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ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS - Libby Znaimer

HE MAY NOT BE Robert De Niro, but Lawrence Franklin is the real-life in­car­na­tion of the lead char­ac­ter in 2015’s The In­tern. He’s at work at the desk out­side my of­fice, sound­ing like he’s been do­ing this for years and look­ing more pro­fes­sional than most of us – in dress pants, a dress shirt and an ar­ti­cle of cloth­ing we rarely see around here: a tie!

At 63, Lawrence is a bona fide in­tern. He’s here to ful­fill part of the re­quire­ment for 160 hours of on-the­job ex­pe­ri­ence for his post-grad­u­ate de­gree in Ra­dio Broad­cast­ing from Hum­ber Col­lege. He came to us be­cause one of his in­struc­tors is Jane Brown, our as­so­ciate news di­rec­tor and news an­chor.

Lawrence’s tran­si­tion is en­tirely vol­un­tary. He de­cided to take up some­thing new af­ter a suc­cess­ful ca­reer as an ur­ban plan­ner. “I spent 27 years at the City of Mis­sis­sauga, and they were great years,” he says, ex­plain­ing that he re­ceived a pen­sion state­ment, out­lin­ing his ear­li­est pos­si­ble re­tire­ment date on his very first day of work all those years ago. “It came to my time, and I looked at all the young peo­ple around me and thought I’ve had my chance,” he adds. “It’s time to ful­fill some of my other dreams!”

Lawrence loves ra­dio and has al­ways wanted to work in it. He was in­spired by some­one he heard on a pod­cast from Aus­tralia – a pro­gram host with a PhD in Bi­ol­ogy. She said she chose ra­dio over teach­ing in or­der to share her pas­sion with a mass au­di­ence in­stead of a small class. His take­away: “If I could come to broad­cast­ing and dis­cuss ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign, I could in­flu­ence and en­ter­tain so many more peo­ple, maybe tell them some­thing they hadn’t re­ally thought about be­fore.”

Lawrence is “chase pro­duc­ing” – find­ing guests on dead­line for “Fight Back with Libby Znaimer,” the cur­rent af­fairs show I host on Zoomer Ra­dio. He ar­rives early and keen and has taken the time to thank us for the op­por­tu­nity. That con­trasts with some in­terns and trainees in their early 20s. One came in con­sid­er­ably late on the first two days here and then looked gen­uinely sur­prised when we ex­plained that this was un­ac­cept­able. That per­son has been punc­tual ever since – but I ad­mit the bad im­pres­sion lingers. There have been oc­ca­sions when I’ve looked into the con­trol room from my stu­dio while on air, only to see a trainee en­grossed in a cell­phone or telling jokes rather than pay­ing at­ten­tion to the pro­gram. It’s a ques­tion of de­meanour – many young peo­ple don’t seem to re­al­ize that once we get the idea that they are not ready to work, it will be dif­fi­cult to change our minds. Is it gen­er­a­tional? At the risk of play­ing to the stereo­type – maybe the fault lies with in­dul­gent boomer par­ents.

On the other hand, I im­me­di­ately ques­tioned Lawrence’s so­cial me­dia savvy. It’s a key thing I look for be­cause I’m not so good at it my­self. But he has other tal­ents. I asked him to fol­low up with a lis­tener who com­plained he had suf­fered abuse from au­thor­i­ties. From the mes­sages he left, I was pretty cer­tain that was not the case, but the man was ob­vi­ously in pain. Lawrence spent nearly an hour on the phone, show­ing a great deal of com­pas­sion. It turns out he was able to call on his ex­pe­ri­ence as a vol­un­teer in the geri­atric unit at Mount Si­nai Hos­pi­tal.

The big ques­tion is will all this ex­pe­ri­ence count when Lawrence looks for a pay­ing job? Or will he face the dou­ble whammy of ageism and the dif­fi­culty of be­ing a new grad­u­ate? I’d heard that an­other ra­dio out­let had turned down his in­tern­ship be­cause of his age. Lawrence wouldn’t con­firm or deny. “Ev­ery­one has some­thing,” he told me. “Are you go­ing to let it hold you back?” He was the old­est stu­dent Jane en­coun­tered. “I don’t want to say I was sur­prised,” she says. “I was im­pressed to see some­one start over at his age when he doesn’t have to.”

Lawrence has the best at­ti­tude for any­one in the midst of rein­ven­tion. He’s ex­cited to try new things, even if they are not a fit. He’s now done ev­ery­thing from ush­er­ing guests at a live per­for­mance to learn­ing how to op­er­ate the stu­dio mix­ing board. “I didn’t even know what chase pro­duc­ing was,” he says. Now, ap­par­ently, that’s his new ca­reer goal.

Lawrence at work

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