Ever since I was a young boy, all I ever wanted to do was be a journalist, particularly a radio journalist. I never had ambition to be anything else. As a younger kid, a friend and I spent our time pretending to host radio shows. We must have recorded hundreds of hours, now mostly lost to time, but I made no bones about it, journalism was my path.
When I graduated high school, I attended Bar Ilan University in Israel, where I got involved in Israeli politics and landed a job with the Government. I worked hard, learned a lot and then eventually transferred to Concordia University in Montreal to complete a Bachelor of Arts, major Political Science degree.
When I was 19 years old, my mother told me that she heard that CJAD was looking for a producer. Her knowledge came from a joke that then weekend morning man Dave Fisher played with his producer where he would say that the producer was incompetent, and he was looking for someone new. I diligently sent in an application.
I got a call not long after the application went in and was asked to meet with Toby Goodfellow, who was then in charge of producers. I met with Toby, whom, in all honesty, I knew from my time working at both radio stations (at the time there were two) at Concordia University. I got the job. It was only later that I found out that my application letter, mentioning the Dave Fisher call for a new producer made its way around the station making me a laughingstock in the first weeks I was there.
I was happy to be working in radio, but a producer was not a journalist, so a few weeks after I started, I approached then News Director Gord Sinclair.
Sinclair was a news legend. He had been around the business forever and his father was a respected journalist before him. Sinclair knew the news business better than anyone in town and being hired by him to work in his newsroom was a badge of honour and instant credibility. People who worked for him moved on to being News Directors, Tv Producers and other high-profile jobs. He had a nose for talent and hired based on his gut.
I walked into his office and sat down. He folded his hands and looked across his desk at me.
“What can I do for you?” He asked.
“I would like to be a reporter here at CJAD.” I responded.
He looked me up and down.
“What training do you have?”
“I have no formal radio training, but that’s good, because I can mold to what you need. I don’t have bad habits learned by other reporters nor bad habits learned by journalism school. I do have experience in newspaper news reporting though.”
“There are a lot of experienced journalists looking for jobs, why should I hire you?”
“Once again, I don’t come with baggage, I’m mouldable and willing to learn from an experienced guy like you.”
He looked at me again, this time focusing on my yarmulke.
“I see you are Jewish. We don’t often see yarmulkas in radio. In my career, I think I may have seen one.”
I shifted uncomfortably.
“Tell me, how will your religion affect your availability?”
I looked at him, thinking about my answer and I said:
“I will not be available after sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturdays nor will I be available on Jewish holidays.”
His eyes closed to slits, he unfolded his arms and placed his palms firmly on the desk. He opened his eyes and looked me straight in the eyes.
“If Martians landed on earth on Friday night and started an invasion against humans and I needed every hand on deck to cover the story, would you be available?”
I maintained eye contact.
“No sir. If that happens, aside from news reporting, I think prayers would also be important. Instead of collecting news, I’d be praying.”
He leaned back in his chair and let out a belly laugh.
“That was a great answer. But you see, I need reporters that are always available. We had a Jewish reporter here a long time ago, Sidney Marglese, he got dispensation from his Rabbi allowing him to work on Friday night, can’t you do the same?”
I smiled and responded:
“No, I’m sorry, my rabbi does not have the authority to overrule G-d’s rules. I will not be available on Friday nights or Saturdays.”
He smiled back.
“Sorry, then I can’t hire you. I need my reporters to be available at all times.”
With that I got up and left. To me, turning my back on G-d was not an option and if there was no chance of accommodation, then it wasn’t a newsroom I wanted to work in anyway.
I was not discouraged by Sinclair’s rejection, I understood him. I did have multiple chances at working in the newsroom after Sinclair’s death as a replacement reporter. I never got my chance at full-time, but that was ok, I had moved on to hosting a talk show on another station and never really looked back.