Tuesday, October 27, 2009

CBC Stops Covering The News

Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper caused a frisson of outrage among the country’s chattering classes by stating that he didn’t watch Canadian television news. Many of these were the same people who had cheered vociferously when American President Barrack Obama declared that he didn’t watch the most popular newscast in his own country.

Interesting comparison that, how one head of state is placing himself out of touch by not getting his news from the same sources as the majority of his constituents while the other is not --- for doing the same thing.

But Mr. Harper’s problem might soon start afflicting more and more of us since, as of last night, CBC Television made it clear that it wasn’t covering the news anymore either.


After months of tinkering and weeks of excited promotional announcements, CBC debuted its revamped and modernized “CBC News Network” on Monday, climaxing in the debut of the new nightly news hour “The National”, hosted by Peter Mansbridge.

The old nightly news hour was also called “The National” and was also hosted by Peter Mansbridge, so it would seem they didn’t revamp and modernize everything.

But it was clear from the opening seconds that they’d gotten rid of the lengthy intros and the big honking news desk. In the hour that followed, it also became clear that they’d also gotten rid of anything that could be construed as news.

Now, I’m all for change. And I totally get that everything needs a fresh coat of paint or a new approach from time to time. But what appeared on Canadian TV screens last night was little more than a white flag, a surrender of anything that could be labelled journalism in favor of offering style over substance.

The opening story, the one old Pete needed to make sure we got before anybody even had a chance to reach for the remote, was the arrival of Swine Flu vaccinations. After a summer of flogging the Federal government for dragging its feet on getting the population immunized, for supplying aboriginal outposts with body bags instead of hand sanitizer and not properly promoting the coming danger, the CBC suddenly didn’t seem to know what spin to put on the story.

We were shown endless lines waiting for hours to be immunized in Calgary. Didn’t these people know that kids and pregnant women were supposed to go first? Then to a Vancouver clinic where there were no lines because they only got 80 doses for their population of hugely at-risk aboriginal women and addicts with HIV. Okay, it turns out they could get a shot if they just walked a couple of blocks to a Public clinic or waited until next week when another shipment arrived, but according to the reporter aboriginal women and folks with HIV won’t do that.

Okay, so I’m getting confused. Is the problem too much demand and not enough shots or…

Never mind.

We move fast on the New National so it’s on to Toronto, where, despite a poll that says half of us don’t think we need a shot, everybody was being urged to line up as soon as possible by the local director of public health, who, although not being a kid or a woman who appeared pregnant or even aboriginal was interviewed while getting a shot that I had just been led to believe could have been better used on some junkie with AIDS in Vancouver.

I think…

Isn’t the News supposed to make you less confused about what’s going on?


Was the CBC’s take that the drug distribution system was messed up? Were a panicked population not co-operating out of fear of the impending pandemic? Was it that the elites were elbowing aboriginal women out of line to make sure they were safe? Do we really need to get a shot or don’t we?

Couldn’t tell you. Because under the new “Let’s get on with it” format we were already moving on to story number two.

No context. Little content. Why? I guess it interrupts throwing all these important stories at you as fast as possible.

All the news that can possibly fit or something like that.

Okay, so…

Story #2 was a poll showing that 80% of Canadians had no interest in next week’s visit of the Prince of Wales.


That’s important News?

And if 80% of us already don’t give a fuck why is it the CBC’s second lead?

No idea.

But we still got 2 or 3 minutes of some British newspaper editor opining that it was “the worst possible news” for the Royal family.


Do you think it’ll stop them acting like pompous assholes?

Nobody asked.

Toward the end of those three minutes, however, the CBC reporter glossed over one astonishing tidbit, that Canadians pay more per capita to support these inbred aristocrats than the British.


But did anybody at the CBC add any more information on that? Nope. Instead, Mansbridge lowered his tone to one of hushed concern and asked “Does the Palace know?”

Does the Palace know?!!!

Dude! your reporter already said 80% of your audience doesn’t fucking care!!! Why would we give a flying fadoo what the Queen thinks?

