After 37 years, Max Keeping takes final bow
Published Friday, March 26, 2010 7:14AM EDT
Just before climbing behind the anchor desk for the last time, Max Keeping took one last walk through the Merivale Road studios he called home for most of his career with CTV Ottawa.
"Think about it," Max told long-time co-anchor Carol Anne Meehan as they strolled into the studio, which was shut down following a fire that ripped through the newsroom in early February.
"(Peter) Jennings, Harvey Kirk, Charles Lynch, (former anchors) who have broadcasted from here, and more than 7,000 newscasts for me."
"What was your dream for the final show?" Carol Anne asked.
"If it could have been from here," Max said, looking around at the soot covering the desk where he sat for nearly four decades. "For the viewers to be able to connect with the studio work where everybody has broadcasted.
"You and I, 20 years here."
Thirty-seven years of history comes to a close
Instead, Max closed his career with a broadcast from 87 George Street, CTV Ottawa's temporary home. In the final moments, more than 100 employees waited just outside the glass door of the studio, wiping tears as Max delivered his last words on camera.
Once the recording lights shut off, they streamed into the studio and surrounded CTV Ottawa's chief anchor, exchanging hugs, taking pictures and joining Max in a Newfie jig in honour of his home province.
"It is a bittersweet day since this is Max's last day on the news and his last day beside me," Carol Anne said on Max's last newscast, March 26, 2010.
Local news in national and international venues
A tribute to Max's years in the field and behind the desk aired, showing CTV Ottawa in areas that on first glance, would not appear as local news venues -- Jamaica, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, following veterans in Holland, tracing some of the community's roots in Scotland.
Max explained that no matter what the location, the idea was to bring the reporters to those locations so the familiar faces of the reporters here would be available in places of national or international import to viewers.
Given the government presence in Ottawa, as well as the number of embassies, it allowed the station the unusual experience of fielding local, national and international news from the same desk.
"As more and more people came to depend on television for providing a sense of themselves . . . we could reflect on what was most important in their lives," Max said.
A community gives thanks
Chief among Max's values was community service. A number of leaders paid tribute to Max's years of service in the federal capital, including Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien, who called this last broadcast an "important night" for Ottawa.
In a special message broadcast on CTV, O'Brien and Ottawa Coun. Rick Chiarelli said Ottawa council will name the next major arterial road "Max Keeping Boulevard", and held up their present -- the sign marking that road, already ready to mount.
Sports leaders such as Cyril Leeder, chief operating officer of the Ottawa Senators, said Max's contributions have been instrumental in helping out local teams.
"He's a real believer in sport and the connection between youth and sport," Leeder said. "The community has benefitted from that and we have as well."
And that approach got attention from the very top of CTV management, said national anchor Lloyd Robertson.
"Max didn't need anyone to give him a formula," Robertson said. "He was a natural in the community."
Through triumph and tragedy
When sportscaster Brian Smith was gunned down in front of CTV Ottawa's studio in 1995, Max said the community repaid the broadcaster's support in spades as they "rushed" to support them.
"There is nothing more difficult for someone in journalism to report on the assassination of our own," Max recalled, saying Smith's funeral drew as big a crowd as you would expect for a state leader.
Max has been in journalism for 51 years and spent 37 of those at CTV Ottawa. He serves on a number of charity foundations and is recipient of countless awards, including the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario and the 2004 United Way Community Builder of the Year.
A wing at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario is also named after Max, who helped raise $100 million for Ottawa charities during his time here.
"When the community says children's health is a priority," Max said, "that's a community you want to live in."