Episode 40 : Cal Millar Talks Journalism, Writing and Crime Stoppers
Hi, I’m Robert Cairns here. I’m the CEO and Chief Curator of amazing ideas of stunning digital marketing.com. Today I’m gonna talk to my good friend, cow Miller. cow has spent over 30 years working as a journalist in the city of Toronto. He has some really interesting insights into journalism to city writing, and more. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the discussion I had with cow. So I’m here just running with my good friend, cow, Miller cow. How you doing today?
Absolutely. Wonderful. Thank you, Ron.
Yeah. So you and I have known each other a long time and you have a little bit of a historie presence in the city of Toronto. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Well, for more than 30 years, I was a reporter in Toronto, emphasizing the word reporter, because I’m not sure the media has a good reputation these days. But I covered the what you would call general news, and basically recorded the history of the city for the time I was there.
Yeah. And your and your I know, from sitting down with you over the years and talking on the phone or talking to him personally. You’re quite the knowledgeable historian. How did he get into the newspaper business? I don’t know if I’ve ever asked you that actually.
Um, interesting story. The began right back in public school. And I had a teacher who told me that she thought I would be a newspaper reporter at some point in my life. Choose the word journalist. I kept the grade I was in a meeting. And eventually, I just sort of fell into it. But prior to that, when I was in public school, I had still in public school, I had a couple of friends who were interested in putting out a community newspaper. And at the age of 10, we actually did produce a paper for the neighborhood. And that’s how it all started. And interestingly, many, many years later, still, in touch with a friend who currently lives in Tucson, Arizona,
as that is a really cool story. And I and I recall, and I’m quoting You are a day one reporter at the Toronto Sun when it came out to the ashes of telegram where you’re not.
Yeah, it was a failure. It folded actually on our wedding day. Wow. When I got back from my honeymoon, there was a message waiting for me asking if I would be interested in joining the staff of the soon to be former Throne of sun. So I obviously said yes, not a lot of options in those days. And obviously, additional expenses with being married. So I had a look after things and eagerly accepted and had a great deal of fun putting up the Toronto Sun in its early days.
You worked with the legendary editor, David Creighton. Did you know he was the managing editor? Was he not when the sun came up?
was great. He was. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And Peter, Peter Worthington, the editor.
Yeah. Yeah. Two really legendary people in this business in the city. No question.
Boy. Exactly. Exactly. And Doug was one of the people that took me under his wing as the as the trauma telegram. He was the city editor at the time. And I had a really good career through him. So I appreciate the often.
What is the most interesting story you ever covered? You have one or two that stand out in all your homes?
Yeah. There’s one in particular that stands out and it’s a really went nowhere. Well, I mean, as far as I was concerned, but internationally, it was, it was major. It was the very strange shooting I’m in Toronto, where somebody has fired three bullets into a home post room. And simultaneous to the shooting. In Toronto, three shots were fired into a building, which was a secret police facility in Moscow. The two of them were linked. But I didn’t realize that initially. And eventually, that led to the, to an attack by Nelson, on the father of buildings in Russia, when his opposition took over the building. Very, very strange story, but it shows how the Russian secret police had tentacles all over the world. And what happened, the person in Toronto was the second in command of the secret police and had stolen $40 million which was on in transit to finance operations in Australia.
That is really, that is really interesting
story. The story is like a novel. And that was really one of the most interesting stories because we were able to basically spend a year following the money. And we had all kinds of characters who had come up with connections. Internationally, we found that people were involved with a company called sub Echo, which was actually a front for the KGB. And the story just kept spinning and spinning.
You know, it’s funny, you’re telling this story. And I can always I’m a reader, as you know. And I can always tell an old time author, an old time writer, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. Because I’m sitting here with my eyes closed, and I’m actually painting the picture that you’re telling me in my head, as you’re telling me that story. And I could almost picture this playing out where I think a lot of writers today, they don’t paint that picture. They don’t they that’s always been the advantage reading over watching TV in my books has been you can paint the picture. And the good writers can still do that. And it’s, you know, it’s it’s actually really satisfying. I can almost see the money coming out of the KGB as a, as a as you’re telling that story count.