Could you ask about the money?


Moving on.

Story #3: Frank Stronach wants a weaker dollar.


Could it be because it might cost him less to borrow money from American Investment Banks to buy Opal from Germany?

Again, and despite having the new host of the flagship business show on the revamped network present in person, Pete didn’t ask. And she didn’t act like she’d have known anyway. Instead they both gushed at how cool it was to stand around doing the news instead of doing it sitting down and moved on.

Oh, and a note here to CBC Production --- if you’re going to shoot Peter Mansbridge standing up instead of sitting behind a desk, could somebody either tailor his cuffs or get him to hitch up his pants during the commercial breaks? I mean, if all’s you got’s style, get it right. Just sayin’.

Story #4: was protestors in Ottawa disrupting the House of Commons. No footage of the incident because the cameras in the House didn’t catch it. No details on the Bill they were yelling about either. Apparently six of them were fined 60 bucks.

Six people fined sixty bucks and it’s story #4.

Other news out of Ottawa yesterday was of a Conservative Senator under investigation for fixing government contracts. Elsewhere in the country, the Mob apparently has a stranglehold on Montreal City Hall and the Quebec construction industry. In world news, massive car bomb attacks killed 155 people and injured more than 500 in Iraq and Fidel Castro’s sister admitted she was a CIA mole.

None of that made the CBC National news on Monday night, let alone was deemed more newsworthy than 6 idiots in Ottawa being fined 60 bucks.


Story #5: Jerry Moyes agrees to sell the Phoenix Coyotes to the NHL. Mansbridge comments that this likely means the team will not end up in the hands of Canadian Hockey wannabe Jim Balsillie.


I guess Pete’s been so busy learning how to stand around with one hand in his pocket that neither he nor any of the show’s many producers was aware that an Arizona court had ruled Balsillie was ineligible to get the team and Jim himself had announced he was giving up more than two weeks ago.

But tonight that’s suddenly “new” News.

Mansbridge then got into what appears to be a new rapid fire format that repeated a couple of times, allotting about 10 seconds each to three or four stories in a row, offering absolutely nothing beyond a couple of brief sentences of copy.

Again, no context. No detail. No insight. All those things CBC News with its several hundred million dollar a year budget is supposed to offer that other competitors and the Internet cannot.

We then moved on to a series of what I think are supposed to be feature reports even though they’re really short. In these segments, female correspondents turn up like wet-behind-the-ears cub reporters called into Editor Pete’s office to talk about their awesome day of newsgathering.

First up was “What’s in our drinking water?” Turns out it’s a antibiotic resistant bacteria. Now that’s news!

Except it’s not.

Seems it might be a problem in 20 years, if the scientists we were shown working on a solution don’t find one.

So….this might be news in 20 years.

Not now.


And after Peter goes all Fox News on how “brutal” the bacteria looks in the slide show we got, the reporter buttons her own apparently now complete non-story with --- and I quote --- “Just drinking the water won’t make you sick. But Superbugs, IF they do develop, they CAN BE serious --- especially to the SICK.”

Before the next feature with Wendy Mesley, which has been hyped three or four times now, because she’s like a CBC Star, we get another quick hit story.

Ontario has imposed a cell phone law prohibiting all but hands free systems while driving. I live in Ontario so I’ve already been bombarded with this for weeks. And I doubt many people in the rest of the country care.

But CBC augments this snippet by letting me know the province has also revamped the Amber Alert laws so cops can issue one if they simply “believe” a child has been abducted. And they also don’t have to have a description of the abductor or the kidnap vehicle anymore…

Um, excuse me, Peter, but could somebody let me know how that works? I got Bluetooth, so if I’m driving and see an Amber Alert, I can call. But if I don’t have a description of the Perp or know what kind of car he’s driving, do I just dial 911 if I see any kid in a car?

But Mansbridge has no time for such nonsense. He’s already got a reporter in Winnipeg going “in-depth” on all the stupid things people do in their cars.

