Facing a huge budget shortfall, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation yesterday announced a number of major cuts to its programming. Some I understood -poor ratings, lack of focus, difficult timing -but one cut I could not -cannot -understand is axing Outfront.
For those who’ve never tuned in, get it while you can. Outfront is a unique bit of radio, giving listeners the opportunity to share a personal story. I shared mine in 2006. After several meetings with the program’s Executive Producer and a number of ideas that came and went, rough drafts that were best left unfinished and anxiety over the personal/professional divide (I was working there freelance at the time), I put something together that hit at a fairly deep, dark place. Hitting the send button, I took a deep breath.
When the producer walked down the hall late on a Friday afternoon, he had a small smile.
“We’re going to go with your story.”
I leaped out of my chair and hugged him. It meant I had been given the chance to travel to Hungary to see my father, whom I hadn’t seen in ten years. The trip was tough, taxing, emotional, and important. All kinds of things came up, both during and after my visit. I worked long hours with the (amazing) producer I’d been assigned, choosing clips, narrating, recording, re-recording, choosing music, finding clips, editing and re-editing. The finished piece premiered the first week I was living in a new town, having started a new job. I sat on a stack of boxes, wine glass in hand, listening to the odyssey I’d undertaken only months earlier. Everything had changed.
My father passed away this past December. He never got to hear my work, and I never got the chance to see him again. Without Outfront, there’s a very good possibility I wouldn’t have gone at all. It was as if that “yes” was a divine sign -a marriage of passions and history, purpose and feeling.
Outfront matters because it gives people the chance to share their stories, yes, but it also allows for some vital personal-karma-burning that translates, down the line, into a magic grace everyone who hears it recognizes. The nature of the show -collaborative, inclusive, earthy, real, worn, and lived-in -also points to the symbolism of such a program for a national broadcaster: we’re here, telling your stories, sharing them, because this is yours. And because we think it’s important. It is.
Alas, Outfront will be missed. Kursunom.