And I mean, I just do a thumbnail version of it, it has tentacles. And just just basically it goes all over the map. And we had the situations where gold was being taken out of the Turkish Stan area by a politician in Toronto, he helped carry carry the shipment of gold from that country. And it eventually ended up in the United States. On a Canadian plane, the president of that country was murdered in the middle of the situation. It’s a very, very strange story, and it’s actually worthy of a book.
Yeah. And we’ll get more get to some books in your writing in a bit. What is the most interesting place you’ve ever gone? I know in your day, they didn’t do what we call a wire story. And for those who don’t know wire stories, one one that depressed, sends a wire reporter and just reports on it. Now in your day, you actually traveled around the cover these stories. So what’s the most interesting place?
Well, there’s there’s all sorts of them. I mean, you, you end up in different different parts. I remember going down to Puerto Rico. And there was there were 100 people killed in a fire at the DuPont hotel. And it was on New Year’s Eve. And I didn’t have my passport on me. I had my wife Meet me at the airport, and she handed me my passport. I jumped on a plane, and I’m in Puerto Rico. I’m everything’s working out fine. I’m coming back to Canada. And when I arrived there, the fellow customs said Do you realize your passports expired. Bye bye had handed me one that was was used that I had already renewed. But she didn’t bring the renewal. But I was thinking when you said strangest places, and just imagining if the offers have sent you from Puerto Rico, state of somewhere in South America because it would have been the closest person? What would have happened to me trying to use a passport that wasn’t valid? Yeah,
yeah, I get that I can remember, in the day, even traveling to the US as a youth. I went to the States. And these were, this was before 911, where we could use a birth certificate, and I forgot find that home. And I can remember that day ticking off the box coming back from state saying I had proper ID with me knowing again, thinking what are they gonna do? throw me out of my own country? Go ahead.
No, you did things reduce
the things that you’ve done. That’s really interesting, as you’ve been involved in Crime Stoppers for many, many years. How did you get involved in why originally?
Initially, it was a story. I was assigned, Hamilton had started the Crimestoppers program, the first city in Ontario. And that’s exactly the first time I ever heard of the word. The word friend stuff is a program. And then I went over to Hamilton to talk to the coordinator, a fella called Jim Lewis, and found out that it was a crime solving initiative that could be utilized in any community. For the story that I was writing for the start at that time, the I called the police chief jack Lex, and said, you know, Was this something the throttle was interested in? And he said, they’re looking at it. And was that was part of the story. The throttle was looking at implementing a Crimestoppers program. I thought no more of writing a story, other than I thought that it was a very unique program that involved the community, the police, and the media, media was a very important component. They promoted the efforts and highlighted unsolved crimes. Shortly after that, I got a call from the chief asking if I would be involved in a steering committee to implement a program in Toronto, which, which I did. And from that point on, was basically involved in the initiative.
Yeah. And And speaking of police, you do have a, a retired police badge. Do you not?
know, when I when I retired, the police department made me an honorary detective, basically, for the work that I’ve done in Crime Stoppers, and the coverage that I have provided the police over the years.
So it’s all about relationships. And and, you know, not not, I mean, that’s quite the truth. And what people don’t understand is reporters are like anyone else or marketer or business person. It’s about all about the relationships and the trust level that you have with the people that you’re telling the story about right
now. Yeah, I mean, it’s the ability to call someone, any any time, day or night, and you call the welcome and get an answer, and information that you’re looking for.
So true. Um, since you’re retired, one of the things you’ve done well was written several books. Why did you get into book writing? Besides that reporters never die. And we know
I mean, let’s look at our, our mutual friend, Ian Robertson. He’s retired and he’s still still traveling the globe.
still actively writing and write actually, he’s writing books as well. The reason I actually wrote the first book was because of something I couldn’t do really well, in the newspaper business, and I understand why. And that was to help find missing people. The first book that I wrote, was basically, unsolved homicides. Because we didn’t think there would be an interest in in missing people. But after I wrote the book on unsolved homicides, called find my killer. I started looking into the number of missing people. And I thought it would be helpful for families who were looking for people and having no answers if they were compiled in a book, and people could use them, and maybe because something I had initially wanted to do the book on, on missing people, but I had difficulty getting a lot of information from police departments. But they were more willing to provide information on unsolved homicides. And so I stepped into that one first. What I, what I had difficulty with the newspapers is when they had a missing individual, the papers were reluctant to carry the story. Because just the technology involved. You write a story during the day, the first one may be found in the evening. Your paper comes out in the morning. Yeah, the story is incorrect. So they, they tend not to focus on it depends not to focus on missing people. Now, it’s become a priority, especially with children. So make sure to publicize those cases. I think the book has helped change the attitude a little bit.
