As It Happens

During the Watergate scandal, As It Happens tested audio experts' ability to spot edits in doctored tape

This episode of As It Happened: The Archive Edition is all about people who've remixed and reworked their way into the archives. You'll hear about the Watergate tapes, a giant quilting project and a remix of the As It Happens theme.

'Deception techniques seem to be superior to detection techniques,' former host Harry Brown concluded

On Aug. 8 1974, United States President Richard Nixon announced his resignation on national television, following the Watergate scandal. At the height of the scandal, As It Happens conducted a test to see whether the Watergate tapes could be used as reliable evidence. (Getty Images)

The theme for this episode of our summer series As It Happened: The Archive Edition is "Remixed and Reworked."

We'll revisit some of our favourite stories of people who revised, rearranged and re-imagined their way into the As It Happens archives.

Whether it's an ill-fated, albeit well-intentioned attempt at restoring a centuries-old painting, or a decades-old beard shaved off for charity, stories of people finding creative ways to give things a second life deserve a second listen. 

Here are some of the highlights from this episode.

Tamper proof

As It Happens subscribes to the old adage that to err is human; to edit, divine. But this is live radio. Once the scripts are vetted and the microphones are on, all bets are off.

Unless we go back and edit the tape — which, full disclosure, we have to do on occasion if a story changes while we're on air.

In any case, the ability to edit tape is a powerful tool. And in 1973, during the Watergate scandal, it was a hot topic. So much so that As It Happens devoted an hour-long investigative special to the subject.

Heavily edited tapes of the show were sent to a team of audio and legal experts. They were each asked to listen to the tapes and try to detect how many times the tape had been altered. They failed miserably.

The experiment showed the risks of using the Watergate tapes as evidence. As former host Harry Brown concluded by the end of the program, "deception techniques seem to be superior to detection techniques."

In 1973, former As It Happens co-hosts Harry Brown, left, and Phillip Forsyth, right, tested a panel of audio and legal experts' ability to detect edits in As It Happens show tape to demonstrate whether the Watergate tapes could be used as reliable evidence. (CBC Archives)

Patchwork-around 

When amateur embroiderer Shannon Downey found a massive unfinished quilting project at a Chicago estate sale, she was torn. It was beautiful, but she had no idea how to finish it. 

Downey couldn't resist. She bought the quilt, and on a whim put out a call for help to finish it online. Within a few hours, Downey had recruited hundreds of stranger to help her rescue and revive the project. 

Carol spoke with Downey in 2019 about the quilt and the community of people who helped her complete it.

When Shannon Downey discovered a giant unfinished quilting project started by Rita Smith, shown here in her high school yearbook, she knew she had to revive it. (Submitted by Shannon Downey)

Theme and antiquation

Our next guest also found a community online. But Sterling Campbell wasn't looking for quilters.

He was looking for fans of vaporwave: a subgenre of slowed-down and reverb-heavy music that samples everything from smooth jazz and hold music — to the As It Happens theme. 

Campbell owns an Ottawa-based record label called Strudelsoft, which releases vaporwave music exclusively on three-and-a-half inch floppy discs.

In 2018, guest host Rosemary Barton spoke with Campbell about vaporwave and his remix of the As It Happens theme song.

Sterling Campbell founded Strudelsoft, a record label that sells vaporwave music on floppy disks. (Lachlan Davis)

You can hear these stories and more on the Remixed and Reworked episode of As it Happened: The Archive Edition

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