Joe McFarland is the host of Calgary Today on 770 CHQR Global News Radio, co-founder of and contributor to Alberta Dugout Stories, and game-day host for the Calgary Stampeders, the Calgary Hitmen, the Calgary Flames and the Calgary Roughnecks.
When I was a little, little kid I wanted to play hockey or play some kind of sport. I was always into sports. As I got into high school I [realized] I was really good with numbers and I realized that I’m not athletic in any way, shape or form. I did play high school football, but I knew that wasn’t in the cards at all. And so, my attention kind of shifted over to accounting, actually, of all things.
After high school I took a year off to figure myself out and get a little bit of money because I didn’t want to have to work when I was going to school.
I took my first year of accounting at the University of Lethbridge and it just so happened a buddy of mine started asking me about the NFL. He’s like, “Who do you think’s going to win?” And all that and I thought he had a gambling problem, as weird as that sounds, but I was like I’ll play along. Finally, I got to ask [why he was asking these questions], and he was a part of the University of Lethbridge’s radio station and he said, “You should come on the show.” I actually had no idea there was a university radio station.
By the end of my second semester, I was guesting on more radio shows than I was actually going to classes. So, I knew at that point that I needed to change things up.
I did my two-year program through Lethbridge College. It’s a Broadcast Journalism program, so they do both TV and radio. I was initially interested in the radio side. I’m okay at TV, I just don’t like all the other variables that come with it. I still prefer radio, it’s a little more faceless.
I graduated in April of 2005 and I waited three months to get my first job. It wasn’t that I wanted to wait, but we had dial-up internet at my family’s farm and my mp3s and stuff never sent.
When I got out of college the first thing I wanted to do was become a rock DJ. I’m a big rock music fan and that was the dream. So, I had applied at a bunch of different stations and came in second or third — I was never the guy. And the one news demo I ended up sending was to Lloydminster and, long story short, they gave me the job.
It’s funny, one of my teachers in college said, “it’s going to take you five years to get to a major market,” and I did it in, like, 18 months.
This is the first time I’ve ever hosted a show [Calgary Today] on my own, period. It’s new terrain, but it gives me an opportunity to create a relationship with the listener that very few people have ever gotten the chance to do. So, I’m pretty happy with where I’m at now and I’m hoping to be here for a while.
I’ve been lucky enough to get a couple of different things on the go. I’ve helped SAIT redevelop their fourth semester radio program. Last year, I also started a program through the Calgary Board of Education where we bring in kids to show them PA announcing and radio and TV and all that to give them a pre-college exposure to the media world.
I’ve only ever had, outside of broadcast, one other job. I worked at Save on Foods in Lethbridge for my first year at university, and it was very, very part-time.
I think what has helped me along the way is always being willing to try different things and experiment and try to work them into my daily workflow, because a lot of guys who’ve been in this industry a long time, they refuse to change. They don’t see the value of a podcast, they don’t see the value of doing little videos, they don’t understand the value of Instagram. They think that radio is the be-all, end-all and they think TV is the be-all, end-all and it’s just not. It’s not the way the consumer is.
There’s a quote I remember reading, I think it was Steven Tyler from Aerosmith [who] said it: “You’re only as good as your next album, or your next single,” and I’ve always treated [my career] that way. As cliché as it sounds, it’s like I’m only as good as my next newscast, or I’m only as good as my next show, or I’m only as good as my next step along the way.
As told to Kyra Bird. This interview has been edited and condensed for length.
This article is part of a series of profiles on industry professionals through the Calgary Journal. To see more like this, visit the On the Job page.
Editor: Andi Endruhn | firstname.lastname@example.org