Guest blogger: Inside MyCBC Vancouver

Sent to me by an anonymous reader.
Enjoy.
~O

I agree there are still major problems with CBC Television. Falling ad revenue is the biggest challenge. But I’d like to talk a bit about Vancouver because the bosses are gushing all sorts of praise on the new Vancouver experiment.

Like others I’m confused by the name of the Vancouver project. MyCBC sounds like a creepy pet name Tony would have given to his latest anchorwoman/girlfriend. But I digress.

Vancouver is being cited as a great example of what all the local news shows should aspire to emulate. Management hired the American television news spin doctors at Magid consulting. So far Magid has told the Vancouver newsroom to add the words “New Tonight” during all stories in the 11 o’clock cast and to have anchors stare into the camera and deliver that phoney urgent phrase that ignites local American newscasts from Toledo to Fresno: “CBC News starts RIGHT NOW!” (CUE THE GRAPHIC SWOOSH)

Newsworld headline readers have been forced to use the same template for some time. I’m sure Magid has a room full of donut eating focus group panels in Vancouver who pressed the happy button when they tested Ian and Gloria using that kind of language:

“Panelist #7 said she really felt like the newscast was starting at the very moment the news anchor told her it was starting. The panelist said she appreciates knowing her newscast is starting RIGHT NOW and not in a few seconds from now…”

Back to the 11 pm show; the late cast itself is a bizarre 5 minute show wedged between The National and The Hour. Like many people I misread the original mass e-mails and was under the impression that Vancouver was adding a full 30 minute late night newscast.

Instead it’s a breathless 5 minutes read by Nathalie Clancy. It feels more like a late night snack than a show.

As for the ‘new and improved’ supper hour show in Vancouver, if you’ve watched the shows on the web you’ll notice a few things: they took many of the experienced former Canada Now desk producers and threw them on air. Many were once strong local reporters, such as Kirk Williams, who got forced into desk jobs when management didn’t like their older/white/balding appearance on air, or passed them up for promotion to National reporter, back when that title meant something special and you needed at least 10 years under your belt before you become one.

The old crusty veterans are pretty strong journalists and they’re among the strongest live performers. But it’s the young cub reporters on the local Vancouver shows that need to bone up their skills. CBC still suffers from some of the weakest and most uncomfortable live talent in Canada. For all the time we spend talking about journalism most of our local reporters look wooden and frightened during live hits.

Vancouver is certainly doing a lot of live reports but many of the journalists don’t even have the on air skills to work in a medium-sized American market. The anchor throws to the live hits and the reporter reactions are often painful, clumsy and not choreographed properly. If CBC local shows are supposed to catch up with where local television went 20 years ago, it’s going to be a long journey.

Finally CTV and Global in Vancouver both put on great newscasts. There are plenty of former CBC types working for the privates and they seem to combine quality journalism with a slick package. CBC has so many strong elements (Ian and Gloria for example and Claire Martin as meteorologist). But the anchors need to gel with the reporting staff and it has to be visible on air every single night.

Bet you won’t read any of this in a happy cheery mass e-mail from CBC management!

10 comments:

  1. Allan
    Posted December 16, 2007 at 6:14 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Bill Lee, now with HTML!

    Watch and listen for yourself.
    HERE and
    HERE

    And the most important link in CBC BC?
    IS HERE

    Since the English service doesn’t want to link to the SRC on its page, go to

    THIS PAGE
    Compare the “CBC News : Vancouver at Six” [ Right! Now! ] with “TJCB”
    HERE

    and the English radio “Early Edition” with the French morning show “Phare Ouest”
    HERE
    And the noon “B.C. Almanac” with the weaker “Tam-Tam”
    HERE

  2. Bill Lee
    Posted December 16, 2007 at 2:11 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “Eleven [o’clock ]78,000”
    Pass out from Peter’s avuncular summary, and on to whatever dog’s breakfast is being served by Stroumbo.

    But then the Global (formerly CTV) BC Newshour from CHAN (Channel 8 on dial, various on cable) comes on at 11 and everyone watches that bleeding edge.

    The new local CBC head following Stursberg’s absurd orders, came from Global by way of a tiny ‘multi-cultural’ TV station (local Channel M, follows the Beijing line)

    This past week at 11 pm it’s been former radio Mi-Young Lee acting as deer-in-the-headlights of the studio reading the news instead of the bloviating Miss Clancy. Stumbles, stiff, tongue trips (but with a graceful apology) do not make for a good news watch.

    But then it’s a 5 minute news blip and everyone is getting more food from the fridge, another beer and their favourite drugs to watch Stroumbo, and ‘listening’ but not actively watching the show. (Wait until the polling sensor machines get set up to see which warm bodies instead of the dog, are in front of the set and alert.)

    The Vancouver latenight newscast used to be respectable and good, but that was 20 years ago in the era of Laura Ornest doing real sports and news.

    Better if the local shop went back to its 1950s, 1960s heyday and made local drama again.

