Moving On from Search Engine

Can everyone stop acting like the cancellation of Search Engine is a fatal wound to the heart of the nation, sort of like Gzowski’s calling it quits or the shitcanning of This Hour Has Seven Days?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Host Jesse Brown is waaay funnier in person than in the emotionless, dull, over-coached line readings on the former show. (Was Max Allen in there telling him what he tells everyone everywhere every time – “Slow down”?)

When not interviewing Ouimie and Hubie (a 2-for-1 deal!), the show was a bore. China China videogames Creative Commons China videogames China. Wake me up before you go-go.

I will not claim there’s room for only one Web- or technology-related show on CBC Radio. There’s limitless room for edentate news-parody shows on CBC Television, isn’t there? But there’s room for only one adequate show, and that, by any estimation, is Spark – even if Nora Young is the unacceptable voice of middlebrow and given to gormless and unsympathetic photographs. Her producers lazily invite magazine writers onto the show to talk up their work. What Merlin Mann needs is community shunning, not a regular feature on the show.


We were fed the line from CBC media relations that Jesse Brown would be kept on as some kind of wandering journalist emeritus, as if to infiltrate technology stories into CBC programming from the previous century.

I’m sure this is just a contract job, and I’m also sure he’ll turn up from time to time – no doubt to the dissatisfaction of the other Technology Jesse, Hirsch Hersh Hirsch Hirsh, who finally managed to snag the on-air gigs Maffin was blowing. (That latter is just informed speculation, which the Jesse Twins and Maffin may angrily denounce in the comments section.)

Of course blogs are going to talk about a show like Search Engine. It’s their constituency. But can we talk about Moving On?

With funding from the feds and joint-venture deals with nonprofits, CBC deigned to air two disability-related TV shows: D-Net (né Disability Network, 1990), hosted by a jazz singer who did fill-in on the occasional top-of-hour newscast with all the discomfort of Albert Brooks in Broadcast News; and, latterly, Moving On. (Wasn’t the title written as Movin’ On at one point?)

The Corpse shitcanned Moving On in 2007. Maffin reported that the production team would stay “intact”; Jeff Keay bloviated that “We can cover these important issues more effectively by presenting that subject material through different programs rather than one.”

Because obviously occasional coverage dispersed across the network is “more effective” than a concentrated show. Why did we ever need one in the first place?

Tell me something: How much disability coverage have you been seeing on “different programs”? Just in the last six months, say?

Do not include in your answer the unending segments on Sounds Like Canada about Ing Wong-Ward and her pregnancy. By curious coincidence, Wong-Ward works for the CBC and, as a disabled Chinese-Canadian female, is a trifecta of employment-equity goals, each of which counts separately.

Six CBC Radio segments on a CBC producer: Isn’t this like devoting 50 minutes of airtime to Barbara Frum’s death? A bit too inside-baseball?

Beyond that, what coverage of “these important issues” have you seen?

One of Moving On’s erstwhile producers gave me a list: “I can tell you that I produced a three-part segment on inclusion for Living in Toronto, as well as one on an ASL preschool for hearing and deaf kids. I don’t keep track of disability segments on the broader CBC and don’t know if there’s anyone who does.” Exactly! (I asked Jeff Keay for a longer list and got no response.)

By my reckoning, that’s fewer segments than a single episode of Moving On. (And now the Corpse is trotting out the same strategem on another topic, Canadian history.)

I have a bone to pick here because this is my field, or one of them. I could give you five story ideas off the top of my head just about blind people – and they’re all current news items, not the chronic, ongoing dilemmas that TV and radio cannot figure out how to cover.

If I understand this correctly, we can go from two shows to one show and a roving in-house producer on the technology file. But, on the disability file, we can go from one show to zero – merely adding radio segments about an in-house CBC producer to take the place of the show.

This makes us better than the Privates how?

Clone the BBC

Why are we not at least doing what the BBC is doing? (Whatever they do automatically has to be a good idea.) They meet their remit to cover disability issues with two monthly podcasts, Ouch (blog) and In Touch (also a show on Radio 4). The latter is solid journalism, the former a kind of variety news hour (previously an oxymoron).

The deformed drug dealer from Metrosexuality is the host of Ouch, and some of the segments are actually funny. I don’t mean film-intellectual funny (“structurally” funny); I mean, as the kids say, “LOL.” I was waiting for the Parliament bus one day and had to stop myself from visibly cracking up in laughter over the show’s cracks about Australians (RTF transcript). (You probably don’t want to be seen laughing to yourself on Parliament St.) The farther back you go in the archives, the less funny they are. It took a while to loosen up, I guess.

There’s also a deaf show on BBC Two, See Hear. Despite a few all-deaf shows produced 30 years ago and a couple of specials that Rogers will trot out at licence-renewal time, I doubt Canada has the talent to produce a deaf show. (Canada’s talent tends to go to Gallaudet or NTID, then get a job in the States. Not that different from hearing people.)

And BBC has a fantastically interesting reality show – Britain’s Missing Top Model, the hunt for a crippled fashion model. Stunning idea. Stunning. Why isn’t that on at 12:30 A.M. on CBC Television instead of some warmed-over British drama? Why are we not just licensing the format and running it here? What is our problem?