Said reporter starts out sitting in a cruiser with a 20 year Winnipeg cop who’s “seen it all” to watch for people doing stupid stuff. And the cop promises that we won’t have to wait long.

But apparently we do, because what follows is a montage of people doing stupid stuff, most of it from Youtube clips that went viral two or three years ago.


This is the new CBC News Network!?! Youtube clips and a reporter describing what he once saw this one time – at band camp…

Anyway, the cop buttons that piece, warning people not to do anything stupid – which apparently they already weren’t because he and the reporter didn’t actually shoot any original footage.

Okay, Peter announces we’re getting to Wendy Mesley’s feature soon – right after a gadget CBC has been “scrutinizing” that doesn’t cure cancer. Only it turns out that this story will be appearing --- uh --- later in the week…

Then ten seconds on the Karadich genocide trial, another ten on people in Pakistan starving, five for the new elections in Afghanistan and about the same for 14 American soldiers and DEA agents killed there.

Um – isn’t all of this more newsworthy than people driving while having sex and drinking water that isn’t really dangerous?

Isn’t this still the respected world news service that all our tax dollars have supposedly paid for?

Apparently not.

Instead, Peter does a stand-up interview with former Canadian General Rick Hillier who’s got a new book out, about things that went on in Afghanistan five years ago and then buttons the interview by letting us know that Gen. Hillier will be interviewed for a much longer time and in far greater depth on “The Hour” which is coming up in, uh, less than fifteen minutes…

So --- why did The National bother? Slow news day? The guy was already in the building, so what the hell?

Geez, aren’t ratings for “The Hour” low enough without cutting them off at the knees like this?

Never mind.

Moving on.

To the weather.

Okay, I’m Canadian. I love weather. What’s coming tomorrow?

Don’t know.

The entire weather report is about a tropical storm bearing down on the Philippines.

I kid you not.


And our trusty meteorologist then throws things back to Mansbridge with “That’s your forecast. Back to you, Peter.”

Lady, it’s not my forecast! I don’t live in Manila. And neither does anybody else who’s watching!

By now, I just want to see this Wendy Mesley story they keep hyping and try to find an actual newscast.

But first, Mansbridge has to pepper me with another flurry of ten second stories. The internet will soon allow non-Latin domain names. Great. Including me, how many people watching this show don’t write in Hindi? NASA animation shows astronauts arriving on the moon in 2015. Good. Still lots of time to plan the party. And somebody pretended a meteor landed in Latvia. Wow, bizarre Baltic hoaxes are now important news stories at the CBC.

But finally, it’s time for Wendy Mesley. And her big feature is about people who are profiting from the Swine flu. Okay. Goddamn opportunist sonsabitches! Let’s have at ‘em!

But it turns out the profiteers are Glaxo, who made the vaccine that was so damn important in the lead story. And Purell, who’ve sold $22 Million in hand sanitizer since the CBC started hyping the importance of hand washing last Spring.

Guys, this isn’t news. And they aren’t profiteers. Where are the scam artists and the cheerleaders of doom?

They don’t name any. Instead, Wendy puts on a Hazmat suit she bought online (probably with your tax dollars) and goes to a bookstore to buy a book on keeping your kids from getting sick.


The National even adds a bouncy whistling theme to all this so you know it’s supposed to be really funny even if it’s not.

Done with her little bookstore prank, Wendy then goes online to show you all the other silly stuff you can buy to keep the flu at bay.

Not only was Wendy’s exposé complete bullshit, I’m sure it cheered up the family of a 13 year old Boy in a Toronto suburb who died of Swine Flu earlier in the day.

I’m certain it must have also offered some insight to the kids on his hockey team and school he went to who are now under quarantine.

Perhaps it will lighten the load of the relatives of a ten year old girl from London, Ontario, also a Swine Flu victim, who will be buried tomorrow.

But then, those kids died far from the centre of CBC news coverage in downtown Toronto, so nobody at The National probably even noticed.