Yeah, it has. And I mean, a good example is in Canada, we have what’s called an amber alert system in the state says something similar. And we just had one the other day, which was down, by your way in Niagara region, and it actually led to an arrest. So I mean, the publicize of that is, is greatly.
Yeah, again, safely covered. Yeah. And the safe recovery of five children have been abducted by their father. The the amber alert is supposed to be issued for a missing child, who has the abduction has been observed by someone, and they have full description, etc. Or the one that was put out by niagra. The other day, didn’t really fit that parameter. But the investigators obviously felt for Amber Alert would have an impact and effect. And in fact, we were right. Because shortly thereafter, we got information, which leads to receive returns.
Yeah, I know. This morning, I pick up the news. And apparently, one of the issues we’ve had in this country or in this province in the last, oh, couple months since gangboard systems and working as a glutton that people who call him complain because it goes off on your cell phone off on your cable, it goes off everywhere. And there was actually a 70 year old man in Hamilton, Ontario, that has been charged with public mischief for calling 911 on this last Amber Alert saying he was going to tie up emergency lines because he could. And the best advice I have to anybody is to hear an ambush. Or just think of where you would be if that was your child before you, you know, decide to do or not to do and complain about it. Yeah, exactly.
Exactly. And I found that after the missing book was published, right now, it still leaves the books that I have in sales. So we got a tremendous amount of interested. People have been missing individuals.
Yeah, it’s a it’s a great book. I know you’ve written several. My favorite one is, you know, and I actually worked with you and Ian to do some Robertson, your co writer to do some PR was your book about the story of Russell Williams. That is an interesting story to say the least as a doctor.
Yeah. Ya know, that was a very difficult story to write because of the nature of the situation. And the material that we’ve had to provide information to us for the book. The sad part is that Russell Williams had recorded votes on a video and audio the final one
you’re actually able to go inside a murder. This is the first time in my knowledge that has occurred in Canada. And we had individuals tell us that it might become commonplace with homicides in the future. This be done. Prior to that the killer who carried out a mass killing in Norway recorded the incidents, which is the first known incident the incident of that nature with where the murders were captured on video. And since then, of course, you are probably a lot of the public’s aware for many, many killings have now been recorded. And it’s a sad trend.
And the Add to that a trend is what seems to be the trend lately as they jump on social media, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or some Avenue like that. And they post their manifesto before they get into the killing spree and before them themselves, become deceased. And they post that out there. And that just seems to add to it to a
recent case where the killer in Toronto take took the lives of individuals with a van on a busy street in his in his confession to police. And he said he wanted to notoriety and doing something like that, although his case wasn’t recorded. But doing something of that nature. He thought he would become a public celebrities. And it’s very, very sad.
And the other one that falls into the same line is see two young males that killed two people in BC. And they actually documented on the video and basically admitted to the killings before they committed suicide in the suicide pact. I mean, that was the same lines were they. And that seems to be the trend even in the killings in the US lately. There’s always a lighter manifesto or something. last book was on the history of Crime Stoppers. That one was fun.
Yeah, that was actually written in collaboration with the person who formed the first Crime Stoppers program in United States. Personal came up with a concept Greg McElroy. He was a police officer in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But the interesting part, he was born in Ontario, and his parents lived in Picton. And his father was with the Canadian military, the Air Force at the time. And they were transferred to Albuquerque as the liaison individual with the American enforce. And Greg grew up in Albuquerque is very, very close ties, and obviously relatives living in the province. I got to know Greg, initially through the stories that I wrote for the star on Crime Stoppers, and then various times met him. We brought him up to Toronto, when we launched the Crimestoppers program in, in the city back in 1984. And we, through the years have met various times of the book was put together in an interesting fashion because in retirement, Greg has moved to the Philippines. And we use the internet to communicate and produce the book. Some pretty modern technology for a program that began with pencil and paper. Yeah.
And for a writer that as in you that originally started on the typewriter correct.
That’s what I choose to live in still bookstores.
Yeah, yes. But it’s it’s it’s amazing. Like the power, the power of technology if it’s used properly, and that’s kind of
technology, we change the media. City, anyone with a cell phone can now become a reporter.
