Saskatchewan politics

The Humboldt Broncos and Me (Because Why Not I Guess, Right?)

John vs Tammy.

It was the name of this segment we used to do during my four years as executive producer of the John Gormley Live Show, from 2007 to 2011.

I would be set up with some stupid position to “debate” Gormley on live radio, then Gerald, Rick and Gord, or some combination of middle-aged males thereof, would call up and berate me for being stupid. The segment would wrap, and Gormley would be declared the winner.

We did dozens, and Gormley won every single time. We wouldn’t have done it otherwise.

Here we are, seven years after John vs Tammy ground to a blessed halt, but Gormley still can’t stop playing. He’s still getting off on berating me on social media and on air, especially now that I’m not there to mount the predetermined, feeble defence I was given.

It happens every few months. I don’t know exactly what fuels this bizarre behavior, or care. What I do know is I haven’t seen or spoken directly to the man since I quit in 2011, so it’s troubling.

The latest segment of JvT kicked off Thursday night on Twitter, and then apparently turned into a bit of a barn burner on his show.

Which is all fine, if he had been riffing on facts.

He wasn’t.

He had been given false and incorrect information by people who have very big, and likely mental-health-related problems (they know who they are, and they know I know who they are, but we can talk about that another time, if need be).

Gormley Tweets

It’s me… I’m the “some communications person”.

He knew his audience would know he was referring to me. He wouldn’t have Tweeted it otherwise. Problem is, I did not get paid $60K over the six months I was with the Broncos, never mind in the first six weeks. Not even close.

Minutes later, Gormley seems to realize he’s screwed up.

Gormley Tweets

Now it’s “who/how/why”, as opposed to just one person (aka me).

Now he’s nervous that the unverified intel he had just spewed publicly was inaccurate (spoiler alert: it was).

Gormley Tweets

Ah… “accuracy”. Three public statements later, we’re worried about accuracy.

I knew Gormley was hot on the trail of this riveting public-interest story two weeks ago when a reporter from his radio station called the Broncos and asked about my remuneration.

A few days later I ran into friend and former colleague Wray Morrison, and we talked about it. Wray is the sports director at Rawlco, and after the crash he and his staff relied heavily on me and Takt to tell Broncos’ stories. Stories Rawlco paid them to tell, so Rawlco could be paid by advertisers, so Rawlco could pay people like John Gormley. So what was the problem with me needing to pay my rent? There wasn’t one, Wray insisted.

tweet

Tweet no. 4: virtue signalling.

Which brings us to Tweet no. 4.

Wray denies he told Gormley anything like that. Which makes sense, because I didn’t say anything like that.

Even if I did, who cares? Not the point. Point is I had an off-the-record, private conversation with a friend and journalist. A private conversation which inexplicably made it’s way to broadcast.

But I’ll let those two and their ethics advisors fight that out.

Here’s the truth.

On April 6, 2018, about five hours after the crash, a client asked me to phone then Broncos-president Kevin Garinger with an offer of air travel and financial assistance. During our call Kevin was bombarded by reporters, so I gave him advice on how to handle them.

“Can you help us?” he asked. I was in Humboldt by 8am the next morning, and helped deliver the first live Broncos’ news conference. Then, after it was over, I drove back to Saskatoon. I didn’t say goodbye. I felt like an outsider (I was) and wanted to get out of their way.

But halfway to the city I got a call from a Broncos’ director (can’t remember which one). “Where are you?” he asked, clearly not happy with me. “We have a meeting right away.”

I joined them by conference call for the rest of the day, and then on Sunday dragged my kids to Humboldt and locked them in the only available room at the Canalta hotel for fourteen hours. I was volunteering, and never did expense that room (in fact, the first I expensed any of my fuel, mileage, meals or accommodation was for the club’s AGM in August).

By Day Four I could not handle the communications demands of the tragedy alone, volunteer or otherwise.

Knowing that the Broncos’ would be working mainly with Saskatchewan reporters, I told them they needed to retain a local firm. One that would be able to drop everything, work inexpensively and quickly, and could work under unfathomable pressure in the short-term, and, after discussion with the various directors, to where I could transition relatively easily if I was going to be needed for the long-term. I gave the Broncos’ a number of options, explaining the differences, including in fees. They chose Takt Communications. I’d worked with them before. I knew they were great and supported the choice. Takt was eager to get going but bore with me while I micromanaged the transition, because there were so, so many sensitivities, complexities and minefields to maneuver.

So.

Many.

Minefields.

But I digress.

Takt billed the Broncos at a deep discount from beginning to end, but working fulltime for free for six months wasn’t an option. There was a 30-day retainer agreement in place, no formal contract. In the summer we mutually agreed that Takt’s services would end after the September 7 home opener. It was all very pleasant and simple.

Here’s what Global News Regina recently said about Takt’s (and by extension, my) rates for the Broncos:

“Global News spoke with other public relations firms that handle crisis communications in the province. All the firms Global spoke to said the discounted rate Takt offered was well below market price and that his standard pricing is fair, one even saying it was on the low end.

That same day, four days after the crash, a nice lady named Louise thanked me for volunteering with the Broncos. At that point I was volunteering, and had no plans to “take a penny” for the work (I never did for that period of time). In my reply I tried to convey that the situation was evolving. I noted the Blouise tweetroncos’ were bringing in “outside agencies, ie. comms”, and that “I may be a part of that…”, but also that I wasn’t going anywhere. I was heavily emotionally-invested and already had too much corporate-memory of the crisis to just walk away. If necessary, I would have kept volunteering as long as I was able, if that’s what the Broncos had decided they wanted from me.

