Remembering Ed Mason
By Grant Ainsley | Tips | [comments] | Posted [date]
Early last Wednesday morning, I got the sad news that Ed Mason had passed away. Generations of people in Edmonton and northern Alberta grew up listening to him doing the morning news on CHQT and 630 CHED. He retired in 2014, after 50-years in radio.
Ed Mason was probably the most important mentor in my career. He hired me around 40-years ago and the three years I worked with him were an incredible training ground that helped me later in different careers.
For my money, he was also the best radio newsperson I ever heard.
Broadcast Journalism U
It was early 1978 and I had applied for a radio news job at CHQT in Edmonton. I didn’t think I had much of a shot because I had only been in the business for eight months. I knew people with a lot more experience would be applying.
To my surprise, I got an interview with Ed Mason. He must have seen something in me and offered me the job. Then he asked what my salary expectations were. I hesitated before answering, but suggested $900 a month. Eddie shook his head and I thought for a moment that I had blown my chance. He said, “We can do better than that. How would $1,000 a month be and we’ll look at bumping that up after three months?”
Little did I know that I should have been paying Ed for the incredible education I was about to get. For the next three years, working with Ed was like going to Broadcast Journalism University. Every day.
There were formal aircheck sessions when Ed suggested ways to improve my on-air delivery and writing and there were just times we sat in that tiny newsroom and chatted about ways news could be written, presented and reported better.
My biggest education came from just watching and listening to Ed. He was so good on the air. The best. He had this great, clean, rich voice. It wasn’t overly deep, but seemed to come from deep inside him and was perfect for news.
His writing was to die for. Ed was a storyteller long before the days of being a storyteller was a thing. Give him 30 seconds and he could tell an incredible story. Sometimes though, if he only had three seconds to get to the heart of the story he did it magically with just a few words.
Ed was really a true reporter though. He knew everybody it seemed. Politicians, military leaders, police officers at every rank. Ed had all their numbers in his Rolodex and I heard him talking to them like he was their best friend.
During his many years at CHQT I would bet Eddie broke more stories than every other reporter in the city combined. It was amazing how many scoops he had.
I was there in 1979 when Ed got a call through to the US Embassy in Iran, during the hostage crisis. Ed knew somebody who knew somebody who knew someone at the embassy. Eddie did an interview with a person inside and had a world-wide scoop.
In my mind, calling Ed Mason the Wayne Gretzky of radio news in Edmonton in those days would be unfair to Ed. He was better than Gretzky.
The Kid in Him
Uncle Eddie had a fun side too. He loved to laugh and play practical jokes. I know. I was the butt of one.
Not long after I started at ‘QT, Ed announced to everyone who was in the newsroom at the time, including me, that he had just hired somebody to work the morning shift with him. Ed bragged that the guy was a star doing morning news in Phoenix. He said he had an incredible sound and would be a huge asset for the station.
A week or so later, I was working the evening shift at the station and got a call from Ed. I was told he was having dinner and drinks with the new guy from Arizona at the Upper One and I should join them for a beer after my shift. The Upper One was the station’s watering hole. It used to be at the top of the Melton Building just south of the station, on Jasper Avenue.
I arrived just after 11pm and Ed introduced me to Warren Henderson. After saying hello I asked Warren how he would cope with the cold Edmonton winters, since he was from Phoenix. Warren sat there with a goofy grin on his face. After a few awkward seconds Ed shouted in his booming voice “He’s not from Arizona Grant. He’s from WINNIPEG.” Then he started giggling like a five-year-old.
I realized I had been had. It was Ed’s way of initiating me into the newsroom.
A couple of years later, we got some great news when a ratings book came out. Our numbers were always decent, but in those days, they rarely were great because we shared the adult audience with CJCA, which was a powerhouse at the time. This time however, we had done really well in “the book”, so management announced we would celebrate that afternoon. Booze and food were brought into the boardroom and everyone who wasn’t on air at the time started celebrating.
I was reporting that day, so I joined in the celebration when I was done. Things really picked up when station Manager Lew Roskin announced he had to meet a client for dinner, but he would be back later.
After too many free drinks, water pistols somehow came out and Eddie and some others from the station ran up and down the halls shooting at each other. I don’t remember who won, but if there was a water fight loser it was Ed. He used to often wear grey dress pants and a dress shirt and he was soaked.
Eddie thought fast and remembered his friend and engineer Bob Hunter had what seemed to be a blow dryer in his office/gadget shop. Ed started using the blow dryer to dry his pants. He quickly found out he had two problems. To begin with, whatever the device was, it was much hotter than a blow dryer and secondly, his pants were polyester. Before he knew it, a large hole had been melted into his pants.
As he stood in the hallway wondering what to do with a hole in his still wet pants, Lew Roskin arrived back from dinner. To his credit, Uncle Lew shook his head, turned and walked away and went to find a glass of red wine.
DUES PAID IN FULL
Although I loved working at “QT and for Ed, I was a young guy and wanted to find a way off the weekend shift. I was on the air Saturday and Sunday mornings and then reported Monday through Wednesday. I needed to be in bed early on Friday and Saturday nights, which put a big dent in my social life.
I also knew that we had such a talented newsroom, it would be years before I could get a crack at a better shift and better pay.
Ed used to remind me that I needed to “pay my dues.” It became a bit of a running joke between us. I would ask how long I had to pay my dues for? Eddie, with a sober tone of voice would say “Gee I don’t know Grant. Hard to say. But when your dues have been paid, you’ll know it.”
In 1981, I left for a Monday-Friday morning news shift at what eventually became 96 K-Lite radio. I saw Eddie socially a little after that and we often talked, but after I left the radio business we drifted apart. Not a week goes by though that I don’t think of something he taught me.
The photo at the top of this blog was taken in the 1980’s when we went to wrestling together. That’s former WWE star Tatanka between us.
I traded emails with Ed in 2018 after he read two of the blogs I wrote that mentioned him. Both blogs are on the right side at the top of this page. I looked through all the emails between us after he died last week with a smile on my face. The last email he sent me ended with these words "Please keep up the great work...I'm proud of what you've become (but I'm just as proud to know you decades ago). Ed"
I still have the parting gift Eddie gave me from 40 years ago. It came in a simple black frame.
I'll miss you Ed.