Accidental Activist

Farewell to Roy Green

Behind that trademark growl is a shrewd and compassionate human being who always shows a genuine concern for the affairs of the people around him and never misses an opportunity to show how much he cares.

By Ben Bull
Published February 26, 2007

So Roy Green is hanging it up.

After 34 years of producing and hosting some of Hamilton's most memorable radio, the burly, bald, bad-tempered morning radio show host is finally calling it quits. Unlike some RTH readers, I am going to miss Roy.

As regular readers may know, this website was born out of a monthly citizen's panel featured on Roy's show.

Beginning in 2004, Jason Leach, Sharlene Dobson, Sohail Bhatti and I took to the airwaves to canvass listeners' opinions and stir up debate on the municipal issues of the day. Roy put the group together, welcomed us on to his show, and left the rest to us.

Over the 12 months or so we were on the air we chatted with the Mayor, City councillors and staff, and enjoyed a lively exchange of opinions with an assortment of Hamilton's activist elite.

Hit and Miss

On some occasions we hit the right note, like the show about Hamilton's image where the phones rang off the hook. Other times we fell flat. But whatever the outcome, and whatever the topic, Roy always welcomed our opinions, kept his distance and let us do the talking.

There have been many criticisms levied at Roy over the years. The charge that he is 'right wing' and 'contentious' are hardly worth defending. In fact, it is surely Roy's ability to take a stand - usually a controversial one - and defend it so stoutly that has contributed to the show's success.

I don't share many of Roy's opinions. In fact, often, during our on air discussions or between segments (during those inordinately long commercial breaks) there would be many a passionate exchange about Iraqi deserters, the merits of the Bush presidency (a short discussion, of course) and - one of Roy's favourite topics - the antics of a certain Michael Moore...

Despite these different points of view I was always amazed at how patient and informed Roy proved to be. Roy Green always defended his corner, and never once blustered his way out of the ring.

The Media Business

As our little media experiment progressed, our group - we called ourselves 'The Green Berets' after Roy - began to understand a little better the workings of the CHML empire, and the media machine in general. We learned the hard way that the media is, first and foremost, a business. If you don't attract the listeners - and in Talk Radio this is often measured by the calls coming in - you don't stay on the air.

More importantly, as with any form of entertainment, if you upset or alienate your audience, you definitely don't stay on the air. In the end, that's what happened to us. Over the course of our twelve-month adventure our little group of non-partisan pundits (between the four of us we had every mainstream political party covered) became perhaps a little too anti-establishment, a little too 'left leaning' - as some of Roy's listeners charged - a little too engaged.

In the end it was as if the more informed we became, the less tolerant we were about the cheesy soundbites trotted out by the Mayor's office, or the editorial pages of The Hamilton Spectator. In the end, our exasperation got the better of us.

The intransigency, ignorance and downright dishonesty, as we saw it, of Hamilton's political elite ('I think Hamilton has a good image' The City's Manager of Tourism told us on one show; 'I promise to be completely open about who is financing my campaign' claimed the Mayor, during another) took the fun out of the game.

But whatever the evolution of the panel and the reasons for its demise, I never lost my enthusiasm for the medium and the show; and I never lost my respect for Roy.

Shrewd and Compassionate

What many listeners could never know is that behind that pensive, played out delivery - beyond that trademark growl - is a shrewd and compassionate human being who always shows a genuine concern for the affairs of the people around him and never misses an opportunity to show how much he cares.

The passion with which he encouraged and supported Sharlene Dobson's campaign to organize a Veteran's luncheon, so that the old guys had somewhere to go after the Armistice Day services, was remarkable and touching.

Roy's e-mails to me, encouraging me to run for office, complimenting my analysis of this issue or that, and in the end sympathizing with my decision to leave town - were always genuine, straight from the heart.

I'm not entirely naïve when it comes to Talk Radio. I understand that in an effort to generate discussion and attract an audience there is a temptation - a requirement even - to be permanently aggrieved.

I have often shared the frustration of my activist peers and neighbours as I listened to Roy praise the 'vision' and 'leadership' of President Bush, or give our ex-Mayor Larry Di Ianni a sympathetically wide berth during those oh-so-cozy weekly discussions.

More recently, I heard Roy (I still listen from Toronto when I can, the reception is surprisingly good and it is still the best spot on the dial between 9 and 12) lend a sympathetic ear to newly minted Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson's ridiculous claims that an anti-idling bylaw is 'too much government.'

But the less cynical side of me, the side which knows Roy's more thoughtful and sympathetic disposition, suspects - hopes in fact - that Mr. Green is sometimes just playing it up for his audience, seeking an argument where none really exists. Keeping those phone lines ringing...

"After This Short Break..."

On his show last Friday, after announcing his retirement, Roy explained that he would be taking on some new projects, and staying at CHML.

I look forward to what Roy has to offer next. I hope we will get see some less incendiary journalism coming our way. Perhaps Roy can take on the complex and pervasive issues hurting Hamilton today, such as poverty, the out-of-control meth epidemic, or the rise in gang crime hitting the streets.

