After spending nearly 15 years with the CBC, first in Winnipeg and then in Whitehorse, Al Foster has found new freedom as the news director at CKRW.
“I feel like I’ve added a couple years back onto my life, actually,” he said.
He began his new job in late July, a couple weeks after giving his final sign off at CBC here in Whitehorse where he’d worked for almost a decade. He made the decision for a variety of reasons, he said. He had been reflecting on his career path. He loves being a “newshound,” meeting people and telling their stories.
At CBC, he got to tell stories about the man who photographed the black soldier experience on the Alaska Highway.
He and a colleague traveled to Hollywood with the mayor of Dawson City to learn about Victor Jory. The film and television actor who had roles in Gone with the Wind and The Miracle Worker, was born in Dawson City and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
But his real passion was hosting on the radio. He had filled in when people were on vacation, but hadn’t had the opportunity to do more.
“I was starting to spin my wheels for a little bit,” he said. After all his time in the Yukon, Foster knows the news cycle here can get repetitive. That wasn’t a concern for him.
Though born in Manitoba, Foster came to Whitehorse intending to be a sourdough. He was “locked in” from the beginning. He left a family vacation here 13 years ago with the desire to return. Persistent contact with the CBC here eventually led to the job.
He’ll take nothing but positives away from it, and wishes the organization all the best, he said. But it was time for something else.
Working at a larger corporation meant there were more people who influenced what he could do: producers, anchors. It was good for quality control, but could be difficult.
And money was a factor. Whether in Manitoba or the Yukon, the possibility of budget cuts had always been part of his time with the national broadcaster. The pressures were taxing and sometimes made the work environment difficult. Recent cuts to CBC’s funding meant a full-time position in Whitehorse would be lost. There was the opportunity for someone to volunteer to leave, and he took it.
Still, his decision to leave the public broadcaster may mystify some, he said. Foster wouldn’t get into the specifics of the organizations’ differences in pay, other than to say CKRW has been “very fair and kind.”
This isn’t the first time he’s worked at a private broadcast company, either. He was at what was then A Channel in Winnipeg before moving to CBC.
This new role combines his love for news and hosting. Besides determining the news of the day, he also co-hosts the morning show. He still gets to meet interesting people, and is hoping to re-establish connections that have frayed over the years.
His involvement, whether in the arts community as the parent of a dancer or the sports community as a volleyball coach, and before that soccer coach, gives him an advantage.
In a transient city like Whitehorse, that’s key. “It’s the type of place that if you’re not involved, you’re going to be sunk,” he said.
Granted, working at a music station presents its own challenges. Stories need to be short. There are no documentaries.
He’s busy getting used to being the only cook in his kitchen, to shortened story meetings. They could take up to half-an-hour in the CBC boardroom. With just himself and reporter Tim Kucharuk working the news beat, meetings are quicker and more relaxed. He wants CKRW to become the epitome of a community radio station, the place listeners know they will hear local news.
“This is the most fun I’ve had in quite some time,” he said.
It doesn’t hurt he now works at a station named after his early musical idols, the rock band, Rush. He’s been a musician most of his life, and latched onto their music as a teenager. “It’s a pretty big circle, isn’t it?”
Contact Meagan Gillmore at