An Afternoon With…Nails Mahoney

With a name like Nails you would think Toronto’s newest on-air radio personality would be doing his remote broadcast from aisle 16 of The Home Depot on Terry Fox Way in Mississauga.

But, in fact, Nails Mahoney was quite comfortable behind the microphone setup at the Q107 table nestled just inside the contractors’ entrance helping the home renovation store Wednesday with their annual Contractors’ Appreciation Day.

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How many people mentioned the connection between his name and the galvanized building product?

“Only one…” said Mahoney, “…the guy sitting right beside me: Harrison the (Q107) tech. I think (the customers) were just too polite.”

Mahoney takes over the 6-11 pm time slot at the powerhouse Corus classic rock station on a full time basis following a few months of staff fill-ins after the departure of Dominik Diamond last August. And much like Diamond, Mahoney brings a wealth of experience from behind the mic from gigs in Canada and overseas.

Originally from Ireland, he’s graced the airwaves on FM stations in Dublin and also spent some time on-air in Vancouver.

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So why the move back to Canada while family stays back home?

“The reason I’m here is because you don’t refuse a station like Q107 – it is one of those legendary stations,” he explains. “I was talking to one of the chaps earlier on and he asked: ‘why did you come here?’ It’s one of the biggest stations on the planet. When people ask you where you’re working and you say XYZ-FM, they say ‘where’s that?’ When you say Q107 they say ‘Oh!’ So you can’t turn down a station like this. You have to do it. You just have to.

“When Q107 asks if you want to join up you say ‘yes’.”

Such an unusual name should bring some initial interest to the evening time frame on ‘The Mighty Q”, but Nails Mahoney is only his on-air moniker. His real name is Brian McColl.

“I used the Nails name years ago at a station in the UK called Atlantic 252 and I just thought I’d give it another go,” he said. “I stopped using it for about 10 years and then I thought I’d air it out again and see what happens.”

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Whatever you might want to call him, Mahoney’s first month on-air has been practically seamless. His on-air style has been easy on the ears while he builds a relationship with listeners. And building a relationship on the radio is like building a relationship between two people in ‘real life’: you’re polite at first and put your best foot forward until you become more comfortable with each other. Then you can proceed to the ‘let-your-hair-down’ stage.

So what stage are listeners at now with Mahoney?

“I’d like to think we’re at the ‘comfortable-enough-to-fart-in-each-other’s-presence’ stage,” he joked. “I would hope so. Maybe a little self-conscious about it but willing to try. If you can accept the fart at this stage then we’re doing okay.”

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True story. Really.

This a true story about a contrived story – unlike my previous post, which was a fake story concerning a fake municipal by-law regarding real people carrying genuine coffee cups.

You may have seen this true story while reading the many online rehashes from the likes of the Huffington Post, for instance, or watching CNN on the television. It’s the story of a western journalist in Beijing covering the story of Chinese dissident Xu Zhiyong on trial in a courthouse somewhere in the vast metropolis of China’s capital city.

CNN reporter David McKenzie and his cameraman attempted to shoot video of the outside of the courthouse. As the camera rolled they purposely passed what seemed to be a group of uniformed and plain clothed security personnel on the street. They were confronted, blocked from advancing, physically moved, and forcibly driven a few blocks away. It is unknown whether they tipped the driver.

Seemingly unhurt, they decried harassment.

Now, remember McKenzie has been a correspondent for CNN International in Beijing for a year now. You would think by now he would understand he should not gather a group of journalists and disrupt order in a public place in Beijing.

Xu is the founder of the New Citizens Movement. Charged with “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” for protests he organized, Xu faces five years in jail. If convicted. He most certainly will be.

The Chinese have a different way of looking at “freedom”, “public places” and the words “I’m allowed to report here” uttered by foreign journalists. Certainly, from our perspective of freedom, it’s troublesome that Xu cannot publicly show his displeasure with high ranking officials or government policies. It is also troublesome that journalists are harassed while in the process of doing their jobs.

But to purposely attempt to bypass and ignore a level of security set up outside the courthouse as McKenzie did and pass that off as an example of the typical repression and censorship within China is simply spurious. And, in my opinion, premeditatedly contrived.

“This really shows how much China wants to manage the message,” McKenzie is quoted as saying.

No, this really shows how security in China works. Just because your idea of where you can report from is 100 meters away from where the Chinese security believes it should be does not make them wrong. Or censors.

Blocking the transmission of your reports across the air – now that’s censorship. But that’s not the issue here.

I would implore other CNN reporters to ignore American police or security boundaries set up at courthouses or other government sites in the US with the “this is a public space” or “I’m a journalist reporting…….” justification. I’m pretty sure if they tried that in the US – say, passing the barricades set up by Boston police during the manhunt following the Marathon bombings – a little pushing and shoving and a nice little drive a few blocks away would be the least of their problems.

Firearms, pepper spray and tasers is how security works in the US.

Did anyone actually have the foresight to ask, either before, during or afterward, from where they could setup and report without being threatened with physical harm? Does McKenzie and his cameraman or CNN employ a Chinese-speaking person to help translate and communicate? I know how hard it is to communicate in Chinese when I need to ask which bus to take to get somewhere – never mind discussing issues of journalists’ rights and public access while bent over and having my thumb meet my forearm.
But yes, as a journalist friend of mine points out: that’s a two way street, too. “It behooves security forces of any nationality not to get drawn into staged and needlessly confrontational exchanges when there is a news camera around,” she pointed out.

BBC reporter Martin Patience was also physically escorted down the sidewalk from where he and his cameraman were reporting. Patience, aptly named, was calm and, without too much protesting, willingly moved to where he was directed by plain clothed Chinese authorities. They were not manhandled or had their camera broken or driven a number of blocks away to be dropped off at a street corner like an unwanted litter of newborn kittens.

Sure, there are issues with censorship and repression in China, and we all would like to see things change for the better. But, please, in the future, do not try to feign repression and censorship under the guise of an innocent journalist working within a “free press” in a Socialist country like China because that’s the only story you can get. As my journalist friend says it’s always problematic when journalists make themselves the story.
It’s not very good 关系.