HAVE A CUP OF JOE SPECIAL COVER STORY – Meet Two Guys On Top Of The Windsor Media World, Chris Ensing And Dan MacDonald
Two big appointments were made in the fall of 2019 involving highly coveted Windsor media positions.
First, in September, CBC Canada announced that Chris Ensing was the new anchor of “CBC Windsor News at 6”. Ensing has been in Windsor as a photojournalist and reporter for the past two and a half years.
In the second appointment, Windsor native and popular local music jock, Dan MacDonald, was named host of “The Dan MacDonald Show” filling the long-held slot held by Lynn Martin who retired in September after a 42 year career on air.
Since the early 1990s Martin has owned the Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 12 noon time slot on AM 800 CKLW as the host of Windsor’s only daily call in show.
During the November 2019 “Biz X Awards Gala,” as Emcee, I sat at a table with my good buddy, neighbour and legendary 93.9 The River DJ, Greg Gynp (a “Biz X Awards Gala” Celebrity Presenter) and we were joined by MacDonald and Ensing.
I’ve known MacDonald for years, but I was just meeting Ensing in person for the first time. And thus, it was born . . . the idea for a sit-down interview in early 2020 with the two of them in my home. It’s a special feature of my monthly “Cup of Joe” . . . enjoy!
Biz X: Chris and Dan, thank you both for doing this interview. Once again, congratulations are in order to both of you on your recent appointments. As I have stated you each have been appointed to two of the most coveted and influential media positions in the Windsor area. As such, hopefully your followers will benefit from getting to know a little more about you. So, Dan, tell us about your background, where you went to school and how did you enter the media market.
MacDonald: I was born and raised in Windsor and I’m a proud Windsor boy. My partner, Wayne, and I are celebrating 20 years together this February 5 as a couple. We’re both long time residents of Walkerville. I’m an alumnus of St. Clair College, a graduate from 2000 in the Journalism, Print and New Media Program. This was at the old main campus, before the MediaPlex existed. My sole focus at the time was writing, not radio. I wanted to be a writer for a newspaper or magazine and I actually got into radio by accident. In school I had concentrated all my efforts on writing and avoided doing internships in production, radio, television. Just before graduation I was told by my prof that I needed something more than just writing to graduate. So, I scrambled and arranged to do my final internship with CJAM Radio. My time there steered me in a whole different direction, right off kilter from writing and into radio.
Biz X: When did you start then with commercial radio?
MacDonald: I started in 2004 when AM800 was under the CHUM radio umbrella. I was hired in radio solely as a writer doing copywriting, which I thought was cool. I was writing copy, commercials and promos and expanded into writing reviews for music blogs. This allowed me then to start attending shows and concerts. It was a marriage of my two life passions — music and writing.
Ensing: I was born and raised in the White Oaks area of southwest London. I attended Regina Mundi High School, and after high school I moved to Toronto and obtained a BA degree in journalism at Ryerson. I’m turning 30 in February, and my status is single.
Biz X: It appears both you and Dan have significant milestones to celebrate this February! Chris, when did you realize journalism might be your life calling?
Ensing: Ever since my earliest years I loved being able to tell stories. And that’s what being a journalist is all about — telling people stories of importance to them. Not actually working in the mines or factories, but telling the stories of those persons who do work in them.
Biz X: When did you start with CBC?
Ensing: I started with the CBC in 2011 and have had various assignments; working CBC News National Assignment Desk, reporter, photojournalist, news anchor. The CBC has allowed me to see much of the country with stops in Gander, Newfoundland; Charlottetown, Labrador City. I was a reporter for CBC London when the station launched in 2017 and then headed down the 401 to Windsor two and half years ago.
Biz X: So, Chris, tell us how a London boy made his way down to anchoring Windsor’s evening news? Doesn’t Highway 401 end at London? All kidding aside, tell me about your initial introduction to Windsor.
Ensing: My family means the world to me and having my mom and dad and siblings just 90 minutes down the road, made this assignment in Windsor perfect for me. Yes, that is a common misperception way too many people have and no, Ontario doesn’t end at London! I arrived at my Airbnb in Windsor the day that City of Windsor Council approved initial funding for the “Bright Lights” display at Jackson Park. My second day in Windsor was “the” flood. Little did I realize that both of these events would become significant news stories with lives of their own.
Biz X: Chris, besides anchoring the evening news, what other news platforms do you get involved with?
Ensing: The best way it has been explained to me is that we tell a story and it is the story that matters, but how you consume it is a personal matter for the receiver of the news. We can tell that story on many platforms — on TV, on radio, or online in social media. Oftentimes we’re doing that at every step or stage of the story. We’re telling the same story, but people will consume it in mediums best suited for themselves. This is the way the CBC is going and in Windsor in particular they want the consumer to be able to reach the story at all available platforms.
Biz X: So, besides being the face we see each night between and 6 and 6:30 p.m., where else might we see you?
Ensing I am definitely a hands-on guy and you’ll see me out walking the neighbourhood streets or along the riverfront getting the information I need to tell people’s stories whether that be on film, on the Internet or in writing. I don’t just stand in front of a camera and teleprompter for 30 minutes and then call it a day.
Biz X: When you first arrived did you have much understanding of the history of CBC TV here in Windsor and in particular did you know it used to be called CKLW TV?
Ensing: Yes, I did know a bit of the station’s history. Whenever I’m in a new building I seek to learn about the building and its history. I was very fortunate to have Dale Molnar and Don Nelson available here to provide me with details of our past. They would take me on tours of the back rooms and point out the many very familiar names who had their start here before moving on to opportunities elsewhere.
Biz X: Have you heard the names and stories of CBC personalities from past decades, names like David Compton, Sue Prestidge, Don Daly, Susan Pedler and Karen MacNeil — just to name a few.
Ensing: I have indeed heard about them and their legendary work here in Windsor, along with more contemporary colleagues of mine like Lisa Xiang, Asha Tomlinson and Allison Johnson. It is so cool to know I am working in their space.
Biz X: Switching gears — Dan, you’ve identified music and writing as your life passions. You have quite the reputation here in Windsor for poetry — more precisely – Slam Poetry. Tell me about this.
MacDonald: I’ve been doing Slam Poetry around town for a number of years in coffee houses, probably going back to the late ‘90s, early 2000s (shout out here to Phog Lounge). I was attending university at the time, which I was miserably unsuccessful with because I was a real party boy at the time. I found that college was more my thing than university. I was always interested in the arts and cultural scene and loved going to area open mic poetry sessions as a spectator. I started writing my own poetry, but for myself. One night I was at an open mic event and on a dare from friends I went on stage and well . . . the rest is history. I’ve done poetry for burlesque groups like The Cheesecake Burlesque Club and the Titillation and Sleaze Artist Collective. I’ve performed for local groups like Windsor Pride organizing the annual “Slam Homophobia” event, and the City of Windsor. And I have been commissioned to do birthday parties and other special private events. One event so important for me was the one you, Joe, helped coordinate and emceed — “The Vigil for Orlando” before 500 participants on Maiden Lane in June 2016.
Biz X: Dan, you published a book of your poems a number of years ago, didn’t you? In fact, I interviewed you about the book on TVCOGECO.
MacDonald: Wow! You’ve have quite the memory (and we have the photo to prove it too!). That was back in 2008 and the book was called, “Whine and Cheese”. And believe me there was a whole lot of whining and a whole lot of cheese in that collection, ha ha!