Once a month on CHMoRnings (Tuesday mornings from 8:00am-9:30am), Jill Power (JP) interviews a CHMR alumni. The January alumni of the month is CBC’s Todd O’Brien! (TB)
JP: Can you tell me a little bit about what you did during your time at CHMR?
TB: It was in the ’80s and I was unemployed, so I was drawing employment insurance. So instead of doing nothing – because there were no jobs to be had anyways really – I would come in and I was producer of something called Topics and Tunes. It was a morning show, five days a week, and I would host one day a week and four other people would host as well. It was kind of like, a few songs, some tape, a few interviews that I would do, that kind of thing. So I would spend about six or seven hours a day doing that, getting the show ready. That was back in the day when we would sometimes play tape from Soviet Russia, that kind of stuff. We had all kinds, a variety of stuff on the air.
JP: So you weren’t actually a student?
TB: I was, at times. It took me about 10 years to get a degree, so between all that time I would be a student at MUN, work at The Muse, work at CHMR. At this particular time I was maybe taking a couple of courses, but I was essentially unemployed. You could do that then.
JP: Can you tell me what you’re up to today?
TB: Right now I’m working with On The Go, which is a CBC Radio drive-home show. Essentially it’s kind of a writer/broadcaster position. It’s an AP, but you do interviews, sometimes I fill in for the host, you go out and put together little docs – you’re familiar with all that. Essentially it’s coming up with programming and working with Ted Blades. It’s a fairly broad scope of what you can put on the air. We sit around and if we think it’s a decent idea we put it on. It’s really a dream job in terms of that.
JP: Can you tell me how you got from working here at the station to your job at CBC?
TB: I think it was very important to do this, because I loved radio. Before I was here, up in Labrador City, I worked at a private station as a weekend DJ, so I got a taste of radio and journalism, and I worked at a little newspaper so I knew it was one of the things I wanted to do. I guess you hone your skills. I have lots of interests, lots of things I could have done – I’m interested in acting and hockey, you know – but I thought, okay, this seemed to be a more interesting career that would benefit me and everybody else. It’s a sort of a public service in a way. It was just a great experience that looks good on a resume, and helped me get into journalism school I’m sure, at King’s College. I did a degree at MUN first and then I did a one-year degree at King’s College, and I’m sure this was important because if I was going to accept somebody to university and saw that, it’s an obvious interest.
JP: When you were studying here at MUN and working at CHMR, did you find it difficult juggling both of those things?
TB: Not really. You just learn to. That’s one of the more important skills you learn at university, is how to juggle. Maybe I was doing some newspaper articles for The Muse, and doing some stuff at the radio station, and partying three or four nights a week at Rothermere – back in those days we had lobby parties and stuff – so we were fairly busy that way too. I maximum would take four courses every semester so I didn’t over-stress myself. That’s how I dealt with it.
JP: What advice would you give someone considering going into the field of journalism or radio?
TB: The whole landscape is changing now, but you’ve got to pursue your dreams. You can achieve anything you want. Especially today, because everything is so available. You can essentially use your iPhone to produce TV content these days. So I’d say just go for it. I did a little traveling around the world and every now and then I would write articles for free newspapers. I went to Sarajevo and did some reports for CBC Radio – freelance – on the peacekeeping over there by Newfoundlanders in the Canadian contingent. This was during the latter days of the conflict over there – the war – but the only reason I got to do that was because I said I want to do it. And financially a lot of times this may not make sense, but I think you’ve just got to follow your dreams.
Listen to the full interview at the link below: