Missing Brian

My heart ached for CTV Ottawa anchor Patricia Boal tonight.

The anchor couldn’t hold back her tears as she spoke about CJOH sports director Brian Smith, whom she first met when she was working at CFRA. Frankly, why she should have to?

I cried with her, and I’m willing to bet thousands of other Ottawans did the same.

Though I’ve never been a big sports fan, Smith transcended all of that. He was likeable, you  trusted him – and he dd more than his  part in the community to make our city a better place.

He, like his boss Max Keeping, was all about Ottawa.

Brian Smith was murdered 25 years ago. So hard to believe. In many ways, with many Ottawans’ memories are still so fresh about that day, doesn’t seem it can actually have been a quarter of a century.

Time is such a funny thing, isn’t it? While my memory fades on many things, still remember that time so vividly.

I’d gotten home from a day shift at the Ottawa Sun, turned on the news and heard Smith had been shot. It was so incredibly unreal. I phoned the office, spoke to Drew McAnulty who was on the city desk to make sure the Sun had heard the news. Of course, they had.

Like everyone else in the city, I knew Smith from seeing his face beam into my living room most nights. We all felt we knew him, we trusted him, we liked him – a lot. (As an aside, I was always a bit shocked at seeing how members of the public responded to television personalities. I remember being at events with CJOH anchor Max Keeping and how people just clearly felt they knew him, always hollering out a hello or a hi, which of course he always responded to.)

To no one’s surprise to anyone that knew Keeping, he was an incredible professional, delivering the news that night his sports director had been shot. And to know how random the shooting actually was, that just being a familiar journalism face had caused his death – unfathomable.

While there was overwhelming sympathy directed at his new bride Alana Kainz in the beginning, for some reason, the public turned on her in short-order.

I saw Ottawa at its most judgmental. I certainly didn’t know her well, but I was appalled at how in such a short period of time, the public appeared to go from incredibly sympathy to absolute judge and jury. 

For those of you who thought she was a gold digger, I recall a story where – and I could well have the exact details confused but I know I have the sentiment right – Smith suggested one of them pay for golf and the other pay for the wedding. When she told the story, she just laughed. 

On this anniversary of Smith’s death, I think of him, of his impact on this city and what could have been. 

And I think of Patricia Boal and everyone who knew Smith, whether as a friend or co-worker of just through our television screens. We’re sharing in the grief.

2 Comments

  1. This tragedy hit the community hard. It was such a shock to have a local broadcaster shot to death. That feeling will never disappear. CJOH – thanks to Max Keeping – developed a relationship with the local comunity which has yet to be matched by the CBC.

  2. All who watched Brian Smith she’d tears when he was tragically taken from us. All who watched the tribute to him 25 years later wept again. Patricia Boals was not alone.

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