My first national radio award!

The radio station is on a roll! We've won another batch of awards. First, the Atlantic Regional RTDNAs, then the Atlantic Journalism Awards.

Now we've been honoured at the national RTDNA convention in Toronto, and I'm proud to say my work was involved in both.

Here's the piece that won the Short Feature award -- coverage of the royal visit to PEI last summer.

Looking through my photos from the trip, I found this cool shot of the girl in the piece reacting after giving the Duchess a bouquet of flowers:

PEI girl reacts after giving Kate Middleton flowers

I was also at the Halifax Shipyard when Irving was announced as one of the successful bidders in the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. It was an exciting night, and colleague Amy Arts and I both worked hard to get the story as it happened, and leave behind a lot of good material that contributed to the Best Newscast (Medium Market).

Kudos to all my colleagues at News95.7 and across the green-brand chain.

Here's the release issued by management:
Saturday night in Toronto, The Radio Television Digital News Association of Canada (RTDNA) awarded News95.7 Halifax two NATIONAL radio Awards.

News95.7 was awarded the Byron MacGregor Award for Best Newscast (medium market) in Canada. This newscast, which aired at 8 a.m. on October 20th, followed the announcement that Halifax's Irving Shipbuilding was getting the $25-billion contract to build 21 Canadian combat ships. It was team coverage at its best.

Congratulation to morning anchors Dan Ahlstrand and Erica Munn – News Editor Ruth Davenport who quarterbacks our news coverage each weekday morning…and reporters Desiree Finhert, Scott Simpson and Amy Arts. Sports with Scott MacIntosh, Traffic with Sean Smith and weather with Meteorologist Richard Zurawski.

News95.7 was also awarded the Dave Rogers Award for Best Short Feature for Scott Simpson’s story on Will and Kate’s visit PEI. It was a terrific example of Scott’s unique and colourful story telling abilities as he interviewed with a young local girl who had a chance meeting with the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. Interviewing children isn’t always easy; But Scott was able to turn it into an engaging and delightful story.

Rogers News/Talk Radio Atlantic was also finalists in five (5) other categories;

HALIFAX – News95.7
• News95.7 Halifax, NS - Live Special Event Coverage – Canada Votes 2011 - The Gord Sinclair Award
• News95.7 Halifax, NS – News Information Program – The Rick Howe Show; Stand Against Bullies - The Peter Gzowski Award
• News95.7 - Halifax, NS – Spot News – Ships Start Here - The Charlie Edwards Award

MONCTON – News91.9
• News91.9 Moncton, NB - Best Newscast, Small market - The Byron MacGregor Award
• News91.9 Moncton, NB – Continuing Coverage – Romeo Cormier on Trial – Ron Laidlaw Award

Obsessed with the 'Canadian Psycho': Magnotta Fandom

I've been a fan. I've been into bands, for example. Bought all their records. Went to their concerts. Learned to play their songs. Collected bootleg recordings. Read the biographies. Kept up on news. Heck, I even made a web site about one of the bands and kept it going for more than a decade after the band broke up. (See for that.)

Luka Magnotta fans range from interested to obsessed. On facebook and on blogs, they devour information about the accused Canadian Psycho.But I've never been obsessed about anything in popular culture. Sure, if you go back into the archives here, you might say I had an unhealthy degree of interest in learning about Scientology and why it was so bad. Sure, I'd lay awake at night imagining conversations with Scientologists and how I could get into their heads and wake them up to reality. But I don't think any of that would even begin to cross over into the realm of clinical obsession. I just get really interested in stuff for a while.

Such is not necessarily the case with some people, and some of the things they obsess over would make fine fodder for Dr. Phil or a show on TLC, not to mention a professional psychologist.

One such situation was explored Friday as I filled in as host of The Rick Howe Show on News95.7.

Producer Jenn spotted an article in The National Post about the growing fandom surrounding accused murderer Luka Magnotta. He's the guy charged with having murdered a Chinese student on video, then doing nasty things to the body. Jun Lin's remains were cut up and pieces sent to political offices and schools.

Magnotta fled to Europe, where he was arrested. He's since been returned to Canada. He's before the courts now on serious charges including murder. He's waived a psychiatric assessment.

One thing that makes Magnotta obviously different from some other high-profile Canadian criminals is his appearance -- he's pretty. He wasn't shy. He was unabashedly fame-seeking. Magnotta's life played out on the internet as he displayed himself as a model, escort and actor in sex videos. 

He's everything pig-farming serial killer Robert Pickton wasn't. Hairless, not hairy. Skinny, not droopy. Public, not private. Urban, not rural. Gay, not straight. Allegedly killed a man, not a bunch of women. And he has lots and lots of pictures and video.

So, should any of us be surprised that he's attracted fans?

Jenn set up an interview with Josh Visser, author of the Post article headlined Fans, defenders line up to support ‘inspirational’ Luka Rocco Magnotta on Facebook. She also pointed me to a blog at

A conversation with journalist Visser would have been interesting enough, but I thought it would be even better to speak with one of the fans. I don't know how to use Facebook, but my 'net sleuthing skills are sharp. Still, I don't know how to sniff someone out from a Wordpress subdomain.

The best I could do was to leave a comment on the 'about' page and hope the author would get back to me.

She did.

She writes as Lexa Mancini -- note the morphological similarity to the name Luka Magnotta.

I looked at her blog, and was struck by the quality and self-awareness of the writing. Lexa uses big, smart words and uses them correctly. That's something you don't always see on blogs, even good ones. If she was nuts, she was the smart kind of nuts. I apologize if this sounds insensitive, but I rather enjoy conversation with smart crazy people in limited doses. I'm no stranger to mental illness, and as long as no one is in danger or particular discomfort and people are being offered the best help available, I'm not especially disturbed by the disturbed.

