Kevin Newman sent shockwaves through the Canadian television news business when he announced he is stepping down from his job anchoring Global’s early evening national newscast. It came as a surprise for many reasons, the most important of which is the fact that the audience numbers are terrific, according to Global, the highest of any national newscast.
It’s also surprising that it came so early. Many in the business have speculated that Kevin will take either the CBC job from Peter Mansbridge or the CTV anchor position from the soon to retire Lloyd Robertson. The problem is neither job is officially open or coming open for months.
Kevin’s friends swear that he is saying he really has no plans to move to CBC or CTV. He is telling them that the new digital project he is involved with is serious and it is also an opportunity to help his son who is also part of the project.
Somehow, Kevin’s statements have not blunted the speculation. I admit I too find it hard to believe that the most sought after news reader in Canada is going to walk away from the kind of job only three people in English Canada ever get to fill at the same time. It takes a very big ego to push your way to the top of the news business. Kevin not only anchors the news, like Peter Mansbridge, he insists on being managing editor. When you are so involved in all the decisions and perhaps more intoxicating, all the business and politics of the nation, it is hard to walk away. No digital job will be able to fill that void.
I, for one, believe that Newman or his agent has already been contacted by CBC, CTV or both. I have no concrete information on this, but there has been so much talk for over a year that I have to believe where there is smoke there must be fire.
The truth is Lloyd Robertson is all but gone. After the Olympics he met with CTV brass to hammer out a timetable for leaving. I know he said he wasn’t going but if you parse his statements they only say he is not leaving directly after the Olympics and he will be there for the Budget. My sources tell me he went berserk when the information that he was leaving came out. He attacked his agent, lawyer Michael Levine, who Robertson believed to be the leak. This does not sound like a man who is sticking around. It points to someone who wants to go like Kevin Newman, on his own terms and in his own way. Lloyd Robertson will not be anchoring CTV News in 2011.
Lloyd’s departure leaves CTV in a bind. They don’t have an obvious successor and the wannabe’s at CTV create political problems for management. Choose one and you upset the others. They have even discussed a dual anchor of Tom Clark and Lisa Laflamme. Kevin Newman solves all their problems.
At CBC the problem is very different. The National has been playing second fiddle to CTV News for decades. When Knowlton Nash was pushed aside for Peter Mansbridge the thinking was that Peter would provide the star power that would propel The National into the number one spot in the ratings. It has long been an embarrassment for CBC that they spend more than double the dollars on news, they have more facilities, more bureaus, more correspondents, more writers and a way larger staff, yet they are continually bested by CTV. Peter never made a dent in CTV’s armor. The difference between CTV and CBC in the ratings has never changed very much, until this past fall that is. CBC’s numbers have been worse than dismal since they adopted their new younger, flashier, purportedly more populist newscast. It’s not Mansbridge’s fault the newscast is close to unwatchable, but everyone in the business knows that change has to come soon and if younger and flashier is what CBC wants, Peter is not the flavor of the day anymore. Is Kevin Newman the right person to replace Peter? Is there anyone else?
At Global, where news has always been more of an obligation than a choice, the jockeying for Kevin Newman’s position at the anchor desk is taking on a seriously Machiavellian tone. So far there are about twenty applicants for the job. The search to replace Newman is led by Kenton Boston. Boston was appointed VP of National News by Troy Reeb when Reeb was appointed Senior VP four years ago. Reeb got the Senior VP job after he DIDN’T get the job as Kevin’s backup anchor. (fyi Reeb was a former Global National correspondent in Ottawa and Washington.) Reeb has declared his interest in replacing Newman, and is now the leading internal candidate. CanWest isn’t wasting any time and plans to make the decision within a month. So here are the big questions being whispered in all the dark corners at Global’s headquarters: as Senior VP, what is Reeb’s role in choosing Newman’s replacement? Is Reeb about to choose himself? It is not unprecedented. The last time it happened at the national level was when Knowlton Nash searched the world for a new host for The National and somehow found he was actually the best man for the job.