Mansbridge’s response to this utterly insensitive tastelessness --- and I quote --- “Good story. We can expect more of these?”

Wendy: “You bet” chirped out with the glee of somebody who’s just realized that trivializing the news is way more fun than actually reporting it.

Jesus Fucking Christ, Wendy! You’re better than this!

You already divorced this Mansbridge ass clown once! What’re you doing co-signing his bullshit?

You used to be one of the CBC’s best reporters. Why are you suddenly trying to become the next Samantha Bee?

I reached for the remote. But there was only one more story to go, so why not see if the new format could somehow redeem itself.

And this is where we went from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Mansbridge introduced the tale of a Venezuelan Symphony conductor who has apparently set the music world on fire. And he’s about to be interviewed by Jian Gomeshi of CBC radio’s “Q”.

Wait, isn’t that the same radio station that stopped playing Classical music because they said nobody listened to it anymore? And isn’t the CBC the same company that fired all of its classical orchestras for the same reason?

Is somebody having a change of heart? Is Classical music making some kind of profound return to popularity?

Don’t know.

Y’see, first Pete and Jian talk about how astonishing this guy is and Gomeshi goes on at length about what an amazing interview he just did. Then we get the interview.

Or rather, one sentence of the interview.

One single sentence.

Then it’s back to Gomeshi and the news that you can hear the whole thing on CBC radio on “Q” and it’ll be repeated on the National “later in the week”.


Guys this is not news. It’s self-promotion and the kind of news omission and trivialization even Fox News doesn’t stoop to presenting.

This is abject, ”We don’t have a fucking clue about what’s important anymore!” and “We also have no idea what we’re doing!”

I finally turn the shit off, having officially watched my last CBC TV newscast.

What’s the point? I can learn more in five minutes surfing the Internet. And it won’t cost me and the rest of the country hundreds of millions in taxes that might be better used --- I don’t know --- maybe getting Swine Flu vaccine distributed in a more timely and organized fashion so 10 and 13 year old kids don’t have to die.

It’s clear that CBC News has completely lost its way. No wonder the journalistic rank and file have already publicly rebelled.

And no wonder the Prime Minister doesn’t bother watching.

Maybe he’s not as out of touch as some at the CBC would have you believe.


DMc said...

I think relentless negativity will fix everything!

Well, just last week somebody told me that they don't read me and Henshaw both regularly, but alternate between the two blogs b/c "why? you always say the same thing!"


I liked it. I think going Chicken Little over night one is ridiculous. The last two times I remember the Ceeb trying something like this?

One...they moved the news to Ten.

Two...they moved it to nine.

One worked. One didn't. You might be right, it might be disastrous. But the terrible numbers for the CBC news for awhile has been manifest.

And I'm a little weary of the reflexive "every decision the CBC makes is bad." Don't we have the Robot Ian Morrison for that?

jimhenshaw said...

Sorry, DMc, this isn't being negative. It's calling pure bullshit for what it is.

One night? This was months in planning and testing and reconfiguring and tweaking. And the news isn't some series that can be tinkered with and polished. Every night is opening night and what's on display here is people who've passed off on any accountability, objectionality and responsibility to their audience.

Who makes jokes about a disease that is killing their viewers' children on the same day those children die?

Who gives a Youtube mash-up more news space than a Genocide trial?

Who promotes hard news segments that turn out to be speculation and completely false premises?

These are people so far up their own butts they don't even know what News is anymore let alone how to package it to help other people understand what's going on in the world.

Want to give the Harper government a pass to eliminate an easy Billion from their deficit by eliminating the CBC -- these boneheads just did.

If your national public broadcaster can't even do a one hour newscast without embarrassing themselves, why even have one?

DMc said...

Mmm...this is gonna be fun.

Jim, you ignorant slut.

First of all, the Conservatives don't need an excuse to fuck with the CBC anyway they want to; they simply need a majority mandate. It's slightly disingenuous to suggest that the CBC could do anything at this point to affect, let alone sink, the prevailing Conservative party view of them. You know better than that - why the puffed up rhetoric? Methinks you've supped at the fount of that number one 'Murrican cable channel a bit much lately.