Why does Jesse Brown still have that job? What is the need for Jesse Brown still to have that job? What is the need for disability coverage on “Canada’s public broadcaster”?


  1. Anonymous
    Posted September 15, 2008 at 9:40 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Joe was thanked at the end of the first podcast show

  2. Fake Ouimet
    Posted August 29, 2008 at 9:05 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Jeff Keay responds on behalf of the Corpse: “I’ve asked around informally and understand there have been numerous examples, but given the current workload borne by my colleagues due to the Olympics and an upcoming season launch, I’m reluctant to initiate an exhaustive search right now.”

  3. Fake Ouimet
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 9:20 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Sue, a blog about media criticism is hardly a welcoming environment for your insinuation that the only two options are listening to a segment or turning off the radio.

    Now, I just left myself open there. Who’s going to go topshelf?

  4. Ouimet
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 5:55 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I say let it burn.

    There’s plenty more where that came from.

  5. sue campbell
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 4:27 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Hello Fake again,

    As for the six segments, uh…hmm…how do I say this without offending…human pregancies most often last nine months. Therefore, we followed Ing through her pregnancy. Again, all I can say is if you didn’t like what you heard the first time, you didn’t have to tune in to the following interviews. I’m hoping you did, because it was an incredible experience Ing and Tim went through. And that doesn’t have anything to do with the fact Ing carries a CBC fob.

  6. Kev
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 2:36 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    You seem to be playing up the overcoming-adversity angle.

    Ah, the “I’m rubber and you’re glue” gambit, it’s a real classic.

    I don’t think anyone’s really under the impression that Ouimet’s coming back any time soon. It’s just depressing to see the respect that they built up being burned to warm your ego.

  7. Fake Ouimet
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 1:09 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Now, Kevin, the lives of people with disabilities are not always ones of perpetual struggle. You seem to be playing up the overcoming-adversity angle.

    Quite possibly you don’t have enough information to adjudge anyone else’s “self-awareness.”

    So that Teatards⢠are aware, I know you want Alphonse Ouimet back. You can’t have him, her, it, or them back. You’ve got me. A new writer has a new approach. You were not guaranteed the old writer and the old approach. Nor were you offered a guarantee that Fake Ouimet’s targets and interests would match Alphonse Ouimet’s.

    It borders on dishonesty to worry about my picking on the “wrong” people when what you really want is Alphonse Ouimet back in here picking on the “right” people. To paraphrase Irshad Manji, as far as you’re concerned your fundamentalism is better than my fundamentalism. It may or may not be, but it’s different, and (to paraphrase Meryn Cadell) “different” is not what you’re looking for.

    There’s an active comments section and you can write your own guest posts, but the unstated goal of Fake Ouimet critics †replacement with Alphonse Ouimet †simply will not happen, no matter how often you accuse me of whatever you feel like accusing me of.

  8. Kev
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 11:10 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    …female producers should be wary of the stereotype of reducing everything to feelings.

    You might wanna look out for that bitter old misogynist stereotype there yourself, Joe.

    But then again, since you (as a self-described disability advocate!) have no trouble with implying that someone who probably works their ass off to get over fate’s obstacles and society’s prejudices is in fact being aided by them, you may lack the necessary self-awareness.

  9. Fake Ouimet
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 10:40 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Kev, I left it for reader inference in the original post, but since Ing complained about it, I made it explicit: She’s already special enough at the CBC and doesn’t merit six CBC Radio segments when CBC Television had already gone and cancelled a full show about disability.

    Context is everything. Employment-equity rules are racial and sexual (among other things); they aren’t racist and sexist, and neither is talking about their effects on public figures.

  10. Fake Ouimet
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 10:36 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The context was not the success or failure of the segments, or how well you think they fared, Sue. Your underplaying of the disability angle is disingenuous.

    The context, as you are aware, is the propriety of devoting six segments on a disabled CBC producer â€Â segments that, according to the official statements of the CBC, were meant to exemplify a substitute for a complete show related to disability issues.

    Had there never been a disability-related show or had it still been on the air, the segments would have been objectionable solely because of their inside-baseball nature. (“What a convenient segment! I see my source in the hall every day! She can just take the elevator up to the studio!”) But neither of those conditions held. Six segments on one producer, and a couple on Living in Toronto, are not equivalent to a full show.

    I’ll set your “emotion” business aside. I’m sure it made you feel superior. I was complaining about structural inappropriateness; female producers should be wary of the stereotype of reducing everything to feelings.

    Now, Sue, since you have so much inside information, how do you think a quasi-freelance Jesse Brown will fare? Should he file six segments about the remarkable journey of a CBC Online producer who dares to use a Macintosh in a sea of Windows conformity? Would that be a reasonable replacement for an entire show? The parallel is inexact, of course, since, unlike cripples, geeks still have their own program. Doesn’t that hurt your feelings? Doesn’t it scramble your toolbox, Sue?

    BTW, I’ll know better than to pitch your show about my next book.