But until that was figured out, I kept working 20-odd hours per day, without any clarity about what would happen next, nor any expectation of payment in the interim.

In the end, before fully transitioning the file to Takt and letting them lead, I donated about 100 hours. In a “normal” crisis I would have billed more for that alone than I ended up earning per month: $9000. $2000 went to the nanny I had to hire fulltime so I could do the job. After deductions I ended up bringing in less than before I ever set foot in Humboldt. I had to let go of almost all my clients, because I simply didn’t have the capacity to work with them at the same time, and did nothing during my time with the team to build new ones, so today I’m still not sure what I’m going to do next. I don’t care, and regret nothing. I’m not sharing because it matters to me, but because clearly it does to some people.

If a comms agency in Saskatoon stepped up do it for free, like Gormley is suggesting, I didn’t know about it. Nobody else seems to either. Either way, once that tragedy calmed down and became the daily, all-consuming nightmare it has been ever since, they’d have been long gone.

Which brings us back to this shit show.

On Thursday night Takt Communications provided Gormley with detailed information to correct that which he had just lied about on Twitter. It didn’t matter, because Gormley doesn’t care about Takt, truth, or anything other than smearing and discrediting me. I know this for a fact, because I watched him do it to people for years.

On Friday morning, Gormley knew the first narrative he had planned was screwed, so he made up another one, live on the air.

No longer was the “marketing” (don’t ask me why they called it that) line item amount in the Broncos’ annual financials bothering him, despite his Tweets.

Instead, he resurrected the above-mentioned Tweet I sent Louise, stretching it to suggest I deliberately misled people to believe that I wouldn’t “take a penny” at all, ever. That I’d conducted a “bait and switch” on the Broncos by saying I’d initially work for free and then ambushing them with costs.

That I’m some kind of soothsaying monster who knew, on the night it happened, what the full, staggering extent of the Humboldt Broncos’ bus crash tragedy would be, and so must have called them to volunteer as a way to get in the door to take advantage of it.

Can you imagine? Seriously?

Totally false.

Yet here we are.

I’m not surprised. Gormley and his best friend and lap dog ran a similar smear campaign in April when I started with the Broncos. It didn’t work, so they tried again. The reality is this was always coming – Gormley had been waiting, like a kid on Christmas morning, to get ahold of a scrap of something Humboldt Broncos’-related that he could use to come after me.

He couldn’t get anything out of the job we did, because like everyone else who was consumed by the aftermath, volunteer or not, we did a good job. We even booked guests for his show. Gormley knew months ago the Broncos’ had retained Takt, because he used them himself.

For weeks, the Humboldt Broncos’ tragedy was one of the biggest international news stories out there. The communications needs were extensive for a really long time, and they needed professional assistance. The end.

But John v Tammy has been going on, to varying degrees, for seven years. It went on, to different degrees, for the four years before that. He had thirteen producers in the nine years before me – you think that’s because he was awesome to work with?

I’ll never forget sitting in the radio station’s general manager’s office, sobbing.

“He’s Gormley. He’s not going to change,” I was told. In other words, they had no intention of trying to mitigate his behavior, and if I didn’t like it, I could leave.

In April, if I owed Twitter an immediate follow-up detailing how I stayed on to help the Broncos while keeping my bills paid, I was not aware of such requirement. I could barely hold it together enough to shower and brush my teeth consistently for the first six weeks of working that crisis.

But it wouldn’t have mattered, we’d still be here today, on something else.

Every second I spent working with the Broncos, and with the amazing people I met doing so, was a privilege. I came out of that experience with people I’ve never met hating me, and people who hated me before hating me even more. More importantly, I met people who I will always love and consider friends.

And it’s for them that I feel awful.

Gormley’s attacks on me are attacks on the people who led the Humboldt Broncos through those dark, horrific, indescribable early days. Volunteers, with fulltime jobs and families, who nearly killed themselves to hold the fragments of that team together.

To those people, I apologize, and its for them I write this. I didn’t want to and hated having to do so, because it’s what Gormley wanted – to force his way into my head, to make me react.

To feel in control.

But you’re not, John. And you need to stop.

Those awesome people don’t deserve to be dragged into this, or to be led to believe by a bunch of very sad, sick individuals that they were conned at one of the darkest points of their lives.

Those who lost loved ones or were otherwise hurt by this tragedy will continue to be hurt by people – far too many, to be honest – using other peoples’ pain and loss as a weapon to settle personal scores.

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For those of you who care, I’m Tammy Robert. I’m a writer, but pay the bills consulting in political strategy, media and public relations. Feel free to email me anytime about either at tammyrobert@live.ca

 

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Categories: Saskatchewan politics

1 reply »

  1. Most people don’t understand or realize what it takes to manage a crisis of this magnitude on the communication side. That you volunteered hundreds of hours is admirable but no one who realizes what it takes to do what you did would ever expect you to do it for free. In my opinion no need to apologize for that.
    The sad part in this public joust (regardless of the who’s right or wrong) is that the Humboldt team, families and volunteers all get splattered by the suspicion, being victimized once again. So good on you for attempting to spare their reputation and dignity. They have suffered enough.

    Like

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