When a Morning Radio Host Had to Talk to Himself


CBC host Loren McGinnis talks about the show that no one heard when The Trailbreaker lost its signal

Loren McGinnis is the host of CBC N.W.T.’s morning show, The Trailbreaker. On Wednesday it was one of many CBC radio shows that lost signal and went off-air.

I get a real kick out of talking on the radio. I love it. Wednesday morning at about 6:26 I was bouncing in my chair as I leaned into my microphone and talked about the humour and craft of Randy Newman’s songwriting.

The end of that first half hour of the show is when I talk about music history and spin a tune. Wednesday was Randy Newman’s 75th birthday. I talked about the singer with all the energy I figured a listener could handle at that hour, and then our director Cory Chibry fired Newman’s song, I love L.A.

It poured into my headphones and I kept bouncing. I was on fire (I thought).

Over in the control room, on the other side of a big pane of glass, Cory pressed a button to override the song and talk into my headphones. “We’re off air,” he said.

Fire doused.

Thud. Bouncing ended.

I didn’t know it then, but CBC morning shows across Western Canada were being missed. The technical issue was big (I still don’t know what happened) and had wiped out every station north and west of Manitoba.

At first, Loren keeps a positive attitude about the situation. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

I’ve been taught and wholeheartedly believe that the trick to sounding natural on the radio is to picture someone: a person you’re talking to. Otherwise you’re just a guy alone in a room, talking to himself, chair dancing to Randy Newman.

Sometimes I picture John in Fort Good Hope, or Dorothy and Angus in Deninu Kue. Other times, Kate and Mike and their kids in Yellowknife or Shawn the fisherman on the Big Lake. Whoever it is, the specific vision and knowledge that you — yes you — can hear me, is what breathes life into this otherwise isolated, quiet, even lonely environment.

So what happens when I know for sure that none of my mind’s-eye listeners are at the other end of the radio pipeline? A sort of personal and emotional disorientation — internal chaos for someone who defines himself Monday to Friday mornings from 6 to 8 by talking on the radio.

Too dramatic? Fair enough. And I’m OK. But I learned a thing or two from losing our signal.

Part of the strangeness is that we have to continue delivering the radio show. We could pop back on air at any second. And I can’t have a mouthful of bagel or be snoring at my desk when that happens.




  1. Well I guess your being paid to talk. If nobody listens then youve got the age old question. “when a tree falls in the forest does it make any noise?”.


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