    The SRC show, a repeat of the 6 pm, is so much better than the Damned English show. And in Vancouver, the two (Early Edition, B.C. Almanac, the latter province-wide) broad radio magazine shows lead the agendas of the day. TV follows. Yes, the radio programs follow the newspapers sometimes, but get better answers and have more access.
    Watch and listen for yourself.
    http://www.cbc.ca/bc/programs/
    http://www.cbc.ca/newsvancouver/

    And the most important link in CBC BC?
    http://www.cbc.ca/bc/redevelopment/

    Since the English service doesn’t want to link to the SRC on its page, go to

    http://www.radio-canada.ca/regions/colombie-britannique/index.shtml
    Compare the “CBC News : Vancouver at Six” [ Right! Now! ] with “TJCB”
    http://www.radio-canada.ca/regions/colombie-britannique/Tele/cbcesoir.shtml

    and the English radio “Early Edition” with the French morning show “Phare Ouest”
    http://www.radio-canada.ca/regions/colombie-britannique/Radio/phareouest.shtml
    And the noon “B.C. Almanac” with the weaker “Tam-Tam”
    http://www.rcinet.ca/rci/fr/emissions/1946.shtml?regiongh=21&dt=2007-12-10&pk=1804&numero=1804&date=2007-12-17

  3. Anonymous
    Posted December 16, 2007 at 11:06 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Yes, pronouncements to the contrary viewership is down all over (comparing last week to Global, where the American programing had dried up because of the Writers strike, is meaningless) and ad revenue is tanking. Morale is terrible. The programs aren’t very good. There is no money for the regions. To pay the bills management are selling off assets. That all this can happen and continue in plain view is hard to comprehend. The CBC is a great institution, somebody should do something.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted December 16, 2007 at 9:35 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    nobody watches CBC news
    the ratings are at historic lows
    good work Dick, nicely done

  5. J. Frank Willis
    Posted December 16, 2007 at 8:54 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    anonymous at 1:03 said

    CBC News needs to go back to more of a farm team system, with young journalists starting in smaller markets and moving up to larger ones after 5-10 years. There should be a bigger effort to build talent and help people develop their skills.

    Sorry while that worked in the past (in my day) it won’t work anymore.
    That farm team system began in the 40s and continued to the 70s, perhaps even the 80s, when men were mainly the bread winners and the dutiful wife was expected to follow the hubby to the boonies (and to quote Hilary Clinton in another context “bake cookies” ) while he paid his dues.

    Most young journalists today have spouses or partners who have their own careers. If promising young VJ has a wife who is an up and coming lawyer in a big city, they aren’t going to move to a small market. If a promising young female reporter they want on the air for diversity has a husband who is equally promising and is on tenure track at the local university, they ain’t moving.

    That’s the reality, so the CBC has to do what anonymous 1:03 suggested but make sure that people are mentored, trained and encouraged no matter where they are. If we don’t they usually end up in PR.

    I remember years ago when I was a young reporter, overhearing two managers (there were bastards at CBC in those days as well) who thought it was incredibly funny that a young CBC reporter who was paying his dues in a small Atlantic Canada station, missed his wife who had a good job here in Toronto.

    So the system was not all that good even then.

    JFW

  6. Anonymous
    Posted December 16, 2007 at 8:42 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Online quiz for Richard Stursberg only

    Is the CBC

    1. Starbucks
    2. Wal*Mart
    3. Krispy Kreme
    4. Tim Hortons

    Answer. 3
    Krispy Kreme

    Richard has said we aren’t Starbucks

    Wal*Mart is what the CTV employees call themselves

    Richard said we are Tim Hortons

    But by hiring Magid it is like importing Krispy Kreme–an all American chain that has not done as well as in Canada as expected.

    If we are going to have to be Timmy’s then let’s be Timmy’s and be Canadian, not oversweetened, over hyped Americans.

    Double double anyone?

  7. The Book of Don
    Posted December 15, 2007 at 12:03 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Want my advice ?

    Do the best job possible. Be a team player. Don’t trash the Corp. Pray for a revitalization of regional programming.

    Keep a Journal.

  8. Anonymous
    Posted December 15, 2007 at 11:03 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    CBC News needs to go back to more of a farm team system, with young journalists starting in smaller markets and moving up to larger ones after 5-10 years. There should be a bigger effort to build talent and help people develop their skills. We have too many people stuck in smaller stations who can’t get out and not enough mentoring.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted December 15, 2007 at 9:29 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Magid’s suggestions are poison.

    Do we want to look and sound like 2 bit American newscasts?

    I bet the govt. of the day and the CRTC will say “why give you taxpayers’s money when you look and sound like everybody else?”.

    We are doomed if we follow this all sizzle and no steak approach “RIGHT NOW!”.

    Are we really so lost that we need Yankee production values to make news programs?

    God help us.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted December 15, 2007 at 8:59 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Recent Vancouver TV news ratings

    Saturday, December 1 73,000
    Sunday, December 2 38,000
    Monday, December 3 Noon 10,000
    Six 27,000
    Eleven 78,000


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