I'm Mad as Hell

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and I can't do a thing about it

CBC News is Revolting

You know, you can’t take your eyes off the CBC for even a second. Anytime it looks like there is going to be peace and quiet and an opportunity to sit back and enjoy the hockey playoffs without having to be annoyed by their ever weaker TV newscast, the staff and management of the Corpse somehow find the time to air their dirty laundry.

The latest is an internal survey of 24 CBC Radio national news reporters. The survey was done by a few of the reporters themselves without the okay of management and the results are startling. In all my years in broadcasting, newspapers and on the outside looking in I have never come across a more clear condemnation of the direction that management is taking.

For those of you who don’t know, the same new CBC direction that produced the dreadful new National has had an effect on all of CBC News. Radio and TV reporters now all report to the same desk through what CBC calls “the hub.” The hub is a news desk that was supposed to centralize and make more efficient the assignment process. Thus one reporter and one crew showing up to a media conference rather than one from local TV, one from national TV and two more from local and national radio. It’s a good concept that is used by many successful news organizations and should have saved the CBC both money and manpower, but somehow management has botched the organization of the hub and managed to turn off the news staff. The hub, I am told is too large, too unwieldy and more often than not, bereft of ideas. Worse, it is not taking direction from the reporters in the field across Canada who are in the best position to lead and inform on what stories are interesting and possible.

Here are a few of the amazing responses to the survey:

When asked to compare morale in the national news service 95.2% said it was “lower than ever during my career.” The other 4.8% just said it was low.

When asked if there was a strong commitment to journalism at the moment, only 4.8% agreed. 76.2% disagreed.

Asked to compare the new hub to the old system 83.3% said it was “more difficult/complicated and 79.2% said there is less communication and more unpleasant surprises.

97.5% disagreed with the statement “I feel involved in decisions that influence my work as a national reporter.”

Perhaps most interesting, considering the hub was created to stop conflicts 0% agreed that it has done so and 81% say the integration of TV and radio has not benefited radio news programming.

Not surprisingly, based on the numbers you have seen so far, 100% say “state of radio culture compared to a year ago,” is worse and all but one reporter disagree that radio news is on the right course.

It is hard to believe that there could be a more damning indictment of CBC news management and the direction it has taken. I had one CBC news employee call me to say that if the TV reporters were polled in the same way the results would be the same. That person went on to say that if the news and current affairs staff behind the scenes in both radio and TV were asked the same questions they too would be similarly disaffected and upset.

How do you respond to something like this? Good old Jennifer McGuire, the General Manager and Editor in Chief of CBC News, still living in her bizzaro world that seems to have no resemblance to the one the rest of us live in had this to say in a memo to staff:

First of all, by all measures of success – in terms of audiences and journalism – our radio programs are meeting audience needs. It doesn’t mean there isn’t room to make them better, but they are not broken. They are performing well, to record audiences in fact.

Secondly, if you were to follow the blogs and columns (including some from disgruntled former employees), it reads as if CBC News has abandoned the cornerstone of its mandate: doing quality journalism. Nothing can be further from the truth. The truth is that quality journalism is still our biggest priority. As part of news renewal, we began a discussion about what defines quality journalism, how should it be showcased, and how we make sure it meets the needs of all Canadians in 2010 and beyond. But make no mistake: the quality is still ever present. We have had numerous examples of original, enterprise, exclusive and investigative stories on all our platforms in recent weeks, the most recent being Dave Seglins’ dogged pursuit over the weekend of the investigator linked to the Jaffer-Geurgis story.

My final point is about the culture we want to create here in CBC News. Some of the comments made public about colleagues are not attributed, unsubstantiated and unconscionable.

This is damaging. And let’s be clear, it damages us all in the public’s mind, including the authors and participants in the survey. It embarrasses us all. And all of you are working incredibly hard and deserve accolades.

So, while I totally understand the motivation of former CBC’ers with an axe to grind, I am more perplexed as to why people who are invested in CBC News would not engage in conversations through channels that would actually make things better.

My point is not to censor what you have to say, nor hide the fact that there are still things to fix and work to do, but rather to encourage you if you have concerns or feedback to engage in the process of making it better and moving us forward.

Jennifer, Jennifer please. Pay attention to your employees. They are trying to tell you that the plan is not working. Radio numbers may be holding but TV news numbers are at historical lows even with the new rating system that’s inflating numbers at CTV and Global. I have yet to meet a single person who thinks, as you seem to, that quality journalism is still a goal at CBC News. In fact most people I talk to lament the disappearance of quality journalism. The example, by the way, of the Jaffer-Guergis story being a highlight of CBC journalism is kind of humorous. I guess Jennifer either doesn’t read the Toronto Star or worse she doesn’t even know where her own stories are coming from. CBC News has been following every lead the Toronto Star digs up. If there is something that has appeared on CBC News before the Star reported it I must have missed it.

As one CBC staffer told me you have to feel sorry for the reporters and news staffs they didn’t cut 2 minutes out of World Report, fire the host, change the staff…(then) do the same thing at World at Six…they didn’t add 30 minutes to local TV news, shift them into an afternoon dead zone…told them to follow everything the consultants said to the letter…instead of interesting, informative journalism we have the same drek stories you find on any local station…

CBC management as it stands today has lost their news and current affairs staffs. Nobody is buying the bull. In baseball or hockey when a manager or a coach loses the room they have to be fired. That time has come for the CBC.

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One Response

  1. My point is not to censor what you have to say, nor hide the fact that there are still things to fix and work to do, but rather to encourage you if you have concerns or feedback to engage in the process of making it better and moving us forward.

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