Andrew Chang was only a few minutes into anchoring The National on CBC the other evening when readers were onto me with opinions: "He seems very nice." And, "He seems agitated."
In homes and cottages and, probably, at Tim Hortons across Canada, the post-Mansbridge future of The National is being discussed with vim and vigour. Or so it seems.
Recently, I wrote about the mail I'd received, unprompted, on the matter, calling it a "small obsession" in Canada. And I invited more feedback. Well, it was a deluge. This thing is big and getting bigger.
The stakes are high, obviously. People who watch the darn thing might have to put up with the new anchor, or gaggle of new anchors, for years to come. They don't want to be rolling their eyes nightly. Can't blame them.
Ian Hanomansing is the favoured candidate for countless readers of this great newspaper and this little column. Female readers often refer to him as "Ian Handsomeman" or "Ian Handsomemanthing." Who am I to pass judgment on such drollery? Canadians are Canadians and the giddying glories of our culture are sacred.
Rosemary Barton deeply impressed many readers during her week on The National and there were assertions, contrary to what was said here in this column, that hardly anybody watches Power & Politics on CBC News Network. (And they don't appreciate being called "fanatics" for politics.) Some readers detected a mischievous personality in Barton, but opinion was very divided on her interview with Omar Khadr. That can be put down to a rather fractious countrywide division of opinion on that whole matter.
There was a surge of support for Diana Swain and some readers were simply outraged that her name was not mentioned in the first place. "A first-rate journalist, with plenty of smarts and poise," is the gist of many opinions. Lack of pretension was also noted in the matter of Swain. This is an interesting point. Readers feel they can detect pomposity and self-importance instantly, and will not put up with that sort of attitude. In Canada, it seems, you can get chucked out of the house for putting on airs. Or, people change the channel.
Heather Hiscox and Mark Kelley got good reviews, although Kelley irritates the heck out of some viewers by gesticulating too much and appearing to be on the point of leaping out of his chair – if he has a chair to sit in, which isn't always the case at CBC News. Andrew Nichols was put forward by some readers for his "youthfulness."
Yours truly put forward the name Nil Koksal, which went over well. "Very good choice" was an almost instant response. Adrienne Arsenault was also promoted by many readers.
Mind you, it's with a heavy heart I report that the amount of critical attention given to women TV journalists and anchors on their hair, clothes and tone of voice was disheartening. Yet the wave of response to my recent column also made it clear that constant viewers of The National want a woman anchoring the program as part of the team.
Many readers in Ontario put forward the name Steve Paikin, the veteran host of The Agenda on TVOntario. As I told many in reply, it seems unlikely he would want to leave TVO for the high-octane, high-pressure shenanigans of The National. Also, The National doesn't offer a chair to sit in. Still, he has numerous supporters.
As for Andrew Chang, who is on The National this week, reaction was swift, if polarizing. Some readers worship him and perceive him as both calm and cheerful. Others see him as a "performer" with his many hand gestures and raised eyebrows. It's a fair bet that he's entering the sweepstakes, as CBC seems to be auditioning anchors during these summer months. But I urge you – no wagering, please.
More than a few readers expressed understandable surprise that CBC has yet to find a solo replacement for Pastor Mansbridge or settled on a replacement team. After all, as was pointed out to me, the Pastor announced his departure last September. Several readers expressed the dark suspicion that the real search for a replacement could only start after he had left. Don't even go there, people.
Given Mansbridge's legendary start in the broadcasting racket, the most shrewd reader response to my recent column can be summarized as this: "CBC should be scouring the outlying airports of the nation for the sound of someone making announcements about lost luggage and delayed flights. You never know …"
Feel free to pass that on in the homes, cottages and Tims of this great country. Let the auditions and the feedback continue. What summer larks we're having.