Doug Dirks is a veteran in radio and TV, having worked for the CBC for the majority of his career. He is currently co-host of The Homestretch on CBC radio, host of Our Calgary on CBC-TV and served as a downhill skiing announcer at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
I’ve been in the business full-time pretty much for 30 years, but the last 25 years here in Calgary, I’ve done pretty much everything you could possibly do in TV and radio. I’ve had a chance to cover some events that have been fairly significant. They sent me down to Texas to cover Annika Sorenstam, who was the first woman to play in PGA Tour event in the modern era. I’ve covered Grey Cups in every CFL city in the country. I’ve had the chance to do both provincial and national election coverage and three Olympics as well. I’ve had the chance to do pretty much everything I possibly could have wanted to do during the course of my career. If, when I started out, you told me I would have done all those things, I would have said that’s a pretty good career.
If an opportunity presents itself you may as well say yes to it, because you don’t know where it’s going to lead. When I was anchoring the local news here in Calgary, we had a Newsworld division here and I had an opportunity just because somebody was sick one day and they said ‘hey, would you like to go in and anchor a network TV news program?’ And I said ‘sure why not?’ Now I could have easily had said ‘no, I’m uncomfortable with that.’ But throughout my career, I found that by saying yes to opportunities, it has actually helped me improve my skill set, broaden my abilities in the business and actually make me more valuable because I can do more things than I knew initially how to.
The 2002 Olympics was an interesting time because when the Twin Towers went down in 2001, of course, the 2002 Winter Olympics was in Salt Lake City, that was a game changer as far as security was concerned and the way the games were managed. I had a chance to talk to Mitt Romney, who was brought in because of the IOC scandal at that time to turn this ship around financially in Salt Lake. I had a chance to interview the person who was in charge of security for Salt Lake City. It’s one of the other interesting stories there was because it was in Salt Lake and Utah being largely a Mormon state was dry for the most part as far as alcohol is concerned. So I got a chance to go in and do stories about that as well. It was more than just the sports story. It became a news story as well.
Over the years I had a chance to break some stories when I was covering sports full-time. I was on the plane coming back from the Grey Cup in Regina when Doug Flutie was the quarterback for the Stampeders. One of the players who I got to know over the years, leaned over and he said, you know, “Doug Flutie hasn’t been paid by Larry Rickman for the last three months.” That was a pretty big scoop at the time because everybody thought everything was hunky-dory. They kind of suspected that Larry Rickman wasn’t the best owner in the CFL and that he was cutting corners, but that confirmed it.
Broadcasting has gone through a change just like print journalism because of the way technology has evolved, it’s gone from having so many different people involved in the process to basically writing, editing and then performing five minutes sportscast as a one-man band. Not only do you have to be able to write, but you also have to be able to perform on radio and TV. The people who are making it in the business have to be very versatile and they have to have a really broad skill set.
I’m on the advisory board for the journalism program at Mount Royal University. I got involved with it about 6, 7 years ago. We would meet twice a year and every time we meet we say, “well we can’t offer that course because journalists of the future are going to need these skills.” One of the examples was a podcast because when we first got together, podcasts were just coming into the mainstream and they weren’t really seen as a viable alternative for people from a career standpoint. So it’s become a much more competitive field and everybody’s struggling to carve out their little niche.
The Homestretch is unique because you’re getting local, national and international news and it’s being put in context from a Canadian perspective. We also have access to guests locally that other local shows wouldn’t have access to because of our national syndication service that’s based out of Toronto. Really our only other competition in this space in that space is QR77, and 660 which is strictly news headlines every 15 minutes and then you’ve got The Fan, which is exclusively sports. We cover sports on our show as well, we just do it a different way. So, if you’re looking for something along the lines of what we offer, we’re the only ones in the city who do it.
As told to Bill Atwood. This interview has been edited and condensed.
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: Richie Nguyen | firstname.lastname@example.org