“You, Max, are the icon of generosity,” said executive board member Doug Grenkie, thanking guest speaker, Max Keeping, following the September 21 meeting of the Canadian Club of Morrisburg and District.
Recently retired after over three decades as anchor of CTV/CJOH television in eastern Ontario and long time community supporter and activist, Keeping shared his views of giving, of the importance of community and of the role of the media in the community. His Newfoundland sense of humour always at the forefront, Keeping delivered an inspirational and thoughtful message.
He recalled how essential a station like CJOH has been to the eastern Ontario community, bringing people together through distinctive local productions and shows that reflect rural values and strengths. He was proud that New Faces, Regional Contact, and even the off-the-wall show, You Can’t Do That on Television, are remembered and honoured for their hometown spirit. They showcased the interesting places and people that mattered to eastern Ontario communities.
“In the 1960s,” Keeping said, “when I was just starting out, Ernest L. Bushnell was the new owner of CJOH TV. I remember him saying ‘This station must exist to do more than just make me money.’ He felt that his station had to be of service and benefit to the community.”
Keeping followed that philosophy throughout his on air career, actively promoting and supporting fund raisers, funding drives and community campaigns for nearly 40 years, including his work for CHEO, raising millions of dollars for sick children during telethons.
“In this wonderful and exciting new world of technology, our definition of neigbour is going to change. My neigbours used to be anyone four miles away. Now a neighbour can mean someone 8,000 miles away. The ability to net work and to bring people together on line in a good cause is a characteristic of young people today. They still cherish our fundamental values, but they plan to use technology to remake the world.”
Although he values and supports the new technical approaches to community involvement and fund raising, Keeping shared anedotes about the “good old days” on the CJOH TV, when there was a push to get right out into the community to broadcast.
“Once, on a four nights run of a show called Hometown Tours, we decided in one town that it would be a great idea to put J.J. Clark, the weatherman, out into the river to deliver his report,” Keeping laughed.
“With more than a minute and a half to go in the report, J.J. suddenly threw the live mike back at me and I had to cover. When I asked him why later, he indignantly replied that the current was so strong, it was pulling him under. “I was drowning!”
Another time I talked him into making his weather broadcast from atop a live elephant. Suddenly the beast took off with J.J. trapped. We used to put him into all kinds of predicaments. I don’t think,” Keeping laughed, “that J.J. really minded when I left.”
He praised the efforts of the public service employees, of individuals and service groups and ordinary people for their generosity to others.
“Throughout my long career, I have learned to recognize and value the act of giving,” Keeping concluded.
“You receive so much more when you give. You of rural Canada have set the bar high in generosity to others: we in the cities must strive to meet that same bar.”