Anna Maria Tremonti established herself as a tenacious journalist with a strong point of view during 35 years at the CBC, but she insisted in an interview that she will not offer her opinion on one thing: The future direction of The Current, CBC Radio One’s daily current affairs interview show.
The public broadcaster announced on Monday that Tremonti will leave the show on June 20, after 17 seasons as the founding and only full-time host, for a move into podcasting.
“It’s not my place [to comment on The Current]” she said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “Once I decide to step away from it, I don’t take ownership of it. If they want to change it, that’s their business, and I will support that.
“Same with who gets the job. I’m not weighing in, privately even, on that. Because I don’t think it’s my place, and I don’t think it’s helpful. There are people who I admire, but I don’t think it’s my place.”
The announcement kicked off a parlour game on who might replace her. On Twitter, former CBC Ontario host Robert Fisher and others advocated for Matt Galloway, the host of CBC Toronto’s Metro Morning. Some others floated Piya Chattopadhyay, an occasional Current guest host who has helmed Out in the Open, an intimate exploration of personal and political issues, for three years.
But if Tremonti’s move leaves a high-profile vacancy in legacy media, it also is a significant vote of confidence in Canadian podcasting, the journalist and podcaster Ryan McMahon noted on Twitter.
Tremonti will produce and host two podcasts for CBC: a one-on-one long-form interview show that she will host, and another, still in the early stages of development, that will be “a serialized story,” on which she may be just one of several voices.
Asked to name some of her favourite podcasts, Tremonti cited CBC’s Uncover: Escaping NXIVM and Finding Cleo.
She also said she admired S-Town, the blockbuster 2017 podcast from the creators of This American Life and Serial that began as an investigation into an alleged murder in a small town in Alabama and evolved into an empathetic exploration of the hidden life of one of its residents.
“What they did with S-Town I loved,” she said. “They went to find a story that didn’t exist, [which] they found when they got there, and turned it into an incredible story. They showed what you could do with podcasting, in terms of storytelling, and right away it caught my attention, on lots of different levels.”
Tremonti said that neither of the shows she is developing would likely turn up on radio, unlike some other CBC podcasts. “I pitched it as something to do in the digital space. That’s what interests me right now.”
Of the thousands of interviews she has done on The Current, a few stand out, including one in 2008 with Monique Lepine, the mother of the École Polytechnique murderer. Tremonti recalled that she was initially dismissive of the interview. “I said, ‘She’s the mother of a killer, why would I want to talk to her?’ I actually thought that.”
During the interview, though, Tremonti connected with Ms. Lepine, making for a gruelling, compelling encounter.
“She talked about how she blamed herself for what her son became, for the death [by overdose] of her daughter. It was a very emotional interview. I just remember feeling so ashamed, because I did what we in the media do so often – not everyone in the media, but I and some others. We link the relatives of someone who does something to that crime, and it was such a lesson for me.”
“You learn a lot. It’s very humbling to ask people questions with an open mic," she said. “It’s just interesting to me how many people are willing to – and need to – talk about the things that have happened to them. They need to share those experiences, and I guess the quest is to have that conversation with respect and still be able to learn something from them."
Tremonti doesn’t yet know much about the future, except this: She currently has three wake-up alarms on her phone – 4:30 a.m., 4:40 a.m., and 4:45 a.m. On June 20, she’ll turn them all off.
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