Second -- your "every night is show night" defence belies the reality of TeeVee and especially advertising.

The CBC News -- or potential CBC News -- audience is not a bunch of kiddies being talked into the next indolent Saw film.

All the ads and all the hype might well have led up to Monday night. But whatever pronouncements you and other chatterers want to make about night one, that's not how the news works. If it was, news wouldn't spike the night there was a great story.

The knock on CBC for the last little while is that they led at on the ground and reaction coverage...they led election nights and on live events, but not for regular coverage or the National. On Newsworld, the joke slogan was, "if it happened today, it's news to us."

The news hole hasn't been filled by television and television alone for more than a decade now. To me, you sound like you're making a suspiciously McLuhanesque argument -- from the era...when the knock was that tv news was bad because most people got their news from there rather than from newspapers, which were good and not so sullied by picture.

I have a simple question for you: with that magic box that's on your desk, or in your palm -- when was the last time you sat down and watched the news with no inkling of what happened during the day?

Then why is the CBC News supposed to act like it's the only source you have for info?

This is a real, actual, unbridgeable divide. I have no problem with the CBC being the final word on the story, because I will, in most cases, have encountered that story before.

And though you insist that "every day is show day," the reality of this revamp is that it won't be settled by what you think of it, or what I think of it, or any of the chattering classes who live to weigh in and shout "first!"

it's the news. Half the people who will wander back and check out the new broadcast have it in their head now as a vague idea of something they'd like to do.

Weeks from now, we'll know if CBC's gamble has paid dividends. I almost wrote, "worked," but of course, you're never going to think it worked. But that's okay.

But there's other people have yet to weigh in. We'll hear from them in good time and then we'll see where we are.

My point is that your reaction is no more valid than the (very few) people who wrote about how "genius" or how "shit" Leno was after night one.

Five nights a week is not a sprint. It's a marathon.

We'll see how it plays out.

Now, back to you Jane. Still love ya.

Now, what am I supposed to do for the H1N1 greeting? Fist bump or elbow. This is shit I need to know.

Howard Bernstein said...

I usually agree with almost all of Denis' opinions but, you could see the but coming, Jim you are so right on. News should actually contain some news.

deborah Nathan said...

With you on this Henshaw. How sad.

jimhenshaw said...


"Puffed up rhetoric"??? No wonder people have trouble telling us apart!

And important issues foremost -- as in any pandemic, the correct H1N1 greeting is the clink of shot glasses.

To your so called points...

I honestly don't believe the "C" party hates the CBC. I think they, like many of us, are tired of spending so much money to get so little in return. And the New National is simply the latest example.

How much money was spent to contrive a system that delivers less content? How many millions went to American "consultants" like Magid, who are already credited with destroying or infantilizing most American television news?

And if I've watched too much Fox lately, it's only made me more aware of what they're lacking and bewildered that a respected news source would want to copy those moves.

Check out "Lang & O'Leary" and tell me it's different from the contrived banter of any Fox money show.

And with regard to your "simple question" -- I quite often come to the nightly news with no concept of what's gone on the rest of the day. Unlike many, I don't multi-task well enough to make use of all my devices when I'm shooting or mid-script.

So, when I do come to the nightly news, I want the information it is supposed to provide -- or I want a reasoned Canadian take on the multitude of fractured and foreign sources that have bombarded me during the day.

Simple question back -- how often have you seen the skew another network puts on a news story corrected by getting a more fullsome explanation from the CBC, NY Times or anybody else who actual cares about telling the whole story.

Outside of a Haiku, no story can be fully told in 10 seconds and its import is automatically trivialized when you put the newsreader in costume or require that they adopt a "friendly but combative" attitude.

And while we wait for "other voices" to chime in, register this -- I'm already gone. I already know that no story on the New National is going to get "full team coverage" or detail that takes more than 3 minutes to explain.