Lexa wrote back and we scheduled a time for the interview. Here's how it sounded.

After the interview, Lexa wrote about it on her blog.

Now, some listeners may wonder why I didn't conduct the interview the way some on Twitter were taking on the subject. You may have expected me to spend five minutes saying "What, are you crazy?" and "This is nuts" and "How crazy are you, exactly?"

That, my friends, would not have been good radio, and I wouldn't have liked myself very much afterward. Those kinds of questions may be fair for to ask of a teenager who tackles an old lady and steals her purse so she can buy scalped tickets to a One Direction or Justin Bieber concert. This, in my view, is not the same kind of scenario.

On a basic fandom level, is someone who's a little too interested or a little too attracted to Luka Magnotta really so strange?

My wife, for example, thinks Dexter -- the TV serial killer, not the Premier of Nova Scotia -- is hot. That's fine. He's a good-looking guy, charming and crafty.

Luka is attractive in a desperate twink sort of way. A generation of young women who grew up in the era where the metrosexual was the idealized image of masculinity would no doubt be drawn to this man who took great care to craft his hair, eyebrows and fashion.

It's been said that some women are especially attracted to gay men. Some women are attracted to bad guys. Some women are attracted to the unattainable. Some women are attracted to assertive guys who take what they want, consequences be damned.

So, aside from the horrific and shocking (alleged) crimes involved, there's plenty of reasons for chicks to be all over this guy.

Don't forget that we're still in a society which seems to honour fame above all. Many people would rather be famous than rich. They'd want to be famous for anything, whether it's for finally revealing the Higgs boson or for setting fire to a police car during a riot. Frankly, I think most kids would take the latter.

Luka Magnotta, for all his...y'know, bad a guy who's won at the fame game. If the sole goal was to do what he wanted and get famous for it, the guy has hit the jackpot.

And if I'm scoring the game for sheer audacity and curiosity -- call it the WTF Factor if you want -- he's won as well. I have to handle stories all the time. It's actually refreshing to have one come along that makes me say "he did WHAT? Jee-zus, that's crazy." Hell, I've seen a lot of crazy stuff. Some of it still haunts me. Whoever's going to cover this case when it goes to trial is going to need therapy.

Speaking of therapy -- let's get back to Lexa and fans of her ilk. Are they screwed up? Probably. But lots of people are screwed up.

She seems to want to get into buddy's head and find out what makes him tick. Well, so would I. I just don't want to kiss him.

Please don't misunderstand me: I don't condone or endorse anything Luka Magnotta has done. I find his internet conduct distasteful, I think his trail of bad debts shows poor discipline, and the whole murder thing was really bad, plus the sending of body parts in the mail (most of this is alleged, CYA)... he does not seem like a good guy.

But if we've learned anything from the movies, we know that an attractive, clever, witty villain is so much more interesting to watch than a straight-out bad guy. Screenwriters usually give the best lines to the villains, because we already love the good guy. It's more interesting if we can like the bad guy a little.

My message to Lexa -- stick with this obsession for now and see where it goes. I'm troubled by how much you say it's distracting you from other things in your life. If you can carry on with your normal commitments and keep your healthy social connections, why not see where it goes? You seem to have a solid sense of self-awareness, and the fact that even you are disturbed by how much you dig Magnotta is a good sign.

I think you might learn a few things about yourself, and if you maintain tethered to reality throughout, you could come out on the other side a more complete person. You could teach a few things to the girls who are fawning over him in ways that even you find unsettling. And if you keep blogging about it, maybe we can all get a clearer picture of what draws people to the kinds of folks who repel everyone else. post...everrrr.

What the BEEP is this juice? Not juice.

A carton of Farmers Beep Drink, sold in Nova Scotia for a limited time in summer 2012.

Two years ago, Farmers Dairy decided to pull the plug on its formerly-popular juice-flavoured beverage "BEEP". It had been a staple at breakfast tables for half a century, but had lost its nostalgic lustre.

People bought the stuff up as fast as they could when word got out in 2010 that Farmers Beep would no longer be produced. Web sites sprang up. YouTube videos were produced.

The "End of Beep" story became the most-read story of all time at

So, when I saw word on Twitter today that Farmers was bringing Beep back for a limited time, I knew we had to get on top of this. I called Farmers Dairy as soon as I could and tried to get an interview. Unfortunately, their communications person was out of town on training.

But she called me back anyway and I pushed her to speak with me. What I got was the following interview:

Now, I'm a bit on the outside here. Beep was not strictly a Nova Scotian thing, but this seems to have been the last stand for the drink. What's in it? The ingredients for BEEP drink are: water, sugar, concentrated orange juice, concentrated apple juice, apricot puree, citric acid, prune syrup, orange pulp, modified corn starch, canola oil, flavour, sodium citrate, colour, sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid.

Beep will be sold in retro packaging in 1L and 500mL sizes from mid-June to October. It has a shelf life just over one month, so fans will be able to enjoy it unspoiled until a little before Christmas.

By then, I'm sure Farmers will have shifted to egg nog production and the nostalgia file will close.

Unless.... Unless there's a consumer uprising that brings this syrupy drink -- described by some on Twitter as Sunny Delight with a hint of asbestos and cocaine -- back to the mainstream for good.

Nutritionists hope that doesn't happen.

Another beautiful sunrise

Gorgeous sunrise over Halifax, as seen from the News95.7 control room on the 9th floor of the Young Tower, Young and Robie.

As much as I don't adore getting up at 2am to come to work -- and it's a comparatively rare event -- I do appreciate that I've been able to see more sunrises than many people do in a lifetime.

Today was my last day at work, and I'm okay with that

Today marks a weird spot on the calendar for me. It’s one of those landmarks that really doesn’t mean anything, other than to illustrate the...