It started on February 7, with this brief status update on Gerry Phelan’s Facebook profile:
“27 years at the helm. Have parted company with VOCM. Now I seek new challenges!”
It was straight out of left field, and took a lot of people by surprise. Gerry Phelan had been news director at VOCM since 1984, before some of you had even been born. I assumed the polar ice cap would be melted and gone, long before Phelan switched off the microphone.
Immediately, people began commenting on his status – yours truly included – all expressing shock at the news and sending best wishes. Last time I checked, about 75 people had left messages.
My in-box soon began filling with notes from readers, asking if I knew what had happened. I didn’t, but had already sent a message to Gerry, looking for comment. I soon received this short reply:
“Thanks for your message.
I know I am only hot for a day but I really have to focus on what's next. This is a great business and a great province, and I want to find a new fit soon. I have no firm plans.
Can you use a 50 year old weathered newsie? Ha.
One can’t read too much into these things but the fact that Phelan is not leaving to accept another position might indicate that he did not leave of his own accord. I put that question to him, in a reply.
“Parting was mutual,” he said, in his response. “Newcap is a great company to work for. I had my first offer from the mainland six hours after the news hit, but this is my home, and I'd really like to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Gerry has always been a modest, unassuming guy, and, true to form, he requested that I not write anything at all.
“I truly am just another cog in the wheel of life. It was never about me. It was and is always about the listeners and viewers and readers. I will take that with me to my next role too.”
Perhaps the story behind his departure will emerge in the days ahead. In the meantime, I can’t ignore a media story as big as this, and I’m sure Gerry understands. I can only wish the “weathered newsie” well in his next adventure.