:44:20

Rogers was very different than the Bell astral standard worlds. The thing that I liked the most, probably about working for the Rogers Group were how accessible Paul K and Julie Adam are. Like, you can call them on evening or weekend or whatever, shoot them a text or call you right back. I had a lot of struggles sometimes getting answers out of people at that level and would often have to go, okay, well, I guess I'm just going to make a decision that I'm not sure about here. But those guys are so accessible. Really great team to work with. I would say, though, that can be a double edged sword as well as they are. Paul, in particular, he's an amazingly intelligent, smart guy that's a lot of fun to work for, but also so involved to a level that I had never had a VP of Programming be that involved in sort of my day to day stuff. So that was a little bit challenging to get used to. But the experience was awesome. It was just a different experience. And I have a lot of respect for Paul and Julie in the way that they run their organization.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:45:23

And then, sadly, came restructuring.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:45:25

They got an opportunity to bring in Christian Hall, and he's an amazing programmer. And now that we've seen that Kiss has flipped to Sonic alternative rock, it also makes a lot of sense. There was John, who was the PD of Kiss. He was leaving, so when Christian came in, he had to look after both Jack and Kiss now, as well as the national format director role, which was originally Troy Scott, who is based out of Toronto, who had then moved on to CHFI in Toronto. So you can speculate all you want. I mean, for me, I just look at it. You know what? They got a great programmer. They had to make a business decision and no hard feelings.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:46:04

What's the future look like for you?


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:46:06

It's a good question. I have really enjoyed my break from radio. When I first got out, I thought, you know what, I don't know if I'll go back. I was just feeling a little tired and a little bored, actually. But as time goes on, I find myself being very interested in what's going on and missing it quite a bit. I have a woodworking company on the side. Not that I've made any money doing it, but it's a lot of fun. It's always been one of my passions, one of my hobbies. I make farm tables and live edge tables and things like that. It would be nice if that took off and I could get back into radio at the same time. I'm one of those guys that just I'm so not laser focused on one thing ever. Same with hobbies. I just have so many different hobbies. I love boating and being outdoors and woodworking and all kinds of different stuff. I'd like to joke. I'm a jack of all trades and a master of nothing.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:47:01

This is a really odd route you're taking, by the way, to become a cameraman.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:47:05

Yeah, exactly right. 20 years later. It's funny you say that, Matt, because I had someone approach me just recently about shooting. Sort of a reality kind of thing. Wasn't quite what I'm into on the camera operating level. But it's funny you mentioned that because I haven't had anyone approach me about something like that in a long time until just recently.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:47:23

Hey, Jeff, thanks a lot for being on the podcast. I appreciate it.


Jeff Winskell (Guest) 00:47:26

My pleasure, Matt. This was a lot of fun.


Tara Sands (VO) 00:47:26

The Sound Off podcast. Written and hosted by Matt Cundill. Produced by Evan Surminski. Social Media by Courtney Krebsbach. Another great creation from the the Soundoff media company. There's always more at soundoffpodcast.com.



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