Yeah. I mean, I, I know, I go to events around town and you go to events around town. And where does the picture show up on Facebook, on Twitter on a media page? I mean, we all take pictures. We, we all have a phone in a video. We all have a phone and a video camera in our pocket now. And we’re
even though we post them, I mean, I’m guilty. I’m guilty.
Yeah. So am I. And I know, I know, in Twitter, I use Twitter as a as a news feed. And I’ve got a list set up that’s got all kinds of reporters in it. And I can I don’t watch conventional news anymore. Generally on TV, I tend to go to social media and say, okay, what’s going on? And how’s it going on? And and I follow it up. And it has changed. It you said, wouldn’t you even
if you even see mainstream media, newspapers, quoting things they’ve read on Twitter? Yeah. I’m a little sad at that. Because you don’t know, the truthfulness of it. But in the immediacy, sometimes reporters are just forced to use that as a source.
No, I agree. And I think sometimes it’s not wanting to take, and I think that’s a problem, I think, in your thinking,
I think that might be that’s a sad comment. But it might be true.
Yeah, in your time, you did the background research on the story, and you put it out where now? I think what goes on?
Not the luxury of people being on the scene and typing information
into almost a wire service. It’s really not a wire service, but the gospel. Yep.
Yep. Yep. And I mean, one story, I attributed a lot to social media. I was gonna say six years ago, but might even be seven. Now. We had the famous Ganges shooting in Toronto, and I lived in that neighborhood. I live very close to where it happened. And I can tell you, even then, seven years ago, social media blew up with stories coming out of that very quickly. And, you know, a
shooting on the dam for official reports that came out. Were not from the police. Where do they go from Twitter? Yep. Yeah.
I and to be fair, in Toronto, I would say the police have, and we have a mutual friend, who’s in there that has have embraced that as well. They’ve recognized that social media is a big part of their job now, whether they like it or not. Well, I think,
yeah, proto fleece is recognized as one of the leaders utilizing social media for communication.
Yeah. And it’s not just communication in terms of, you know, stories or media, it’s even any communication. I mean, I don’t know about you, but yeah, I’ve got friends and business colleagues all over the world. And a lot of those connections have come that way. So, you know, I, I don’t always look at the negativity of the of the medium, I actually look at the positivity and I know in my life, it’s made a major impact of what I do, how I do business, how I do it. I mean, you and I are a really good example of that. We we’ve met through mutual friends, but a lot of those original friendships for me were social media friendships, and they’ve grown over the years. And I guess what people don’t realize, right, so.
I think when you’re when you’re, when you’re dealing with social media, what you have to do is look carefully at the source. If it’s not a legitimate source, because, you
know, I I agree with you, and if if it’s not a legitimate source, as a friend of mine, who’s a grade seven teacher tells her students go and find another source to collaborate the first one and at least have, you know, assignments, have your, your checks and balances in place. I mean, because the problem with the internet is everybody’s an expert. And that’s, that’s an interesting problem. Thanks for spending some time with me today. If somebody wants to find your books or get a hold the house the best way for them to do
the best way is on amazon.com or I have a website like kill motors not calm.
Yep. And if you go to cows website right on front, there’s links to all his books and you can just actually click on the book and it will take you to the buy page on Amazon. So pick up on it cows books are well worth the read. I’ve read pretty well, every one of them and I would tell anybody if you want a good read read of my, my wife Jill is big into crimes anyway. And I know she couldn’t put the Russell Williams book down. I think I’ve told you that she pulled it off the shelf one day and I said what do you think of that? And she said, I’m three quarters of the way through it in two days. So you know if you want if you want an interesting read, that’s a good one. The history of Crime Stoppers is a good one choose any of them. Thanks for joining me Cowen. Have an amazing day. Thank you. Thank you for listening to the SDM business marketing WordPress podcast. The show is hosted by Robert Cairns the CEO and Chief Creative making ideas that stunning digital marketing.com this podcast comes out every week. It’s available on all podcast platforms. If you’d like to be a guest on this podcast please email us at podcast at stunning digital marketing comm if you’d like to find out more about digital marketing services we provide please go to stunning digital marketing.com This podcast is dedicated to Robert Seyfarth repousse Karen’s have an amazing week. Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars. Make your business succeed.