  11. Sue Campbell
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 10:04 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Hey Fake,

    Here’s some inside intelligence for you, since it appears to be something you value.

    Smart people who listened to the Ing Wong-Ward segments will realize it wasn’t about disability at all. Or being female. Or Chinese-Canadian. It was about personal choice, resilience, strength and compassion; A window into understanding who we are as human beings.

    After listening to all six segments, I’m sorry you missed that. Sounds Like you could do with a few more emotional tools in your intellectual toolbox before you risk misinterpreting an incredible story.

    And as always, if you don’t like hearing something, turn it off. That’s your personal choice.

    Sue Campbell
    Sounds Like Canada (RIP)

  12. Kev
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 9:22 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    As a disabled Chinese-Canadian female, you’re already unfireable at the CBC, since you count three times in employment-equity quotas.

    Hey Joe, weren’t you going to ban people who posted comments meant to be personally offensive? Because the above is so far beyond the pale that you might want to consider giving yourself a bit of a timeout.

  13. Fake Ouimet
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 8:15 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Well, Ing, we were assured that the cancellation of a weekly half-hour of disability coverage would be compensated through ongoing coverage elsewhere. After research (Alphonse Ouimet may have had more “wit,” but I do better research), it was obvious that the largest single source of disability coverage was interviews with a CBC producer. (Plus a couple of segments on Living in Toronto.) Your own corporate spokesman refused to give me a more elaborate list, if such even exists, so I assume my reporting is accurate.

    As a disabled Chinese-Canadian female, you’re already unfireable at the CBC, since you count three times in employment-equity quotas. You’re already special enough. No matter how interesting your story might be, six segments were a bit too inside-baseball, I stated.

    Again: You may want Bob Barker back on The Price Is Right, but he’s retired.

  14. Ing Wong-Ward
    Posted August 25, 2008 at 8:24 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Dearest Fake Ouimet,

    I read your comments about my segments on Sounds Like Canada and feel a need to respond… however unwise it might be.

    The segments were never meant to replace or fill-in for any kind of ongoing coverage of disability issues. The series was the story of one Canadian, who happened to work for the CBC but was, in the view of the Sounds Like Canada producers, of interest to its audience.

    As for your notation of my ethnicity, disability and gender, am I to assume you believe my presence on the air had something to do with filling quotas?

    If that is the assumption, I’m certain the multi-million dollar job offer as a host is just a door knock away.

    I suppose I should be honoured for being mentioned in such glowing terms in this blog. All I need now to complete my life is a Frank entry.

    Please bring back the real Ouimet. She/he/it had real wit…

  15. Anonymous
    Posted August 20, 2008 at 3:35 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Summer replacement shows usually don’t run from September through June.

  16. Anonymous
    Posted August 20, 2008 at 12:49 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    ….. wasn’t Search Engine simply a summer replacement show anyway? Those things are rarely renewed.

  17. Dwight Williams
    Posted August 20, 2008 at 12:24 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Jesse: Okay. Let’s run with this set of experiments, then!

    Waiting in hope…

  18. Anonymous
    Posted August 19, 2008 at 6:59 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece
  19. Anonymous
    Posted August 19, 2008 at 3:53 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I expect some of the “Search Engine” outrage is medium-specific: I’ve seen the occasional complaint online (here and at “inside cbc”) but never seen any in print (ink-and paper print) or heard anyone mention it in person. It all pales in comparison to the response to various Radio 2 cancellations, where complaints are easy to find.

    Two possible explanations:

    (1) more of their audience is online (or is used to airing their complaints online)

    (2) There are really only a few people who even noticed the cancellation, and they are posting multiple complaints.

    In fairness, the right answer is probably a mix of the two.

  20. Jesse Hirsh
    Posted August 19, 2008 at 9:46 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Hey FO,

    I totally agree that CBC should have way more programming on disability issues, explicitly in the form of a show. I also agree that the focus is lost in the larger health reporting, columns, and being part of other show(s).

    With regard to technology, there is a growing appetite for the general subject matter on CBC. I count myself, Matt Stambaugh, Nora Young, Jesse Wente, Jesse Brown, Chris Hogg, and “Maffin” as all doing some type of tech-centric content from time to time. Expand that to include Peter Nowak, Ian Johnson and the team and you’ve got quite a broad team of people providing technology-centric programming. Someone might suggest to Cruikshank the creation of a tech news bureau that would include all of the above and more and therefore better organize and produce public technology journalism.

    Similarly if a health bureau were created out of Maureen Taylor, Dr. Lin, and the other people even tangentially related to that field, I think it would be easier to put pressure on having greater coverage of disability issues as well as in my own case chronic illnesses.

    Hey Dwight, I’m all for seeing Jesse Brown host the Hour, although I’ll raise that dare and say I’d love to see Allan Sorensen host As it Happens. Or how about Strombo hosting this blog?

    -jesse hirsh

  21. Dwight Williams
    Posted August 19, 2008 at 8:13 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Could Jesse Brown serve as a back-up host for The Hour on occasion, perhaps?

    Just throwing the idea out for consideration/debate/outright ridicule.

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