'Help! Help! The new CBC News format overboggles the mind"
Regarding CBC Newsworld - now "CBC News Network" - and the radical rejigging of The National , I make an appeal. Please send me your thoughts and observations. It's too much for one man to deal with, there is only so much boggling a mind can take.
Herewith, my observations. And stick with me because there's a climax at the end: Pastor Mansbridge on his feet, looking like a man behind the counter of a bar wondering who stole the beer taps.
Mid-morning on Monday, eyes adjusted to the swirling orange colour and pop-up giant computer screens, and ears adjusted to the rinky-dink disco music, I noted a bit on the News Network (there are tons of "bits," perhaps on the assumption that all of us are four years old and have the attention span of a fruit fly) about why "folks" are reluctant to get the H1N1 flu shot.
I was looking at the list when it disappeared and along came Jelena Adzic to deliver the entertainment news. I knew this because on a big screen behind Adzic, it said "Entertainment." In orange, of course. Not that the orange matched or complemented the colourful dress Adzic was wearing, which was distracting.
Next came Suhana Meharchand who performed the remarkable trick of standing up. Standing up is a big thing with CBC News Network and The National . As if, you know, the great Canadian public had long laboured under the false impression that everybody at CBC only sat down for a living. Anyway, Wendy Mesley was also standing nearby and Meharchand announced, "Wendy Mesley is totally lovable and great!" Mesley looked pleased. Anybody would. I was surprised the pair didn't go for lattes to discuss how great and lovable Mesley is. But that might have involved sitting down, which is verboten .
Instead Mesley and Meharchand talked about CBC News Network's new look and attitude. Helpfully, the text on the screen said, "New look. New attitude." Mind you, I couldn't help but notice that the channel remains infested with those Grey Power car-insurance commercials featuring that screaming crazy-lady. New look, my posterior.
Then came Carole MacNeil who was - God bless my soul! - sitting down. She must have got special dispensation. Frankly, it was a disappointing departure from the new orthodoxy. I know for a fact she can stand up and do stuff while vertical. Anyway, the big story in the afternoon was the "flash" protest in the House of Commons. "Blood was on the stairs," declared Rosemary Barton, whom I think was sitting down. The story was presented in a deeply confusing manner and Barton had the air of someone who thought the protest was an outrageous intrusion into the congenial, predictable workday on the Hill. You can jazz it up, but you can't erase the self-importance of CBC's Ottawa bureau.
Things went awry, briefly. "I'm having trouble hearing you, Rosemary," MacNeil said. So Rosemary said something again, louder. Then MacNeil said, "I think somebody's got something going on upstairs!" And waved her hand in winding motion, like you indicate that somebody's a bit loopy. All too true, Miss.
Next, The Lang & O'Leary Exchange , to cover the business news of the day. It was conducted as a "He said/she said" exchange between Kevin O'Leary and Amanda Lang and it was contrived, trivial nonsense. After the banter, the other business news was introduced as - and I kid you not - "The Other Stuff." Soon, however, O'Leary came over all hostile and sneering with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Flaherty looked furious. It was priceless. Can O'Leary do that every day, please? Highlight of the day.
Evan Solomon arrived to do Power & Politics . As the whole country knows, Solomon is no Don Newman. But he sure can stand up. Mind you, he's no Wolf Blitzer either. Some protesters in Ottawa were interviewed. This was good - one had an obviously injured face - but Solomon stuck to the matter of the global warming policy they protested. I was thinking, "Hey, Solomon, look - there's a guy with a seriously injured face, right there." Then Rosemary Barton intervened and got snooty all over again with the protesters.
Time passed. Eventually came the big moment - the new-look National . Pastor Mansbridge on his feet, helluva thing. The top story was, again, the H1N1 flu shot story. Next, some survey about how Canadians feel about the Royal Family. Hellooo? Some drivel about the royals is the second-most important news story in Canada? At that point I imagined both Lloyd Robertson and Kevin Newman laughing their heads off. The Royal freakin' Family?
Time passed again, but more slowly. There was a shot of a mysterious blond lady standing face to face with the Pastor. Her presence went unexplained for a while. Turned out it was reporter Kelly Crowe. The Pastor and Crowe conducted a discussion, standing up, face-to-face. Like two people about to play hacky sack. Crowe had the footwear for it. The Pastor didn't. Claire Martin did the weather. With many hand gestures, she talked about hurricanes in the Philippines and without missing a beat said, "That's your forecast, Peter." I'm serious. She did. Storm in the Philippines was the forecast.
Then the Pastor went behind the counter of the bar that is now the National set. He played bartender. Among those playing customers were Amanda Lang and former chief of the defence staff, retired general Rick Hillier. Nobody got a drink. The beer taps and liquor bottles were missing. Hillier looked like he could use a beverage. Me too. Watching all that standing up made me tired.
Am I wrong here? Is there not something farcical and fatuous about the standing up, the orange screens and the belief that this is, somehow, a better way to deliver the news? I'm asking you.
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