In her own words: McGuire on CBCNN

BILL: Big changes are being unveiled today at CBC News. Whether it’s what you read on-line, see on TV or hear on the radio… our news programming has been transformed. We’ll speak with one of the main architects of the transformation, Jennifer McGuire.

INTRO: Whether it’s what you read on-line, see on TV, or hear on the radio… you’re waking up to some big changes today at CBC News.

All of the network’s news programs have been revamped.

And there is a whole roster of new shows… and new faces.

Jennifer McGuire is the general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC News.

I’ve alluded to the scope of the change… but let’s talk about that in a little more detail. What are the major differences at CBC News today?
The biggest change is around Newsworld – becoming CBC News Network. There are new people, new hosts, new breaking news desks. It’s going to be much more field based, breaking news during the day, and providing meaning, context and personality in the evening. World report and World at Six have new hosts, and the teams behind them are mostly new as well. Radio, TV, online… CBC News is really one now. We’re fully integrating all platforms. Some people might not have known that all newsrooms were separate. Now they’re all together – that’s a fundamental shift. And the way we tell and assign stories is changing too. Other interesting tidbit is shift in the digital piece – how much more important online/tweeting/cellphones are to delivering the news.
Why was this transformation necessary?
If you read the business texbooks, they say the time to change is when you’re successful. That’s what we’re doing. We’re capitalizing on our strenghts. Newsworld is number one, online is number one, radio is number one. We see ahead of us the changing media environment, and we really need to position ourselves for the future. People want more control of their news – they want to consume it when they want it, and customize how they’re getting it And we’re making that possible now.
How will you measure whether this transformation succeeds?

Every program will have their own internal benchmarks – the expectation at the end of the day is that we will continue to offer great journalism. Depth and breadth of our audience is important as well. We’ll also be checking to see that our audience is engaged. Measuring relevance and engagement isn’t that easy – but if we see there are lots of coments and lots of voxbox etc… that’s a good measure of our performance. The main objectives of this transformation are:

  1. Full integration of all news resources.
  2. A 24/7 news service.
  3. Extension of the local-programming footprint on TV, Radio and online.
  4. Renewal of key programs to increase and diversify audiences.
  5. CBC News Network will be will be more focussed on live and breaking news 24/7 with an even more emphasis on depth and context

EXTRO: Jennifer McGuire is the general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC News. Check out  CBC.CA for more information about all the changes happening at CBC News… including changes to the National, and the new CBC News Network.

More background

Two years in the making, and now the news can be told. CBC News has unveiled a significant and much anticipated transformation of its news programming, just days before the line-up goes live to air, on Monday, October 26. With new content and programming across all media platforms, flagship program The National, specialty service Newsworld and radio program World Report all are undergoing major changes, starting with new work processes and internal journalistic structures.

Newsgathering is being transformed at the CBC through a multi-platform assignment desk called The Hub, where all reporting resources – whether for radio, TV, online or mobile – are assigned and coordinated. Content units focus on news, entertainment, health, business, sports, and environment. Two other units, investigative and consumer, are managed by specific programs, the fifth estate and Marketplace. “These are the most significant changes ever undertaken by CBC News,” said Richard Stursberg, Executive Vice President, English Services, CBC/Radio-Canada. “The new CBC News is the result of the single, biggest audience research project ever undertaken by CBC – Canadians told us what they wanted and we listened.”

In his remarks at the CBC News unveiling, he referred to comprehensive audience research conducted for the CBC, asking Canadians what they want from their public broadcaster. As a result, Stursberg said, the CBC is going through the most sweeping re-organization in its history, adding that some 1,000 staff have been re-assigned, all new sets and on-air graphics created, and a new program schedule developed as part of the re-launch. “The people we surveyed said they want a more transparent and ‘open’ CBC so we’re bringing the news closer to our audiences, in our presentation and by allowing audiences access to the news gathering process,” said Jennifer McGuire, general manager and editor-in-chief, CBC News. “We are going to pull back the curtain,” McGuire said at the press event. “People want us to tell them what we know, and when we know it, but also what we don’t know.”

She spoke of timely accessible information across all platforms: television, radio and online. The National with Peter Mansbridge will make use of all those delivery options. The program remains in its 10: 00 pm timeslot, now seven days a week (not including repeat airings). In addition to an enhanced program website, The National will now have on-demand and mobile versions available by 6:00 PM ET., which will also soon be customizable and available in different languages. Nationally, CBC Radio’s World Report is launching with a new format and new host, veteran foreign correspondent Peter Armstrong, while adding an extra newscast to its daily line-up. As well, CBC Newsworld has a new schedule, format and a new name – CBC News Network (CBC NN). The National has a new look and Newsworld has a new name following a massive reorganization of CBC’s news division, which, after three years in the making, was revealed Wednesday at network headquarters in Toronto.

The changes include expanding the flagship newscast into the weekend and rebranding the cable channel as CBC News Network, effective Monday. “We have re-imagined all of our news programs, whether on Newsworld, the main network or on Radio One. The result is the most sweeping reorganization and relaunch in CBC’s history,” EVP of English services Richard Stursberg (pictured, left) told reporters and staff gathered at the splashy presentation. The overhaul resulted in one main newsroom for online, radio and television operations with a centralized multi-platform assignment desk, while over 1,000 employees have been reassigned or seen their roles change. The National – which stays put at 10:00 PM ET, despite rumblings to the contrary – gets a new look and a faster pace and will see anchor Peter Mansbridge stand rather than sit behind his desk. A 10-minute local newscast, put together in each regional centre, will follow.

  1. The National will also now run on Saturdays and Sundays, at 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM respectively, and in a 10-minute online version. CBC is hoping the changes will boost The National‘s audience, which this fall has been dwelling around the 500,000 mark (2+) – significantly behind competitors CTV and Global.
  2. CBC News Network boasts a new schedule, a new set, increased onscreen data and new anchors including Anne-Marie Mediwake, who will take on morning hosting duties from 9:00 to 11:00 AM.
  3. Business gurus Amanda Lang and Kevin O’Leary will front the half-hour Lang & O’Leary Exchange weekday afternoons at 4:30 PM, while Ottawa-based Evan Solomon hosts a two-hour Power & Politics session beginning at 5:00 PM.
  4. Veteran journalist Mark Kelly fronts the prime-time show Connect with Mark Kelley, aiming to engage Canadians through tools such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Skype.

Jennifer McGuire, GM of CBC News, says the overhaul was a “daunting” task, further complicated by the nearly 800 job cuts earlier this year – as CBC faced a $171 million budget shortfall. The job cuts “shifted our gears for sure,” she told Playback Dailyafter the presentation. “When we started, we were talking about an investment process, and then CBC ended up downsizing.” McGuire says CBC News would have pushed more towards 24/7 coverage in the regions, and would have had a second prime-time show on CBC NN, had it not been for the cuts. She insists that the change “positions [CBC] well, and is a place to grow from.”

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