Robert Vairo

Robert Vairo - CKSO AM FM TVHometown
Sudbury, Ontario

First Media Job
CKSO Radio, Sudbury

Robert Vairo would tell you that he was “bad” in sports having been “crunched” in football and “powered” over in basketball and even having tried his hand at goalie, athletic prowess was just not his! His love for the games though made for a dedicated spectator, especially of high school sports. Robert was just 15 years of age and brimming with excitement following his high school, St. Charles College, basketball team’s victory. Winning the intercollegiate basketball championship against four other Sudbury area high schools, he called CKSO Radio with the great news. The on-air host at the time asked Robert what the score was and Robert’s reply, “Score?! Roll the tape. I’ve got a report! How long do you want?” Robert was given carte blanche and he proceeded with a detailed report. Sounding like a veteran he concluded, “Bob Vairo, CKSO News.” He went by “Bob” in his youth. After the report, the CKSO host having been impressed with Robert’s technique and adeptness asked him where he was working. Robert surprised him when he replied that he was only in grade 10 and it was then he suggested Robert come in the next day about a job. Robert came in and met Reg Madison. It was decided that Robert was too young and tied up with school studies to make a commitment for any kind of steady shift work, but Reg had an idea about arranging to have nightly reports from each of the area’s high schools. Each school would have a student reporter or stringer record five separate reports for on-air evening playback in advance of the next day’s sporting and other special events. For Robert, reporting on his own school was his foot in the door at CKSO.

Throughout his remaining high school years Robert continued to get hands-on experience. He was asked to sit in and operate the AM control board while CKSO’s Bob Alexander did a broadcast from a sponsor’s location. Eventually Robert would operate all-night shows. Reflecting on those early career days, Robert recalls how “natural” it all felt, as if born to be in radio. His passion for the business never faded.

Robert’s parents encouraged him to get a college or university education. Robert attended Laurentian University studying philosophy and French but after two years it was not what he could relate to or even wanted and so he made a move to Leamington, Ontario where he worked at CHYR AM. Within a year’s time Robert was at CFCH Radio and Television in North Bay. He anchored late afternoon radio news and late evening television news.

Upon leaving North Bay some time later, Robert’s mother once again urged him to get a Bachelor of Arts under his belt. Even if not obvious at the time, it would be instrumental in getting a good job, perhaps something in the way of teaching. Regardless of a career choice, she insisted that a B.A. would prove worthwhile. Taking her advice Robert searched for and found just what he knew was perfect for him. He enrolled at Concordia University in Montreal where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. It was a four-year run for Robert who would need to find employment to cover his tuition and living expenses. Two years into the program Robert found work at CFOX AM in Montreal. Commuting to Pointe Claire for late-night shifts and home and to university on a daily basis was time and logistics challenged and so Robert asked the owner of the station, Gord Sinclair Jr. for transportation. They provided a motorbike to Robert on which he learned to drive and became licensed.

Following graduation from Concordia Robert left CFOX and began mornings at CKGM AM in Montreal. There was some interest in going into law but after attending court sessions and interviewing lawyers, Robert witnessed a side of the justice system he couldn’t accept. Lawyers plea bargaining for murder was not his idea of justice. It was then Robert decided rather than join this, he would report on it and he committed himself to broadcast journalism. He stayed on at CKGM for some time.

He left Montreal and returned to Sudbury to handle radio morning news. He would also find himself at CHNO. Montreal was tugging at his heart and he returned there to CJAD AM. Then in the early 1980s he joined Montreal’s major English-language television news station, CFCF TV, a CTV affiliate. He proved he was not camera shy having amassed extensive experience in television news as a reporter and anchor. It was nearly two decades before he returned to morning radio in Montreal.

Adding to his credits, he provided freelance radio announcer and reader services. He has voiced online college and university courses including architecture, construction and history. During his time at Concordia he founded a closed-circuit campus radio station.

Robert Vairo has covered the gamut serving as announcer, talk show host, producer, reporter and anchor throughout the years of his career. He also holds a teaching degree and in collaboration with Concordia University’s Communications Department has taught courses as far back as 1984 including writing for radio and television, voice production techniques for radio, news, sports and public affairs and techniques of public communication for radio, television and public relations.

Vario realized a great dream by establishing his own broadcast school, “The Montreal Radio and TV School”. It offered a fast-track intensive radio and TV course to get students launched into entry-level positions in the broadcast industry. Digital technology paved the way to create seven radio studios and one television studio. The school kept its doors open for close to 15 years and had the bragging rights of having graduates in every English language radio station in Montreal and three French stations in Quebec. The school provided instruction to well over 500 students. As many of its graduates could hit the ground running, the school developed a fine reputation and earned many accolades from the students’ employers.

Robert decided to close the school when Quebec began to issue grants to eligible students attending college, university and other learning institutions accredited by the province. After much persistence and thousands of dollars in legal and administrative costs, the school was denied such recognition and for no other reason, Robert and his lawyer were suspicious that the English school was at a political disadvantage in a French province. Robert also saw this juncture as a good time to bow out witnessing a new era in broadcasting in so far as corporate ownership, programming, branding and marketing were changing. He saw the industry’s reliance, or perhaps dependency, on social media which was taking over from the more conventional means of listener retention. Robert had no interest in pursuing that direction and he decided it was time to sell the school.

Following the sale of the school, Robert retained other business interests at hand but for the most part he decided to retire and relocate to British Columbia. Robert and his sister maintain a hunting cabin built by their father many years ago south of Sudbury. At home he enjoys his grandkids and riding his motorcycle 12 months of the year. He speaks fluid English and French and can get by in two or three other languages. He is a guest columnist for a Montreal newspaper.

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