Like every host, Rick Harp has an occasional slip of the tongue. Today is one of those days. “Janae, Janae, Janae,” Harp says pounding the sound of Edmonton AM guest Janae Jamieson into his head. He just introduced her as Jenna Jameson, the legendary porn actress. He recovers quickly, relates her name to the play she was interviewed about, and all is well.
Quick wit is essential on a live radio show in which long johns, the oilsands and 2012 real estate predictions are all topics of the day. And the ability to think fast is one reason CBC hired Harp after an exhaustive year-long search to replace long-time Edmonton AM host Ron Wilson. “He won the job because he is smart and witty and has a breadth of experience,” says Judy Piercey, managing director of CBC for Edmonton and Northern Alberta.
“It is a tough gig,” Piercey says. ” [Hosts] are expected to be top-notch journalists. They are expected to be engaging performers and that is not a common skill in the marketplace.” And, not to mention, morning-show hosts need to be all of these things at horrendously early hours.
Harp started his journalism career 15 years ago as an intern on As it Happens, a current events show that’s been airing on CBC Radio for over 40 years. As a journalist of Cree descent, Harp has an interest in telling Aboriginal stories in a way that’s not often covered by mainstream media. This interest led Harp to join the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) in Winnipeg in 2000, as host of Contact, a national call-in program. He went on to co-anchor APTN’s national news along with hosting and producing other programming for the network.
Last fall, Harp caught the eye of CBC recruiter David Nayman, who suggested he apply for the Edmonton position. Once Harp was offered the job, he couldn’t turn it down. “They just don’t hand these jobs out every day.”
Harp was paired with veteran local journalist Lydia Neufeld, who co-hosted the show from 1993 to 1996. But for Harp, it didn’t just mean a physical move for him and, eventually, his family still in Winnipeg; it’s a change from the news grind in Manitoba.
“Edmonton is the nexus of an incredible array of economics and political dynamics that are very exciting. You just have to look at the Keystone XL situation to realize that is the epicentre of a lot of things having to do with energy and issues of the environment,” he says. “It is a dynamic, exciting place to be. As a journalist, you couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Harp is especially interested in connecting with listeners via social media and telling stories of First Nations people in Edmonton and surrounding areas. But in the meantime, he hopes to get more acquainted with the city, the people and their names.