THE BLOG

10 Reasons Why The New CBC 'National' Flopped

It feels disjointed and disorganized. It feels chaotic.

11/08/2017 11:17 EST | Updated 11/09/2017 09:33 EST
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press
New CBC "The National" news anchors Ian Hanomansing, left, and Adrienne Arsenault rehearse a newscast in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017.

The missus was away. The dogs had been let out. I had a Man Cold. I'd finished the Holocaust Week panel at the ROM. So I collapsed on the couch at Chez Kinsella and turned on the new and improved "National" on CBC.

So.

Here are my 10 observations, in no particular order.

  1. Four anchors? Seriously? That's not a newscast, that's a sequel to "Split", the movie. Multiple personalities make for memorable horror flicks, but not so much a serious newscast.
  2. The sum of the four is less than one part. I'm sorry, CBC, but Ian Hanomansing is not just better than the other three — he's actually one of the best newsreaders on Earth. He is authentic, he is authoritative. The others simply aren't. Sorry.
  3. It's too busy. It feels disjointed and disorganized. It feels chaotic. Just when you get the hang of one of the anchors, another one would pop up on your screen. That's not a newscast — that's '90s-era MTV, folks. Which, um, no longer exists.
  4. The graphics bugged me. They are too big and too simplistic. I could almost picture the moderator at the CBC focus groups:"Hey! Our viewers are myopic dummies, so let's communicate with them with two-syllable words in 100-point fonts!"
    Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press
    Adrienne Arsenault, Rosemary Barton, Andrew Chang and Ian Hanomansing (left to right) are named the new hosts of "The National," at a news conference in Toronto, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017.
  5. It was seriously unserious. Why did viewers stick with folks like Walter Cronkite or Lloyd Robertson or Knowlton Nash or Lisa LaFlamme? Because, per above, those people radiate authenticity and authority. They are serious people, talking about serious stuff. They have gravitas. Precious few people have that, and Hanomansing is one.
  6. It was CNN-y. And possibly not in a good way. On CNN, everything is BREAKING NEWS, which eventually means that nothing is BREAKING NEWS. CBC isn't making that mistake, yet, but it has already adopted another regrettable CNN tactic: journalists interviewing journalists, instead of having journalists doing, you know, journalism. The segments with Paul Hunter, Keith Boag and Gillian Findlay were like that, and therefore kind of meh. Ipso facto: stop talking about the news. Show me the news.
  7. The set looks like it was designed by Sprockets. (Am I dating myself? You remember Sprockets, don't you? Mike Myers on Saturday Night Live, black turtlenecks, all Bauhaus-y. Funny. OK, I am dating myself.) It was all blacks and blues and angular and about as inviting as a two-day celebration of Blank Verse. Probably cost a jillion dollars.
  8. Click schtick. Early on, CBC seemed to be intent on making the "National" a revolutionary new content provider for its myriad online platforms. They may still be planning to do that, but — to be sure — I clicked over to the main CBC webpage this morning, and it looks the same as it did yesterday. No change.
  9. TV is pictures. That's what George Frajkor taught me long ago at Cartoon U., and I never forgot it. TV IS PICTURES, he'd holler, and we'd all nod. TV is an emotional medium, one that works best when it is delivering powerful visuals. Not, I note, journalists talking with journalists about the news, instead showing us the news.
  10. It didn't blow me away. And, with their ratings plummeting ever-downward, it needed to. The new and improved "National" looked like the tall foreheads at CBC didn't want to make any actual decisions — about one anchor, about one format, about one feel to it all — so they just threw everything into the blender, and are expecting us all to consume the results.

My hunch? We won't.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this blog indicated that Sprockets played on SCTV. It was a sketch on Saturday Night Live.

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