I'm not here to talk about Jian. Regardless of how anything else plays out -- his relationship with CBC is over (I don't care how any 55 million dollar lawsuit goes -- he'll not see a live mic at 250 Front Street West any time soon). What I'd like to address is the uniquely Canadian offering that is Q, and the need for a strong, forward-looking Q in the post-Jian world.
When I married a girl from Nova Scotia and moved to Canada six years ago, Q was my introduction to "Canadian cool." It was the perfect balance of style and substance, entertainment and meaning, arts and current events. It was a victory in relevance for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and quickly became a cultural touchstone for this new immigrant to Canada. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that, in the past couple of years, Q has become regular listening material for my friends and family spread out across the United States -- now connected to my "Canadian" experience through one of the 180 NPR/PRI stations through which Q is syndicated.
During a decade in which the long-form interview is considered nearly dead, Q would regularly be the platform for engaging conversations that would run anywhere from 20-40 minutes in length. Whether it was Glen Greenwald talking national security or Leonard Cohen telling the backstory to a legendary tune, when there was value in the longer conversation, you could count on Q to bring it to you. This was significant in a day when marketers tell us the western world's attention span is capped at 90 seconds. Q forced the conversation beyond the talking points and engaged its audience at a deeper level. They expected more of us. And we, in turn, could expect more of them.
There is no doubt that the production crew behind CBC's Q is fantastic. But (you knew there'd be a "but"), I have to insist that the name/face/voice on the frontlines matters. While it's clear to all of us now that Jian no longer brings value to Q, the genius that he brought to the airwaves over the past seven years was an ability to both engage with artists and icons at a personal level while simultaneously asking "bigger" questions of important players in the global conversation.
This is Q. This is a Canadian offering to the rest of the world.
As we all move forward, it is important that THIS is what we demand of Q 2.0.
The current cast of "substitutes" is both substantive and strong. I enjoy Piya Chattopadhay. Brent Bambury is quite good. Tom Power is certainly capable.
But, honestly, they are all mere substitutes. They are very, very good substitutes. But they are not the future face of Q -- a truly international franchise. They are not the unofficial Canadian cultural ambassador to the world. If Q is actually looking to assert that they are bigger than Jian and can continue to grow throughout the North American market without him -- they need a "next generation" host. Not a "replacement" host. They must continue their commitment to aggressively occupying that space between long-form journalism and relevant entertainment.
Let me make a few suggestions of Canadian personalities I believe to be highly talented/qualified:
The Short List
Shad K-- a multi-year Polaris/Juno prize short lister + 2011 Juno winner (beating Drake) and winning advocate for Carmen Aguirre's Something Fierce in Canada Reads 2012, he perennially lives at the top of the Canadian cultural scene. His ability to complete a masters degree at Simon Frasier University while touring North America and opening for Macklemore also provides some proof that he's not afraid of putting in the hard work required to succeed. I'd put my full endorsement behind a guy like this.
Kelly Oxford-- Smart, funny, and she'd join the crew with a built-in social media strategy. This Twitter phenom (named to Time Magazine's "Best Twitter Feeds" 2011 and 2012) knows the world of Hollywood, while still being grounded in the "real world" of raising a family. As a bonus, the title of her New York Times Bestseller, Everything is Perfect When You're a Liar, provides the only comment she'd ever have to offer when asked about her predecessor at the Q desk.
Floria Sigismondi -- A Canadian who has directed music videos for everyone from David Bowie to The White Stripes. She has an historical perspective while at the same time time being intimately familiar with current artists.
Chris Turner-- Has written great books on both The Simpsons and climate change. Both efforts are fantastic. What greater shorthand can you think of for encapsulating "culture" and "current events"?
Natasha Koifman-- A dark horse candidate from the word of Toronto PR, Natasha is a staple of the TIFF red carpet, where she combines her passions for celebrity representation and a philanthropic footprint. She lives in that space between Toronto, New York, and Hollywood that cultivates a "Canadian cool."
AND --Jesse Brown-- Had he not led the investigation into the Jian Gomeshi sexual abuse scandal, he would be an obvious candidate for the seat in Studio Q. Given his involvement in recent Q events, I understand that he may not be at the top of the list. However, his podcast "Canadaland" has clearly proven him to be a first-rate journalist with a bent towards the bigger picture.
What do YOU think? Who should take the helm of the Q desk moving forward? In addition to my shortlist, I'd also be open to the likes of:
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