Do I need to hang around longer to see if the Thursday "At Issue" panel all stand around? Will they be given cocktails so it more closely resembles a CBC party and helps everybody appear less uncomfortable?

It was the content that was important and now its not -- and maybe that explains what's missing from the rest of the abysmally rated CBC schedule as well...

Looking forward to your next mauling. Remember to put your teeth in next time.

And keep the Bushmills handy. I'll bring the shot glasses.

Urbanette said...

Just to clarify - the Toronto public health officer got her shot early because she's a health care worker. Health care workers get the shot first so they can administer the shots to the everyone else. Clinics in Toronto open up to the public tomorrow - couple days eariler than they were supposed to - for the at risk population.

deborah Nathan said...

Oh, I want a seat at the bar to watch this contest. Make mine a Talisker, please.

Ouimet said...

A lot to think about here. I think you're spot on for much of it.

And it's not a "Chicken Little" thing, or an "anti-CBC" thing, it's a "this newscast is not very good" thing.

DMc said...

Well JIm, we're obviously not hearing or talking to the same people. Minister Moore is not exactly discreet about his feelings.

I have direct reports of at least half a dozen times he has made clear his true feelings about the CBC. It is not frustration -- it is purely ideological.

As is, in a way, this argument. You've already conceded my thesis, and I gladly concede at least part of yours. It certainly moved too fast through certain segments, and it did jump around a lot.

But how embarrassing that most of the grumbling sees fit to mention -- quelle horreur -- that Peter was -- gasp -- standing. In my recollection, this is how they've done the last couple of elections. And the City News anchors, of course, have been doing this since the mid 70's. Wolf Blitzer stands.

Really? The fit of pique is going to be on the standing thing? I'm sorry, are the dinosaurs angry because the anchors can stand longer than they can? I think all the fuss over standing anchors is a little embarrassing.

What I do think is that they will tweak and fix and buff, as all live ongoing programs do. Hopefully some of the too frenetic elements will be fine tuned away. And I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the day that three major news stories pop, we'll see less about people's love or lack of it of the Royal Family.

But like all "new is bad" criticism, I also think that a year down the road, all this bitching will seem a bit ... overheated. Civilization will not fall.

You know, yesterday I had a drink with Mohan. He gave me notes on a script. But he also happened to mention a friend of his who is leading the social media, new strategy at one of the papers. Peter passed along stories of old-style ink stained wretches who came up to his friend hissing that he was helping to kill their professions and their jobs. And the response was simple enough:

"arguing the change is irrelevant. You either figure out a way to fit into it or you get lost in the dust."

Same thing here. I would love to take the time to go back and source clippings reviewing TV news launches in the 80s or 70s, and I'm going to guess the general criticisms were indistinguishable from what's being said right now.

But this too shall pass. And the world of those who tune in "The National" as their only source of news through the day will be seen as the quaint and fading thing that it is. Part and parcel of including Newswor...er...News Network in this is tacit acknowledgement that the news cycle is short, and the National is merely now one part of the whole.

To be honest, most of the criticism reminds me of nothing so much as the people who would call in to complain every time Pam Wallin changed her hair.

Unknown said...

You guys are hilarious.
I watched CityNews last night (by accident--it flows sraight out of Leno, which I'm still keeping an eye on, DMc--and was struck by how much real, useful information I got out of the broadcast. It was specific, up to the minute and helpful (especially the weather forecast) and spoke directly to me. With very little hype, these folks have tweaked their newscast into a smooth, efficient model.
And that's where CBC blew it. They should never have spent all that money on all those full page ads right across Canada declaring a new day for news. If they had told no one, and let people discover their fresh paint approach while they find their feet with it over the next few weeks, expectations would not have been so high and knives would not have been so drawn.

BlaineW. said...

To be honest, most of the criticism reminds me of nothing so much as the people who would call in to complain every time Pam Wallin changed her hair.

Completely wrong. Not even close. And Jim Henshaw is absolutely right.

