The News Broadcasts That Kept Us Tuned In

Spring 2003 CSANews Issue 46  |  Posted date : Apr 15, 2007.Back to list

We Interrupt This Program would be the perfect gift for the news junkie in your life. CBC broadcaster Raj Ahluwalia has produced a wonderful book of concise, informative essays and dramatic photos, accompanied by two digitally mastered CDs, examining 42 newsworthy events of the last half-century.

In the Foreword, Peter Mansbridge makes the observation that even the title, We Interrupt This Broadcast, evokes "a sense of excitement and nervousness at the same time." Some of these interruptions, such as The Declarations of War on Germany and Japan, the Crumbling of the Berlin Wall and the Terrorist Attack of September 11/01 changed the world and our very lives.

Others are events broadcast that literally brought life in Canada to a halt. Special Canadian moments included are Prime Minister St. Laurent welcoming Newfoundland to Canada, the Richard Riots (in Montreal) and Paul Henderson's winning goal in the Summit Series against the Soviets. There are also two scary Quebec Referendums, The cancellation of the Avro Arrow, The Toronto Blue Jays' World Series Wins, and Wayne Gretzky first being traded from Edmonton, and then going on to manage the Canadian Hockey Team to Olympic gold. An astonishing 12.6 million Canadians watched as, on February 21, 2001, Gretzky's team ended 50 years of Olympic frustration for Canada.

A colourful example of Ahluwalia's journalistic style is his inclusion of Gretzky's "us against the world" rant, which turned out to be a clever psychological ploy. "I'm tired of people taking shots at Canadian hockey. We do it, and we're dirty. When the Europeans do it, it's okay....That's a crock of crap.....I know the whole world wants us to lose except for Canada and Canadian fans." It was uncharacteristic of Gretzky, but it worked! Canada had been awful in the first game, and lost to Sweden, but this outburst put the focus on the manager and off the team. The players responded brilliantly.

The timeless photographs, both in colour and dramatic black and white, combined with a seamless text, make We Interrupt This Program an impressive coffee table book.

Pictures of Churchill and Roosevelt in meetings with our Prime Minister Mackenzie King, Lester Pearson receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, and the saga of Ambassador Ken Taylor, a modern Scarlet Pimpernel, bravely hiding and rescuing six American hostages out of Iran, recall a era in which Canada seemed to play a more significant role on the world stage than it does now.

Then there's the raw emotion captured in spine-tingling actual broadcast CDs. The "Oh my God!" horror of the announcer telling of the second plane hitting The World Trade Center; the choking tears as Terry Fox announced from Thunder Bay, September 1, 1980 that he had developed cancer of the lung and couldn't continue his "Marathon of Hope."

For me, Justin Trudeau's eulogy at his father's funeral was moving in text, CD and picture; "He left politics in '84, but he came back for Meech. He came back for Charlottetown. He came back to remind us who we are and what we're all capable of. But he won't be coming back anymore. It's all up to us now, all of us now....The woods are lovely, dark and deep. He has kept his promises and earned his sleep. Je t'aime, Papa."

Events of world significance, such as the death of Princess Diana, are covered in this book. Those of us of a certain age are challenged to remember "where we were" when John Kennedy was assassinated, or when man first walked on the moon.

We Interrupt This Program provides an effective medium through which to hear the words and see the images of national and international events as they actually unfolded. Raj Ahluwalia has contributed a wonderful opportunity to share memories and history with our children, from a Canadian point of view.