Yukon youth ride on national radio waves

Who would have thought? It took a pack of rowdy Whitehorse teens to convince CBC Radio One to finally, for the first time, pick up a national show…

Who would have thought?

It took a pack of rowdy Whitehorse teens to convince CBC Radio One to finally, for the first time, pick up a national show from the North.

Local reporters, ranging in age from 19 to 21, have made history with their innovative, high-energy radio program Steal This Show.

You may have heard it — the show’s been aired locally for nearly two years.

But it was only three weeks ago CBC Radio One began broadcasting Steal This Show coast to coast to coast.

“It’s definitely cutting edge for the CBC,” said Charles Hegsted, one of the show’s gregarious 19-year-old hosts.

“It’s moving their demographic and it’s catching them up because if they don’t catch up they’re gonna be a dinosaur and everybody knows it,” he said.

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the country will hear the fourth half-hour installment of their six-episode series.

It’s about how young people in Whitehorse can’t find affordable housing.

Through interviews and lively anecdotes, the junior hosts will give some insights into a problem that not only affects youth in Whitehorse, but also across Canada.

“The network program is kind of a culmination of the two years of working with this particular group of people,” said Dave White, the show’s producer, during a recording session Wednesday.

White, who regularly hosts the territory’s morning show, came up with the idea of having young people host a show at a brainstorming session in 2004.

It began with a handful of students recruited from local high schools.

White would give them a microphone, a few ideas and press the record button.

The result was original interviews, topical discussions and scripted dramas written and acted by the hosts.

It landed an hour-long prime-time slot in the Yukon on Friday nights from 8 to 9 p.m.

“Almost all of the feedback I’ve heard has been very positive,” said White.

“The regional network has been incredibly supportive of the show.”

White pitched it as a summer replacement show to the CBC program execs in Toronto last year. His proposal got some positive feedback, but they didn’t bite.

So this year he pitched it again and sent along a pilot episode.

“It had fans at the network level, it had some detractors as well, and the fans won this year,” he said.

The network had aired holiday specials from the North before, but never a regular show, said White.

“We’re quite proud of it,” he said.

Over the years, the cast has been narrowed down to a group of six regulars: Daniel Ashley, Stephanie Aube, Sandy Mackay, Reid Parent, Sam B-Good and Hegsted.

 “In our first season, the running joke was, ‘OK, this next thing is going to get us kicked off the air,’” said B-Good. “And it was amazing how many people would come up to us and say, ‘I listen to you and I record your show every week.’

“It turns out well because the ideas that we usually have are wacky, but it’s professional.”

“We joke around. but it’s not a joke,” added Aube, who noted the most important thing for her was how much she has learned since being on the show.

“You’re not stuck in a rut because you’re always talking to someone new and always meeting new people,” she said.

When the show first started, B-Good and MacKay would do a segment called Hot Topics.

“It originally started as us talking about five topics; anything from the food store changing its name to Super-Valu, to world issues to what we had for breakfast,” said B-Good.

Now, because the show has been cut down to a half hour for the national network, they have to focus on one topic.

“It’s more of a debate. We want to choose one topic ‘cause we want to keep it focused.”

“It’s like youth programming for youth that tackles really current issues on a local perspective here, but are identifiable with people across the country,” said Hegsted.

Over the past three shows, they have been talking to everyone from police officers to punk rock stars to kids who are getting involved with human rights issues.

Most of the show is recorded in Whitehorse, but the kids get to take their mikes on the road as well.

For the second show of this series, the team travelled to Carmacks to record a piece on why gangsta rap is so popular in the small community.

Next week they’ll be up in Dawson City for the music festival.

“One of the big differences between interviews we do and the interviews maybe other CBC people do is, for the most part, we’re genuinely interested in what we have to ask,” said B-Good.

The group was together early Wednesday evening to record bits for Monday’s show.

On a patch of grass, kitty-corner to the CBC building, the gang scrummed together to record an outdoor segment.

White held the microphone as Parent and Aube took turns reading from a script.

“Well, what do young people think of the whole housing situation?” asked Parent.

“Steal this Show’s Sam B-Good hit the streets of Whitehorse to find out.”

There are plenty of laughs and plenty of screw-ups, but the hosts make it through the reading.

While the main script is written by White, it is read over and edited by the hosts and most of the show’s segments and interviews are improvised.

“(White) might go ‘Here are some interesting questions you could ask this person,’ but then we’ll add our own stuff, and it’s really our own style,” said B-Good.

B-Good, who was recently accepted to the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, likes doing the show because it gives him the freedom to be creative.

“I can take an idea to Dave and go, ‘I want to do a story about this’ and he’ll go, ‘OK do it,’ and we’ll go out and do it,” he said.

“You get to talk to somebody about an issue you think is cool and then it gets air play. I don’t think I could find another situation like that.”

The final scene for Wednesday’s recording was Ashley and Hegsted’s living room.

Their house is soon to be demolished and replaced with a new fancy condominium complex designed by Kobayashi + Zedda architects.

After a bit of scripted narrative ranging in topics from the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, the format turned into a casual conversation.

“A lot of people are very opposed to opening up more areas of our pristine and beautiful Whitehorse for development which creates quite a problem ‘cause there are now more people than there are houses,” said Hegsted.

“And a lot of rich people want to move in and build giant condos here, which kind of puts us youth, who don’t have very much money, at a disadvantage.”

A half an hour later, the recording was done, and the hosts were free to get back to their normal lives.

A week’s work has now been edited and White has the show ready to role for tonight’s broadcast.

Sadly, once the series is finished, it will be the end of the road for this group of kids, said White.

“I think we’re going to do the show again next year, but we’ll have to bring in a whole new crop,” he said.

“I mean, Daniel can’t be hosting a youth show in 30 years, right?” he said with a chuckle.

“We gotta let him go at some point.”

Steal This Show will air tonight and the next two Mondays from 7:30 to 8 p.m. on CBC Radio One.