This new news is just fatuous and embarrassing, like almost everything else on that channel now. What's the point of watching anymore? I certainly don't see any. Its like The National just got swallowed up by The Huffington Post.

CBC should look to PBS and copy them, though I know they won't. Hasn't anyone watched Frontline lately? Or The Bill Moyers show? Or The News Hour? That is substance. Intelligent important content, great expert guests and all done with thorough research, probing questions but most of all - patience! .

Look to TVO and The Agenda with Steve Paikin. God forbid . Its a far more interesting show than The National. Especially if you're sincere in your goal of 'learning something'.

We need more patience, not less. We need more depth, not less. We need some one in the producing class with the courage to go against the grain of the prevailing wisdom for once. But I'm sure the second anyone does they are shown the door.

By all means link up your broadcast with all kinds of online features, extensions and bloggers - PBS does it - but don't turn the broadcast itself into a glorified web page. Because then you end up losing your dignity.

In my view - the second you try and fix "the news" to increase "your numbers" the more pointless and inane it becomes, giving me less and less of a reason to watch. By trying to be faster, quicker, more self-promotional and more entertaining you just become more homogenized and boring. Both the cable news and the network news in the U.S. are perfect examples of this. And the debut of the new National is now another example. How just utterly depressing. The CBC is a public broadcaster - stop worrying about your numbers and just try to put on the most in depth content and I will be happy to pay for it with my taxes. But I don't want to pay for it if it's just so desperately trying to be like everything else all the time. Moves like this are ultimately hurting the CBC's case, not helping it. If I want the Huffington Post I'll click on The Huffington Post.

Jim Henshaw - with whom I actually disagree from time to time, don't get me started on global warming - is absolutely right about this and says it all the time with regards to Canadian broadcasting: give me something I'm not going to get anywhere else. In a system tailored made for taking chances, why are they so rarely taken?

THe CBC has gone about this completely wrong, and in so doing they went and did exactly what I thought they would actually do. The only surprise was in how bad it actually was.

You're better than this .


So go ahead and call me a snob. I don't care.

jimhenshaw said...


As for what the government does, I guess we'll just have to wait and see if they ever get a majority or use it wisely when they do.

More important, what I notice about our debate is that you keep talking context while I'm talking content. You're more about style and I'm leaning toward substance.

What I also notice is that while I know you absolutely forbid mediocrity to inhabit your own work and refuse to dumb things down, you seem bent on defending CBC News taking those paths to achieve success.

Is a train-wreck that attracts a large crowd a tragedy or is it seen as a successful train wreck? Because that's what we've got here.

I haven't had enough time today to keep abreast of what others are saying, but if the main comment is about the standing around that's understandable. That's a formula that's been tried and rejected by just about every major news organization wanting to "energize" its newscasts and it appears Magid took millions from the boneheads who run CBC to sell them the same tired concept.

Could it be any clearer that the people running our national broadcast system don't have the first clue about what's going on in the rest of their industry?

The move was satirized beautifully here:


...after ITV tried it about three years ago.

How much do you want to bet that come next week's "22 Minutes" they're all standing?

However, Mohan's friend is absolutely correct --- and Srsly, you're so desperate you're taking notes from Pete now? ;) --- I'm not arguing that what CBC was doing didn't need to change. But this isn't change for the better.

On their own website CBCNN says the following:

You told us you wanted to be well informed.

You told us you wanted news constantly updated and when and how you want it.

You told us you wanted the news to be more relevant to your life.

You told us you wanted the "whole story" so you could choose what to believe and what decisions to make.

You told us to be less formal, less detached in how we present the news.

And you told us to let you into the newsgathering process.

Have you seen ANY of that reflected in the new format? Cause I sure don't. In fact, I see them pushing in the opposite direction.

In the end, you're absolutely right, civilization won't collapse. But CBC News might. At the very least, it has given up all claim to the journalistic cache it used to have.

