Stursberg vs. ‘RRJ’

(Well, he’s always versus somebody, isn’t he?)

I spent $7.86 of my last 20 bucks on the Summer 2008 issue of Ryerson Review of Journalism. I’ve read it for years and have a stack of back issues. I didn’t attend this year’s release party, ensuring I would not leave the place almost in tears.

Two-page spread headlined ‘On Trial,' with full-page illustration of Stursberg

The RRJ issue contains “On Trial” by Rachel Barsky, a feature article on our Ãœbergruppenführer Richard Stursberg. In it, Stursberg’s truculence and assholism attain new levels. Stursberg is clearly a Fred “Cuntz”–like figure – a boss who fancies himself a kind of J. Jonah Jameson (but with balls!), reacting to any hint of mutiny or critique with “Not onboard with my decision? Fuckyez!”

Note that he almost refused to entertain Barsky’s follow-up questions after initial interviews. Many sources refused to be quoted by name. Some were quoted saying they were afraid to be quoted. In what respect is Stursberg’s reign not one of terror? CBC: A hostile work environment from the top down.

As the issue is not yet onliné, I shall précis certain Stursbergian bons mots and pensées.

  • What would Stursberg say to employees still angry about the lockout? “Get over it,” he says quietly, then, almost shouting, “Get over it! […E]ither they were going to strike at a time of their own choosing and cause real serious damage to the Corporation, or we were going to lock them out in a way that caused less damage. So everyone should be happy to have less damage rather than more.”

  • “No one inside will agree [with the view that CBC is too commercial. I]f they were here and they agree with that view, then why would they be here? […O]therwise… we’d all be running off in different directions, instead of the recipe for success.”

    I tell Stursberg that this isn’t what others have said…. “Give me their names.”

  • “Maybe… they like failure.”

  • Stursberg denies there’s been any budget cutting. But David Studer of The Fifth Estate “won’t deny a figure of 20% of the production budget.”

  • Stursberg seems to want to divert money from Newsworld to CBC, in contravention of CRTC “expectations.” Barsky does not follow up on the fact that an “expectation” means nothing; only a condition of licence does. “Stursberg’s response, according to Burman, was ‘Fuck the CRTC.’ ‘You can’t fuck the CRTC as long as I’m still around.’ â€

  • Here’s a ringer from ombud Vince Carlin, who “understands the negative side of the ‘lifetime employment’ previously attainable at the network: It requires better management to deal with people who can’t be fired, and most managers aren’t good at it.”

  • Three words: Paris Hilton Inc.

    Julian Sher: “Current affairs doesn’t exist as a current-affairs department.” […] Former journalists’ work “still airs on the networks sometimes, but they don’t work for the Corp because ‘there are no shows to work for.’ â€

  • Esther Enkin, deputy news editor-in-chief, goes on at length about how she doesn’t understand Stursberg’s news plan (using variations of the catchphrase “it’s early days yet”).


Here is the list of “charges” against Stursberg that Barsky investigates, using original reporting and whatever tiny morsel of a response Stursberg deigned to give her.

  1. Stursberg is starving TV news in his quest to beef up entertainment
  2. Stursberg wanted to divert millions from Newsworld into general network coffers
  3. In the Stursberg era, the quality of The National has continued to diminish
  4. Stursberg wants more news lite
  5. Stursberg has no overall plan for CBC News

What are your charges?


  • Fake Ouimet says:

    Article is finally online.

  • Anonymous says:

    Before leaving positions with various cable and satellite companies he publicly denounced the CBC and how he would privatize the CBC if he was in charge. Then he goes out lobbying the PMO directly for the position of President of the CBC.
    Then for some reason Bobby hired him. Seems to me he did not have the integrity and business skills to publicly raise money and start his own entertainment network in the first place. So lets simply rape (yes we lost shows, Canadian programming)a crown corporation operating from taxpayers money and try and satisfy the BDU's (cable & Satellite companies) original interests,mandate and attitude towards the future of CBC.
    Time for the BOD to review RS – oops I forgot the CBC's BOD is one of the few corporate bodies NOT able to fire it's executives.
    There is only one person that can push for this change you are all desiring.

  • Anonymous says:

    I charge that RS has written his own definition of what “public service” means.

  • LS825 says:

    Or you could go here:

    And then post about how the information sucks.
    Which it basically does.

    Speaking of comments, is Allan really gone for good? Sure hope so. That guy had nothing positive to add to the dialogue.

    All you Silver Snail / Podcasters Across Border types ought to think about this.

    What are you really adding to the discourse when all you have to bring to the table is either:
    “Waah waah waah. Nobody cares about my free speech!”
    “I love _________ (insert showname, personality name, social networking technology not yet available on CBC)”

    Back on topic, flash back to lockout ’05, to the bearpit meetings. Oumie wrote about this really early in the history of this blog.

    For those who were not there, you could see the smugness on Stursberg’s face and in his demeanour as he, George Smith, and a couple of others shrugged off a few bona fide hardball questions and fawned over a bunch of softballs from butt-kissers from TV.

    Bottom line, they really gave the now proven impression that the agenda was set, planned and not really up for discussion from the day that Bobby Rabinovitch pulled Richard into the operation.

    An objective evaluation from a third party is really needed on Stursberg’s overall track record and his performance. Something beyond what revenue numbers he has managed to generate. Maybe an examination of his programmatic and organizational decisions against various mandates of the corpse.

    He and others always seem to slip under the wire in terms of larger discussions about the distribution of Candadian cultural products in favour of ratings, budget numbers and other topics more suited to a career bureaucrat.

    Ironically, Richie totally pushes ‘value for money’, but if you look at his own track record, the guy is ripping off the audience evry day he doesn’t pass the reigns onto someone else. Richie, do the right thing and retire, please. You’re the most dangerous hunk of dead wood in the place!

    PS – somebody do an FOI on senior management bonuses!!

  • Fake Ouimet says:

    I think semi-moderated means lightly moderated. Essentially anything that isn’t spam or actually in contravention of the Criminal Code gets nuked; everything else stays.

    I could ask, of course. By Betty Kennedy’s standards I should already have had inside jobbers feeding me dirt on the subject.

    I seem to recall that my esteemed colleague implemented a functionally identical system for the Globe.

  • Daley says:

    I charge that Stursberg loves the weather too much and has used that to further “enhance” the CBC news lite product.

    /off topic

    On, what does “semi-moderated” mean on the commenting section? I haven’t found an explanation, but it would seem to mean that only advertising spam is blocked and much of the vitriol that is written there is let through. Even when it is offensive or irrelevant.

    end off topic/

  • Anonymous says:

    I wonder sometimes if Steve Jobs has made the “cranky boss” fashionable. He’s dismissive, cranky, contrary, and, well, arrogant… as well as being one of the most successful business owners ever.

    But, unlike any manager I’ve ever met at the ceeb, Steve Jobs is able to inspire, lead by example, speak plain English, and produce a quality product against all resistance, internal and otherwise.

    I’m willing to put up with some personality flaws if it means something good comes out of it at the end. But for all the terrible management we have in both TV and Radio, there’s very little good to see.

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