Oh, just quit telling me that nobody cares who anchors the national news on TV. Just quit it. Diligent journalistic labour – reading the mail and listening to people who stop me on the street – tells me you are wrong.
Which brings us to the announcement last Thursday, about Wendy Mesley's upcoming TV show. That was interesting.
Early in 2018, CBC says, Mesley will host a live Sunday morning show that "will focus on the intersection of media, technology and politics." Which sounds a lot like Undercurrents, a media-heavy series Mesley anchored for five years and that ended in 2001. Like that series, any new excursion into media analysis in Canada will be a challenge. CBC is big media here and, generally, thin-skinned about criticism. Good luck with that.
Also, it probably takes Mesley out of the running to anchor or co-anchor The National. Still, the rejigging of The National could take so long that Mesley's new show will actually be discussing it next year.
That same day, Thursday, I collected my mail. The old-fashioned mail that comes through the post. There was a bunch of letters and cards responding to recent discussion in this little column about the next anchors of The National.
See, that's a media story Canadians care about. People actually put pen to paper, or type and print out, their thoughts on Mesley, Ian Hanomansing, Andrew Chang and a plethora of others. ("Diana Swain! Diana Swain!" was the gist of one letter.) This is a matter of some consequence. A portion of this great country waits with bated breath.
Let's all be clear – it's highly unlikely that one person will replace Pastor Mansbridge, who retired from the anchor desk in July.
I am reliably informed that CBC bosses are looking at three co-anchors. Yes, three. It is not clear how that would work. Possibly, one in Vancouver and one in Toronto, with the third being one of a small, rotating group of anchor-reporters who would be chosen depending on the top stories of the day and their location.
The idea, I'm told, is to keep The National "hot" through all the time zones. Right now, it seems to go live at 9 p.m. Eastern on CBC News Network and is then repeated, as is, unless there is a huge, breaking story. What is being proposed for the future is more complex and, technically, far more complicated. Also more expensive. And it's definitely not a one-person job.
All of you writing and sending e-mails to me in order to put forth your choice, recast your thoughts and think about a team of two with a third person turning up regularly. It's the future. And you probably won't like it.
I am also reliably informed that Chang, who anchored for a week recently, is the "darling du jour" for CBC News bosses. Apparently his "Q-Rating" – that nebulous measurement of familiarity and appeal, best understood by a handful of honchos in the TV racket – is very high and the bosses like him. Mind you, his lack of lengthy experience covering hard news is considered a drawback as far as some in CBC News are concerned.
However, that skepticism might be weighed against what the bosses like – Chang co-anchored suppertime news in Montreal for several years before doing the same in Vancouver since 2014, making him known already in major markets, and he has radio experience.
The exit of Mansbridge is, obviously, an opportunity to shake up The National and move away from the idea of one middle-aged, white male being the voice of authority on a national newscast. The likely outcome is that the trio of anchors will not be three middle-aged white males. If fact, you can be guaranteed that.
Speaking of which, the mail in response to recent columns on this topic included numerous mentions of Evan Solomon. Seems that some readers remember him fondly and assert that CBC needs to bring him back. Fair enough, but not a ghost of chance, I am informed.
Many readers simply want the exercise done and dusted. And they want one anchor. Nothing complicated, nothing radical. They want Hanomansing or Paul Hunter to just take over from Mansbridge, and that's that. In the tradition of television news, that's exactly what would normally happen. There is a reason why The National's commercial rivals are listed as CTV National News with Lisa LaFlamme and Global National with Dawna Friesen. There's a lot to be said for familiarity in the TV racket.
Meanwhile CBC News is, one suspects, more interested in the branding of "CBC News," not the elevation and branding of one anchor. So, when readers reply to this column, think about trios, not that one favourite of yours. It's CBC we're talking about here. Nothing is ever normal there, except in the matter of Mesley always having a show. That must be in the Broadcast Act or something.
And with that I leave you for a two-week break. Be good to each other in these fraught times.