Open Mic Spotlight spends a few minutes each week with prominent Grand Jury members from around the globe, each interview shares the insights of content creators from the wonderful world of radio.
New York Festivals International Radio Awards jury of award-winning directors, producers, journalists, writers, actors, creative directors, composers, on-air talent, and programming executives are actively involved in creating the innovative content on radio today.
2018 Grand Jury member, Jeff Kirkwood is production manager for BELL Media (formerly CHUM) since July 2002 and is now managing a total of 7 stations including 104.5 CHUMFM, 999fm-Virgin Radio, Newstalk1010, TSN 1050/Country105/Energy997/919 BOBFM.
Throughout his career he has racked up numerous major awards including a total of 14 from New York Festivals (including 2 Gold and 2 Grand Awards), 2 IBA awards (including 1 Gold) and a Gold Award from the Crystal Awards here in Canada.
New York Festivals: How did you get your start in the radio industry?
Jeff Kirkwood: I started in radio while in grade 12 in 1982. I took a co-op course that placed students at different “agencies” around town based on the student’s top 3 selections from available placements. I really wanted to be a TV cameraman, so I applied at the local cable station. My second choice was the local radio station and I honestly don’t remember my third choice. The TV station was only accepting 2 students and 13 applied. I was told in my interview I “wasn’t the media type”. I still don’t know what that means, and she couldn’t give me an answer “I know it when I see it and you aren’t it” I was told. What a great confidence boost to a 17-year-old (there’s that sarcasm again). When I interviewed at the radio station I was one of only 2 students that applied, and I got the “gig” because I had a car and the other student didn’t. The concern was the nearest bus stop was a considerable distance and they needed to know for sure that the student would show up every day. My first day was October 1, 1982 and was actually hired as a paid employee in January of 1983.
New York Festivals: What was the turning point in your career?
Jeff Kirkwood: After 3 years at the small radio station I started at and applying to bigger stations for 2 ½ of those years, I was hired at 1050 CHUM in Toronto. That started my career path to becoming a real producer. CHUM knew my goal was to work on commercials (and eventually promos and station imaging) and they pointed my duties in that direction. I was promoted to commercial producer in 1989 and never looked back. In 1997 I was made Imaging Producer for CHUMFM and eventually Production Manager in 2002.
New York Festivals: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry?
Jeff Kirkwood: The single biggest change I’ve seen has been the changes in CRTC regulation allowing multiple ownership in individual markets. Put it this way: in 1985 I was hired to work at 1 radio station, 1050CHUM. When I became a commercial producer, I worked for 2 stations, 1050CHUM and CHUMFM. I’m now the Production Manager of 7 stations and 3 of them are in markets 2 hours away. And that may very well change within the next little while to include as many as 4 additional stations.
New York Festivals: What do you think are the hallmarks of award-winning work?
Jeff Kirkwood: To win awards, first and foremost the work must be relatable to the audience. If they don’t get it or don’t care, then it’s over. Obviously, it must be well-produced, well-written, well edited, top-notch voice talent, make smart music choices and it must be memorable. If listeners don’t remember the message, then what’s the point. Using studio gimmicks for the sake of using them makes no sense to me. As a producer your job is to ensure you are serving the client or program to the best of your ability.
For more information on New York Festivals Radio Program Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/.