It was a story about a shoe.
My early exposure to Mike McCardell’s story-telling brilliance happened nearly 20 years ago when I was producing and anchoring the weekend news in Calgary. We always looked for something interesting on the network feed, and often prayed that Mike had done something that would resonate with our viewers in southern Alberta, as he often did.
And then we saw the story about the shoe. One single shoe, abandoned in the middle of the road.
Mike asked the question I’m sure everyone asks when they see a single shoe in the middle of the street: “How did it get there?”
His rumination on this unsolvable riddle, and interviews with passers-by about their theories, was 2 minutes of brilliant television. I will never forget it.
For the past 7 years, almost every night, I’ve watched as Mike turns the mundane into magic. Stories of love and loss, joy and heartbreak, of ordinary people sharing their extraordinary experiences, always handled with respect and compassion. He’s become a good friend and I’m honoured by the respect he’s shown me since I arrived in 2006.
Mike McCardell’s reports have been an antidote to the often troubling news we’re obligated to show on a nightly basis. After all, if we don’t know what’s wrong in the world, who’s going to do the work to make it right? Mike’s brilliance was in deftly easing us out of the News Hour, gently closing the show with a tale that almost always had a moral implication. There is no way to replace what Mike has given to the News Hour over the decades. I will miss him and his nightly observations more than I can express in words.
However sudden Mike’s departure may seem, it is also a reminder that now more than ever, the television business is in a state of renewal and reinvention. To be clear, Mike was not ready to leave. He was under contract until the end of August, but when he was told his contract would not be renewed, he chose to leave early.
Mike demanded no fanfare, no laudatory send-off, no on-air retrospective of his 40 years of service to this television station. We all reluctantly obliged and will save those sentiments to share with him in a more intimate and personal setting in the near future.
And the News Hour will go on. We’re mulling over a couple of options to consistently close our nightly news program in an informative and entertaining way. Mike will never be replaced, but we believe we can come up with something that’s worthy of the timeslot and is perhaps the beginning of a new tradition.
And even though I won’t see Mike’s work every night on the News Hour, I know he’s out there making his daily appeal to the Story Gods for inspiration. I know I’ll read it or see it somewhere. Maybe he’ll even find an answer to the age-old question… “How DID that shoe get there?”
Good luck, Mike… we miss you!