Award-winning journalist Bob Keating has retired from journalism after a 35-year career and launched the Kootenay Time Podcast.
Bob Keating has shut off his microphone at CBC Radio for the last time. The Nelson, British Columbia resident has been working in journalism for the past 35 years and he retired from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in May 2021. Bob was the voice of the Kootenays for decades, snagging 19 awards along the way, including five Websters, which celebrate excellence in Canadian journalism. He’s now moving into podcasting and has launched the Kootenay Time podcast.
We caught up with Bob to talk about his illustrious career, his new podcast, and the guy who had to grow weed to pay for the food he fed two dozen wild bears.
Hey Bob. Congrats on the retirement. Although you’re probably busier than ever, eh? Why a podcast?
Because it is my favourite new tool for storytelling. The most engaging stories I ever told were long form. Flipping rocks looking for new spider species with biologists, touring with Canada’s longest running punk band, meeting a woman officially declared extinct. Crazy stuff. That’s where the fun is, long-form storytelling where you really dig in and tell the whole story. Podcasting allows for that. It’s a blank canvas with very few rules. Podcasting is to radio what Netflix and Crave are to TV, a Renaissance, a rebirth. It’s where I belong.
What was the most interesting thing you covered during your career as a journalist?
Tough call. I’m going to say the Weibo Ludwig trial in northern Alberta. It had it all. A cult-like religious leader fighting a
legitimate battle against big oil and gas by illegitimate means, blowing up wells. The province eventually threw him in jail and locals who turned their back on Ludwig when an innocent girl was shot and killed on his farm. CBC actually set up a one-person bureau to cover the case (staffed with me) and promised the bureau would continue after the trial. As soon as Weibo was in jail they ordered me back to Edmonton. The Sinixt case is a close second. A people declared extinct? Huh. We’ve done some horrible things to the first nations of this country. Telling them they don’t exist is one of the worst I’ve covered. A riveting case about a people who refuse to accept they are invisible.
What was the funniest thing you covered?
The Bear Dude, hands down. The story of an amicable old hippie feeding so many bears at his remote cabin in the hills he has to start growing weed to pay for the food (dog food he called crunchies). Initially RCMP thought they were grow-show guard bears. They were more like pets, with names. There was also a racoon he called “little dude and a pot-bellied pig for colour. But who needed more colour when you had two dozen black bears fetching sticks and wanting their bellies rubbed. You want to see something hilarious, Google “bears weed Russian anchor.” The poor anchor takes a half dozen runs at the story and keeps breaking down in gales of laughter. It was that kind of tale. A writer’s dream. Truly original. No one gets hurt and you can’t stop laughing. It went around the world.
Hilarious. We remember that story. Such a classic. OK, back to the Podcast. What is Kootenay Time?
Kootenay Time is a reflection of 35 years of journalism, most of it in the Kootenays. I’ve been a reporter a longtime, was approaching semi-retirement and didn’t want all that to just disappear into the ether. At the end of their career a ship builder has their ships, a vintner has their wines and cellar. I just have words. So I bundled them into a podcast. It’s a nice, tight four hours of me talking. Think of it as a sleep aid.
What is your goal with the podcast?
To entertain and perhaps enlighten. To tell real cool Kootenays stories, which there are many of. And perhaps to highlight an interesting career that is dying somewhat. There are very few radio reporters anymore. Most reporters do radio, TV, web, social, there’s just all these mediums a modern journalist has to contribute to, often in the same afternoon. For much of my career I was a radio guy who did things the old school way, by sniffing out my own stories in person, writing and producing for radio – with only the ear in mind. That just doesn’t happen that much anymore. I wanted to document what it was like back in the day, even if that makes me sound old. I’m not, I’m middle-age, if I live to be 114.
Are you going to miss being the CBC guy?
Very much so. I grew up in the CBC and learned my craft at the foot of some of the best journalists in Canada. I got a week’s work in 1992 and stretched it into 30 years somehow. I’m going to miss the people and working in public broadcasting. I also loved telling Kootenay stories. I’m going to keep doing that but the venue is different. There’s no safety net of a federal government salary though, which is worrisome and exciting at the same time.
For more info about Bob’s new podcast, visit: kootenaytimepodcast.com