by Stacy Dunn
Jay Scotland was a reservist in the Canadian Forces in 2002 when he was thinking about a career in communications. This idea was fully realized while Jay and his future wife Kate were driving in Ottawa listening to Algonquin College’s eight-watt campus radio CKDJ on the high-tech stereo in what he describes as his beat-up old Corsica.
“When I heard the student announcer, I said ‘I can do this’ and Kate agreed. I turned the car around and went to the college to pick up a pamphlet on its radio broadcasting program. It completely changed the course of my life.”
Jay did well in the two-year program, becoming a News Director for the same campus radio station that inspired his career choice. He was part of the team that took the station from eight watts to 100 watts. His on-the-job training included working at a rock radio station where Jay sometimes dressed as the station’s mascot, a bear.
Before graduating from Algonquin College, he landed this first job at Country 96, a Kingston radio station. The job lead came from a radio station manager from a Cornwall, Ontario radio station where Jay did one of his first job interviews.
“I arrived in town an hour and a half before my interview. I asked 96 people on the street to sign a petition asking the radio station to hire me if I could get 96 people to listen to that station for 96 minutes a week. I handed it to the station manager before I left the job interview.”
The station manager called Jay with a job offer 15 minutes later. “I called almost everyone who signed that petition to thank them. I worked long hours on weekends at that radio station. I even would sleep there overnight. The station manager took note and I was able to negotiate a work schedule doing weekday afternoons at a higher pay.”
When he was not on radio, Jay co-hosted a local Kingston video game review segment called Gamers. “I got a call to substitute for Kingston’s CKWS weather specialist who was on leave. A two-week job turned into a part-time permanent position.”
Jay fell in love with meteorology the moment he had the weather clicker in his hand and moved to Peterborough’s CHEX-TV to be a full-time weather specialist. He soon enrolled in Mississippi State University’s renowned Operational Meteorology program.
“I firmly believe it’s always best to invest in yourself. I was nearly 30 years old when I took the risk of applying to this program – the tuition was expensive. I looked at the rewards of investing in my education, such as how many more years I could work in this profession, and the risks of doing distance education and occasional in-person class time in Mississippi while working at the same time. The rewards have outweighed the risks throughout my career.
“I tell new broadcasters every career journey is personal. While many people can find success in a bigger market like Toronto, smaller markets like Peterborough and PEI gives folks more opportunities to gain skills.”
Wanting to take his career to the next level, Jay went to Toronto and asked CBC News Network’s morning meteorologist Johanna Wagstaff if he could shadow her. He observed her at work, and every time a manager stopped to talk to Johanna, Jay handed them a copy of his resumé and a DVD of his work.
“In 2011, I got the weekend meteorologist job at CBC News Network. I was so nervous. Louise Martin was anchoring the Breaking News Desk there at the same time. She was one of first people to greet me and she made me feel welcome.
“I eventually became the weekday morning meteorologist on the news channel and am grateful to all the colleagues I have worked alongside. They were all very generous and gracious for allowing me to move ahead in my career.”
During his time at CBC News Network, Jay skydived with the Canadian Armed Forces Parachute Team, the SkyHawks, and played bubble soccer during PEI’s 150th anniversary celebration as Canada’s Birthplace of Confederation. “I fell in love with the Island that summer, and when a meteorologist position opened up on CBC PEI’s Compass in 2017, I was excited at the chance to apply.”
He had a young family – four-year-old Abby and 11-month-old Hudson. In the greater Toronto area, his commute to work was two hours, both ways, on both a bus and train. “My PEI accountant was surprised to see how high my commuting expenses were from my home in Whitby to Toronto, but that’s the average commuters pay in a year.
“As I look at it, the move to PEI was about quality of life for me and my family. We have adjusted well. PEI audiences have been so supportive of me – it’s heartwarming and it’s been an honour serving them.”
For more information on the Mississippi State University’s Operational Meteorology program, visit https://online.msstate.edu/geosciences/bomp/