Facebook postings of an extraordinary portrait of Newfoundland’s iconic seabird, the puffin, prompted resurrection of a favourite memento from my CJON Radio news reporting days in Newfoundland. It’s an extract from my media memoir Yesterday’s News. Jack Howlett, who played a key part in this incident, moved on to news reporting with CBC in St. John’s and Ottawa.
Reporting on local news in the few minutes a broadcast news program usually allows doesn‛t leave too much time or leeway for waxing poetic, or just plain silly but, sometimes, it just can‛t be avoided.
Such was my turn of mind one fine day when I was writing and editing a succession of morning (7 am to 9 a.m.) newscasts. It began with a phone call from an excited St. John‛s resident, reporting an unusual sighting on his property. Quick decision needed – we‛d better get Nels, our TV cameraman, and one of our news editors out to the scene pronto. It was done, the camera did its work, and we had a dandy public interest videotape clip to round out that evening‛s TV news.
But what‛s the good of a good story if you don‛t have a bit of fun with it. Something a little special was needed, so this little ditty developed to grace newscasts throughout the day:
A black and white seabird – I think it‛s a puffin
Is on my front lawn – No sir! I‛m not bluffin‛!
It must have come here to look for a hideout:
Say, that‛s pretty good – My name‛s Douglas Rideout!
Well anyway, sir. I‛m afraid that he‛ll die;
So send someone quick to the street known as Guy.
From this urgent call there was no turning back,
So the task of removing the bird fell on Jack –
Who can‛t tell a puffin apart from an owlet –
A fact which is strange, since his last name is Howlett!
But quick as could be with Nels Squires beside him
(To take this fine picture) he sped out and spied him.
Then, quick as a seagull swoops down on his prey,
Away whisked the puffin to the shore of the bay;
Slipped into the water, with one kick and a spin,
Off paddled the puffin: They watched with a grin;
Said Rideout: “Thanks be! We made it! Amen!
There goes one less listener for CJON.”