As for Pamela Wallin, Dude, stop fuckin' with me. She never changed her hair -- even after Richard Gere got it all mussy.

You can have last word on this, if you want. But I'm as done as Wendy Mesley's career.

DMc said...

I think I'm just going to punt, and defer to my brilliant friend and fellow scribe Mike McPhaden, who Tweeted (yes, that's right--social media!) this :

Judging by all the griping,
CBC News' New Look is like
the new Facebook design,
but for seniors.


deborah Nathan said...

The new CBC National is just one more step along the way to killilng CanCon through attrition, bad decisions and an "emperor has no clothes" mentality. If the CBC wants to stop reporting "news" and become an offshoot of Entertainment tonight, so be it. They will continue to bleed viewers while the other networks boast newscasts of over a million viewers. Maybe they'll be happy with their niche market of 400,000 viewers. I guess DMc you are among those viewers, but I am not. I prefer a nice succinct newscast that hits all the top stories, tells me if I need to find my gloves and tuque and I switch it off at the sports news.

But that is the point - we have choice as to what we watch, when. So, to each his own.

And I would just ask this - although it is from another age - would you ever consider Peter Mansbridge or any of the current crop of newscasters as a write-in candidate on a national ballot? Walter Cronkite was the write-in of choice for many years as a protest against tedious, lying politicians. Cronkite because he not only delivered the news, but gave excellent commentary on the stories of the day. These days, I would opt for Rick Mercer as my write-in candidate before any of the Canadian newscasters. At least he has a point of view. Perhaps that's why his numbers are so high?

So, let's all agree to disagree about where and how we access our news.

And for what it's worth, I never noticed Wendy's hair.

Frank "Dolly" Dillon said...

My feeling is that the solution to the low "National" numbers would be to put the news in the time slot it belongs -- 11 o'clock. I think that would have immediately given the broadcaster another quarter million viewers without any changes to the format whatsoever.

Despite the fact that Leno occupies one of the American network's 10 PM timeslots you are competing against the best of prime time entertainment every night by staying on at ten.

I like news fine but would never watch it at 10 at night by moving it to the slot it belongs in I believe viewership would increase substantially.

The side benefit of this move is that slots for Adult prime time drama would be made available and perhaps we would see some content that nine o'clock slots do not allow for.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim:

I thought that the new format was based upon the old ancient premise.."The man is in charge"

Notice that Peter stands in place and then every female correspondent steps forth and testifies to Peters gaze, their report. We Have Wendy, Kelly, Ms Lang and Christa all reporting dutifully as if it was Peter's Harem. The only thing missing is that the female correspondents don't curtsy when they approach HRH Peter. Also, way too much of the moving backdrop stolen from The Daily Show...Maybe they could call it The Daily Harem.....again another pretend News show!


Ken said...

I'm with Henshaw on this one. The new National looks like E! Talk Daily done without a staff of researchers.

Anonymous said...

I am originally from Toronto but have now lived in the USA for 17 years.

Canada is very lucky to have the USA right next door to serve as a gigantic cautionary tale.

Since media companies were allowed to merge into our mega 3(?), the quality of our information began to deteriorate. The news is now comprised of the following: schadenfreude stories 30%, violent crime 20%, gossip 40%, miscellaneous fluff 10% on rare occasion real news manages to squeeze in there. When I say rare, I am not exaggerating. Our news format often forces ordinary people into the limelight for such things as getting into a bar fight or holding up the line at a McDonald's drive through. PBS is all that's left for a reputable news source.

Our political system is thoroughly corrupt. With the power of propaganda Americans have been convinced that any attempt to reign in some of the abuses that are threatening this once great nation is a threat to the free market and a certain path to socialism, gasp, like Canada.

WMD in Iraq, legislation that has obviously been introduced to appease political contributors and a private prison system that holds the largest prison population in the world, most who will never be allowed to vote again.

In the past none of these actions or assertions would have lasted a day without intense media scrutiny. The only information that has any semblance of accuracy is the weather and only because I live in Phoenix.