“Let’s also say that change is neither good or bad. It simply is. It can be greeted with terror or joy: a tantrum that says, ‘I want it the way it was,’ or a dance that says, ‘Look, it’s something new.'” -Don Draper, Mad Men.
It’s been almost two weeks since CBC Newsworld dropped the “world” from its title and refashioned itself into what I always assumed it was supposed to be: an (almost) 24 hour news network.
The result is a faster pace, more on-screen graphics, and the absence of chairs. The response to this has been largely negative, particularly in regards to the CBC’s flagship programme, “The National”, which has Peter Mansbridge standing as he delivers the news, which now zips by faster than you can process it.
I’m not sure why it seems unseemly for a newsreader to do their jobs while standing. We’re just more comfortable seeing Peter sit a desk, even though it’s not like that’s his actual working desk. You never saw pictures of the kids or his Dilbert desk calendar or his half-eaten sandwich from lunch. It’s a set.
And yet it’s ingrained in us that news delivered while seated is Serious News and news delivered while standing is Infotainment, the dirty sort of flummery practiced by Toronto’s City-TV or CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and his Jedi Council holograms. Don’t know why that is. When her back was acting up, Mary Walsh used to do her Marg Delahunty character from her big comfy bed and I still came away from it with a bucketful of her opinions. I don’t think Peter would go that far, or if Wendy Mesley would join him for her reports. Perhaps she would, but only if she wore her haz-mat suit (video link).
I think Newsworld was due for a shot in the arm in the way it presents the news and I think this is a step in the right direction. Why was a show about people having their antiques appraised considered news, anyway? That said, I have a few suggestions. Keep in mind, I’m neither a graphic designer nor a journalist, just a viewer so for what it’s worth:
- Slow down. You don’t have to rush through every story. Take time to put it in context.
- Drop the news crawl, which now slides in and out the bottom of the screen. I know every news network uses them but how about being the network that gives you news from one source at a time?
- The name: CBC News Network. Drop the “network”. I know it’s a network. I have them in my cable package. “CBC News” is fine.
- Streamline the on-screen graphics so they’re not taking up a third of my screen.
- Not sure what the point of Lang & O’Leary is.
- Power and Politics with Evan Soloman has been a source of fireworks lately, and Kady O’Malley is a welcome addition, but what are you going to do for two hours when the House is not sitting?
- As for the National, please give Wendy Mesley her dignity back.
I don’t what is prompting these changes. I wonder if it’s to retain the appearance of relevancy before a federal government that has been openly hostile to the broadcaster. CBC is in a perpetual no-win scenario with the public: If they don’t get ratings, people question the need for their funding and if they do, they’re accused of selling out to attract the ADHD generation or competing with the privates and again, people question the need for public broadcasting.
While there are about a hundred things I’d do if I were in charge of it, I’m pretty patient when it comes to my CBC. I understand that they have the right to try new things so it’s natural that some will work and some won’t. The National, however, needs to return to its original purpose of being Canada’s premier news broadcast. But I’m not fussed if Peter stands or sits while doing that.