CBC Radio Early Edition host Rick Cluff announces looming retirement

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      As major media figures like Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer became enmeshed in sexual-misconduct scandals involving their staff, a thought crossed my mind more than once.

      "This would never happen to Rick Cluff," I said to myself.

      Many years ago, I was a colleague of Cluff, the ever-cheerful long-time host of CBC Radio One's flagship show, The Early Edition.

      He's loved by those who work on the show because of his relentlessly friendly demeanour, fundamental decency, and his willingness (or should I say eagerness?) to allow others to occupy the spotlight.

      This morning, Cluff announced that he will retire on December 22 after 41 years with the public broadcaster.

      Almost half of his career has been as host of the Early Edition. Most of the rest of the time was spent covering sports.

      "This was supposed to be a three-year assignment when they moved me from Toronto to Vancouver," Cluff revealed this morning on the air.

      Then he quipped that he wanted to leave before his "best-before date".

      "I just drive the bus," he said to his colleagues. "You are the show."

      It was classic Cluff: humble, gracious, and generous-spirited.

      Sure, I heard complaints over the years that he wasn't tough enough on his guests.

      It's true that Cluff was rarely a tiger in interviews with newsmakers, unlike fellow host Stephen Quinn, who can crank up the tension whenever he gets a politician on the line or in the studio.

      Sometimes, Cluff was a bit too establishment for me, though I like his personality, which I compare to that of a friendly uncle. During his tenure, the show preferred not to delve too deeply into the stinking income inequality that's covered practically every morning on Co-op Radio.

      But there was still the odd occasion when Cluff would make life difficult for a newsmaker. I remember him once ripping into a former Liberal cabinet minister, Art Eggleton, whom Cluff knew when he lived in Toronto.

      Cluff also has a sharp mind for business and I've enjoyed his banter with financial experts near the bottom of the hour every morning.

      In the end, we're ultimately judged on how we treat the people around us. And Cluff has passed this test on a daily basis throughout his lengthy career.

      His good nature was also appreciated by audiences, who rewarded him with the highest ratings in the show's history.

      Cluff never contracted the Host Culture virus

      One thing can be said unequivocally: Cluff was the antithesis of former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi when it came to his workplace conduct.

      In the wake of the Ghomeshi scandal, CBC retained lawyers Janice Rubin and Parisa Nikfarjan to conduct an investigation.

      They revealed that the public broadcaster had a problem called "Host Culture".

      This didn't come as a huge surprise to some current and former employees of the Crown corporation.

      The lawyers stated that Ghomeshi could behave so badly for so long because the corporation had a habit of giving on-air talent wide latitude to act in an egotistical way. 

      Misconduct was excused if the results, i.e. ratings, remained high.

      "First, it consists of a belief that people who occupy the role of an on air host inevitably have big personalities, big egos, and big demands," the lawyers explained. "Witnesses described hosts as 'different beasts' given the public-facing nature of their role."

      They also stated that "because this personality type is considered necessary for the job, certain host behaviour was generally tolerated despite the feeling that their egos and behaviours were problematic as there is general fear to stand up to the talent".

      This speaks to the root cause of the Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer scandals.

      I believe that this well-founded concern over "Host Culture" led the public broadcaster to appoint four anchors rather than one to replace Peter Mansbridge on The National.

      Hosts can sometimes abuse their positions. Power can go to their head.

      Cluff, on the other hand, proved that you didn't need to have a big ego and big demands to succeed in the competitive world of morning radio.

      That's one of his legacies and it's one of many reasons why he'll continue to be admired for years to come.