Calgary Eyeopener host David Gray hangs up the headphones after 33 years of journalism

This article was originally published on June 24, 2022, and has been reposted on David Grey’s final day as host of CBC Radio’s The Calgary Eyeopener on June 30. So long, David!

Drivers are the worst passengers, doctors make terrible patients and journalists hate to be interviewed. But as I have decided to step down after nearly a dozen years as host of the Calgary Eyeopener, I thought I owed you all an explanation. Simply, it’s time.

I love this job. In my opinion, it’s the top job for a journalist in the city and, to state my bias (I grew up in Calgary, and feel as linked to our foothills and mountains as a grizzly in springtime), I would argue it’s the best damn job in the country. 

David Gray and Dana Peers, then the Calgary Stampede chief executive, at the 2019 Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. (CBC)

I’ve been a working journalist for 33 years. I started with The National in Toronto (a great first gig), took a reporter job in my home town in 1990, moved to become a legislature bureau chief in Edmonton two years later, and after some memorable escapades with Ralph (I was with him when he met with Yasser Arafat at a beach house in Gaza), moved back to Toronto to take a national reporting gig with the now-defunct CBC business show Venture

Those were a good seven years. I filed reports from Cairo to Beirut, London to Jerusalem. On this continent, I chased corporate gamblers in Vegas, tech dreamers in New York, double-dipping doctors in New Orleans and white collar crooks in Houston (anyone else remember Enron?). It was a great gig. I lived on an airplane, told stories from every Canadian province and two of three territories, and somehow got married and started a family along the way.

When our second child was born, we decided to raise our kids where my heart was, in Calgary. I came home.

David Gray in Lebanon in the 1990s. (CBC)

That’s when I fell into a hosting chair. The first five years were spent on Newsworld, back when it had a national presence outside of Central Canada. It’s where I really developed my interviewing chops, learning from Kathleen Petty, the late Henry Champ and other veterans of the game.

Michael Enright gave me the best bit of advice, “the second question is always found in the first answer.” He was right. It’s a listening job most of all. 

In 2008, I was given the opportunity to move to the “senior service” and host a radio show. That show was The Homestretch, and I was hooked. Two years later, the Eyeopener job opened up, and I’ve been here ever since. 

Like most hosts, I have a long list of “most memorable interviews.” I’ve had every prime minister since Mulroney on the other side of my microphone, movie stars and musicians, premiers and self-promoters. I’ve spent time on other shows (As it Happens, Sunday Edition, Cross Country Checkup) but the Eyeopener has always been where I feel I most belong. And honestly, it’s because of you.

Let’s face it, there’s a lot of porridge in the daily news run; our job is to find the raisins. Time and again, it’s the everyday folks who light up the airwaves with their stories. I will always remember the Midnight Sun Plant Food entrepreneur from the Yukon, the farmer who saved an injured antelope and broke his arm doing it, the women who tirelessly volunteered to help strangers clean up their yards after the 2013 flood.

Angela Knight, David Gray and Allen the Alpaca social distancing at CBC Calgary in October 2020. (Paul Karchut/CBC)

In the end, it’s Canadians telling other Canadians about the stories they are most passionate about that makes radio worth listening to. That’s what gets me up in the morning. The tales that make you sit in your driveway with the engine still running to hear the end before you carry in the groceries. The ones you relish to tell your kids, or your mom. I overhear our stories being retold by cab drivers, and by CEOs. It’s what public broadcasting is all about. 

And I Iove radio. Always have, ever since I was a kid. CBC radio is the cultural railroad of the country, and it drifts its way out of windows and across lakes and over mountain ranges like wisps of smoke on a summer breeze. The technology and the journalism profession constantly seems to shrink and change, but somehow radio endures. Thank goodness for that. It was a privilege to be allowed to enter your cars and homes. I will always be grateful.

Speaking of gratitude, thanks to all the technicians and producers and camera operators and editors and dreamers who come together to build shows every day. I get to be at the pointy end, but they have made it possible. Special thanks to my wife, Kim, and my now grown-up kids, Jackson and Emma, for putting up with all the early hours. 

David Gray and his (work) better half. Angela Knight. (CBC)

And on a last but certainly not least note, thanks to my colleague and friend Angela Knight, with whom I have shared more than a thousand sunrises. I will miss that. She will carry the show forward, as capable and talented as always. Perhaps “One Gray Knight” Coffee will become “One Knight Only.” It would be fitting.

So why am I leaving the Eyeopener at the end of this month? Well, some sleep would be nice. I just know it’s time for me to do something else. And no, I don’t really know what that will be, but I look forward to finding out. I am retiring, for now, heading off in search of new adventures. Thank you for listening. Let’s talk again soon.

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