There's no doubt that Roy has the courage, the smarts and the compassion to take on these 'tough' assignments.

I'll miss Roy Green. Here's hoping we haven't heard the last of him.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

6 Comments

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By disagree (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2007 at 17:53:34

Well, Roy might be a fine chap to have dinner with Ben, since it's bad manners to speak with your mouth full, but as far as his radio show was concernered I would not cross the road to throw a bucket of water on it if the studio was on fire. Thank goodness he is off the air!

Saying he had some professional skill because he got lots of listeners is sort of like saying the high sciool kid flipping burgers at McDonalds is a chef just because folks line up to buty the food

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By fastcarsfreedom (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2007 at 13:58:02

disagree...

Your manner of disagreement with Roy Green (and thus celebrating his departure) is typical of the few posters here who taint the rest of the site with their venom. All who don't agree with your narrow world-view can go to hell--or the suburbs--they are treated as synonyms here sometimes.

Ben--you deserve nothing short of praise for your balanced and honest piece on Mr. Green. The truth is Hamilton needs more Roy Greens and more Ben Bulls--opinions may differ, but a better future will come from debate, dissent and honest discussion.

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted February 28, 2007 at 16:52:06

Thanks for the comments fastcars and disagree,

Disagree – I understand your comments completely. If I had not had the good fortune to share the airwaves with Roy for a short time it’s unlikely I would have become a regular listener. ‘Incendiary journalism’ is not my thing.

But one thing I have learned from my activist experiences is how critical it is to package and ‘sell’ your message. The reason Roy attracts and keeps so many listeners is because he has a knack of getting to the heart of an issue. Whether you agree with him or not, he can excite a reaction. Instead of complaining that Roy is ‘bullying his audience’ (a remark I heard from an activist friend) or being incendiary, should we not look at his success and try to learn from his example?

In the end we are all trying to communicate - to ‘sell’ - our opinions and ideas. We are all looking for converts to our cause. The ability to pack a punch with our message is vital. I’m not advocating we create a misleading message, or that we dumb it down as Talk Radio hosts sometimes do, but we should be aware that short attention spans are common and that in many cases our message – as it pertains to sustainable development – can be dry and hard to digest.

What Roy often manages to do is simplify – electrify even – complex issues and convert the masses to his cause. Sure, it’s ultimately with the aim of attracting more listeners - radio is a business after all - but I still believe that there is still a lesson to be learned from the methods he uses.

Another point I wanted to get across was that while Roy may have stood his ground well, and often times treated dissenting listeners with a certain amount of distain, this was not the full measure of the man. My experience with Roy taught me that he was a fair person at heart, who liked nothing more than a good debate.

I would take Roy Green with an infuriating opinion over some touchy feely CBC ‘discussion forum' any day. Issues should excite us, not send us to sleep.

Cheers

Ben

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By A reader (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2007 at 22:41:11

From the preceding personal POV point-counterpoint, it would seem Mr. Green led a double life. In the public ear, he cultivated a personna which furthered his radio career, pandering to the lowest common denominator. Or if that is too harsh for you, to what he and station ownership knew was a mostly right-oriented and poorly educated listenership. In his personal contacts, is seems he showed his more polished, urbane side. As someone once said, once you can fake sincerity, you've got it made.

Getting to the honest truth as any individual sees it is about putting forward well-researched information and rational synthesis based on that information. Mr. Green's show would never have been mistaken for a bastion of rational discourse. More like a sanitized-for-Hamilton Howard Stern Show. More's the pity that honour now lies with Ch's Hebsy and Donna clown act.

If Mr. Green truly IS as intelligent and "fair" as those who knew him personally claim, then how could someone so "fair" trade on the obviously yellow side of radio journalism, disgused as "good debate"? Beyond ratings and the obvious personal gain therein, I see no reasonable explanation. So when is he declaring his intentions in the upcoming provincial elections? After the Larry the Lumberjack election debacle, Roy must see the writing on the municipal wall.

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By wil (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2007 at 11:40:40

I was in Florida when Roy Green retired. When I turned on CHML to finally get my fix of the best talk show host ever. Shocked to hear Bill Kelly. (I don't like him!).
I then found out that Roy had retired. This is very sad! He will definitely be missed. Please let me know what day he will be on CHML
thanks

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By Toronto Reader (anonymous) | Posted November 29, 2008 at 23:54:50

I recently heard Green on a radio station while vising London last Saturday. To be honest, this man is a clown. Allegedly being "opinionated" and holding an opinion presupposes that one has a valid opinion based upon a set of facts. Sadly, Green just rants. He comes across as an uneducated, rude bore.

To atempt to fob this clown of as a media pesonality of some type is akin to calling the boy who delivers my Toronto Star a media celebrity.

In a word, he is nothing more than an uneducated thug and bully who attempts to use his bully-like personality instead of logic or manners that ought to have been learned as a child.

Green really should speak to his doctor about his oft violent temper.

Green, you are a very irrelevent clown

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