It has survived through the arrival of television, the Internet and beyond — and on Thursday, Winnipeg’s stalwart news radio station celebrates its 75th anniversary on the air.
CJOB — named for the initials of its founder, Jack Oliver Blick — first signed on the morning of March 11, 1946, and is still going strong three-quarters of a century later, with a reputation as the go-to news source for generations of Manitobans.
Winnipeg radio historian Garry Moir told Global News that CJOB has had a strong sense of direction since its inception.
“Jack Blick wanted a radio station that was close to the community — that was working for Winnipeg,” said Moir.
“That was the thrust, that was his model… and I really think CJOB has stuck to it. It really hasn’t changed very much. For a long time, it has been the go-to station.”
Moir said the station — which was originally founded by Second World War vet Blick as a way to provide employment for his fellow armed forces veterans — has been a real innovator over the years, beating out other local competitors by staying on-air 24 hours a day, reading news on the hour every hour, and even being early adopters of the concept of a full-day election broadcast.
“Any radio station’s success,” he said, “is going to be dependent on how close they are to the community.”
One veteran broadcaster known for his strong ties to the local sports community is Bob Irving, who came to CJOB in September of 1973 and remains a crucial part of the station’s sports coverage.
“To have worked at the same station for as long as I have — quite unusual for our business, because it’s a nomadic trade that we work in — I just feel quite fortunate… and to be at a great radio station that places great emphasis on sports coverage, which is what I do,” he said.
“It’s a great ride, and I couldn’t have asked for a better situation over all those years.”
Irving said CJOB’s success has been through its ability to speak directly to Winnipeggers about issues happening in their back yards, whether it’s major events like the Blue Bombers winning the Grey Cup or smaller, more local stories.
“We’ve been the information superstation and we’ve never really deviated from our platform, which is to provide our community with information,” said Irving.
“We’re a community-minded station and we’ve had great communicators on the air who have been able to get that message across.
“People will always want to know what the weather is, what’s happening, what’s new… I think we just keep on trucking and let the chips fall, as they say.”
Among the high-profile broadcasters who have called CJOB home over the decades is Peter Warren, who was an on-air staple for what he called “millions of years.”
“The station has been — from before I was there, during the time I was there, and since then — remarkable,” said Warren.
“Absolutely one of the top in the world. The basic groundwork that I learned at CJOB — to do it fairly and to do it correctly — that’s been my way I’ve learned throughout my life in the career that I have.
“I loved the place.”
Former CJOB news anchor Barry Burns said he began listening to the station years before eventually working there.
“My mother had CJOB glued on the radio. I didn’t realize there were other radio stations in the city until I grew up a little bit.
“Its been just fantastic and a great experience for me to be able to be involved in some of the most important things in our lives, like the flood of 1997,” said Burns.
“I was lucky enough to be able to go to Afghanistan on behalf of CJOB… and report live from Kandahar airport for a few weeks, and that was one of the highlights of my career. I care a lot about CJOB and what the radio station is doing and how it’s serving the people not only of Winnipeg but of Manitoba.”