Friday, February 20, 2009

More Thoughts on #Obamawa

First off, I'd like to thank everyone who retweeted/linked to my blog on Watching #Obamawa. I'm looking at you, @mathewi. The extra traffic was amazing - and that's great for my ego!

//Silly economic downturn destroying media jobs... *grumble grumble*

Also, I'd like to thank @josephlavoie for pointing out that #Obamawa was most likely a hybrid between Obama and Ottawa. Duh! I totally should have figured that one out!!

And now that I'm done with housekeeping stuff, I just wanted to share a few more thoughts on the whole experience.

What worked with CBC's coverage of Obama's visit to Canada? What made it compelling enough to watch for hours, even as Peter Mansbridge himself laughed at the incredulity of the whole media waiting game?

It wasn't the coverage, per se, or the super cool camera angles (robo cam on microwave truck, anyone?), or having reporters actually stationed at various locations key to Obama's visit agenda. It was the personableness of the whole experience.

It was Mansbridge, really. (And his team of producers, directors, camera operators, audio and lighting techs, switchers, etc)

Seriously, though, it was the way Mansbridge included the audience and involved them in HIS experience of covering Obama. When he mentioned to Keith Boag that he couldn't hear him because the producers were talking in his ear. Or when he laughed at himself for filling time by reading the lunch menu. Or explaining why that microwave truck robo cam shot was so shaky, or how they listened to the tape of the GG/Obama photo op again to clarify what had been said.

It was his references to the whole team working behind the scenes to make the show fit for air, to provide content so we don't get bored and switch channels, and most importantly, to keep us caring about what Obama is up to at this very second.

Mansbridge, with his demeanor and openness, effectively invited the audience into his living room, into the studio, into his life. He shared a bit of the magic with viewers across the country and across the world at, and that's what kept us hooked.

Even for someone like myself who has been in studios and control rooms and worked on live productions, getting that extra bit of information is gold. Maybe it's even better for me, because I can actually hear the control room conversations and almost feel the stress of the live environment. But bringing the show to life by revealing little secrets about how much work actually goes into producing that kind of stellar content is what gives CBC, and Mansbridge, a boost. It's what makes it stand out from other broadcasters.

The only noticeable exception of the network acknowledging itself is the @cbcyourvoice Twitter account possibly purposefully choosing not to retweet comments about the quality or content choices of CBC productions, but rather only comments on the news that is actually being covered. Understandably, since they could argue that retweeting positive comments would force them to potentially damage the network by retweeting negative comments in a quest for balance. But I think the willingness to expose themselves to criticism in that way would only enhance their profile and increase the trust Canadians put in the CBC. But that's just my opinion.

Overall, CBC definitely stood out by its inclusion of basically all media types in its coverage of #Obamawa. Live online coverage, thanks to, some tweeting - though more would have been appreciated - by @cbcyourvoice, quick article and photo updates on, along with live camera feeds - which I still haven't figured out the whole production aspect of... Mobile or control room? More than one producer? - and of course, broadcasting on CBC local and CBC Newsworld, as well as CBC Radio One.

Quite a production, wouldn't you say?

Then again, would you expect any less for POTUS' first official visit?

Good job to everyone at CBC. I applaud you.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Watching #Obamawa

Today, POTUS Barack Obama made his first foreign visit of the presidency to our wonderful northern country.

As Canada hosted #Obamawa - a Twitter term coined by the Ottawa Citizen and that I still don't completely understand - I decided to watch how people were watching the event.

So I set myself up with CBC Newsworld, the live camera feed, a tweet grid with the #Obamawa and #CBC search terms, and, of course, my TwitterFox running at full capacity.

And wow! What a science experiment!

It was so interesting to see people react, not only to what was going on in Ottawa, but to CBC's coverage of it. For example, when CBC's Rosemary Barton squealed on live TV that she'd seen Obama, the tweets came rushing in. Some people thought it was unprofessional and made comments like

@photofour: Prez Obama in Canada...waiting to see how many CBC reporters faint...
CBC broadcasters, professional journalist & newsreader, descend into a flurry of giggling and awkwardness. #obamawa

While others, like myself, thought it was a great moment of transparency, and exactly what live TV is all about... It showed viewers that yes, reporters are human beings too, and it's not always easy to be objective.

Another great moment? The interviews on the Hill. CBC's Susan Bonner was sort of put on the spot to help fill while Obama and Harper were meeting... and was confronted with loads of people looking for their 15 minutes of fame. Sometimes, it went really well, but at other times, well, not so much. Here are some of the reactions I saw to that:

@sushiboy21: CBC seems unaware that black people can actually be born and live in Ottawa. #obamawa
@MizJJ: I love how CBC is trying to find any and every black person to talk too. Did she just ask a black boy if he was Canadian?!? #obamawa
@idarknight: #obamawa Senior on CBC - "I saw a man who will put the world right" - kids: he's inspiring - that is a leader for you, regardless of state
@pmikeyreid: Best answer to the "What brought you here to see Obama Today?" question: A Car. - A couple from Chicago on CBC
@JordanCournoyea: Wow CBC interviewing people at Parliment is a train wreck
@CraigSilverman: CBC interviews with the crowd were a bit messy but I found myself smiling the entire time. It shouldn't seem scripted. #obamawa

Some of the tweets show how despite living in a world of 24h news and live streaming events, a lot of people still don't understand how it works "in real life". A reporter MUST look for the story, and when there's no time for pre-interviews or a pre-screening process, it's tough to make sure you get good content on the air. My take? It was a painful situation to be in, and she handled it really well. BUT, I totally would have had an intern around to help screen candidates.

Another golden moment? The lunch menu incident. This really got the tweeters going. While Harper and Obama were meeting - and CBC was waiting for the 20 second photo op though the special programming should have been off air already - Peter Mansbridge was forced to fill. Because interviews on the Hill are nice and all, but it gets old. Fast. Here's how Twitter reacted to that, starting with my tweets:

@starshine_diva: Love that Mansbridge puts his glasses on to read the menu... and then complains about filling air time with it. LOL!! @cbcnews #Obamawa
@starshine_diva: Mansbridge looks like he can't believe he's trying to fill with lunch menus. Ah, 24h news. Love it. #Obamawa @cbcnews

Meanwhile, around the tweet-o-sphere:

@saleemkhan: 1207ET "I can't believe I'm reading all this but you know, we do have to fill time." - CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge reading #Obama lunch menu
@pferguson: I love how Mansbridge on CBC laughs at himself and the situation that he "has to fill time" when he discusses the lunch menu #obamawa
CdnFoodieGirl: Listening to the menu for Obama's lunch in Ottawa today. It's funny to hear Peter Mansbridge read from a menu. #obamawa
@seven24: Peter Mansbridge (@cbcnews) is reading the lunch menu. Now Keith Boag is analyzing the ingredients. I think its lunch time. #obamawa

Of course, this excercise was not only interesting to me from the social media perspective, but from the production perspective, and my tweet stream definitely shows that. What I loved about this experience was seeing people react to what I was seeing - and noting what made them tick. What they loved, what they laughed at, and what discouraged them. And seeing it all in real time was a wonderful comment on society, and a great way to share this historic event with a community, albeit a bunch of people online whom I don't really know and probably never will.

And on that note, here are some random tweets I really enjoyed from the day:

@jpappone: #obamawa Watching CBC TV's coverage of Obama's visit, I am left wondering: Newspapers really think they need to compete with this idiocy?
@geenalyn: Obama is visiting Canada today, CBC kids programs have been interrupted for the coverage. My son, age 4 just said "there's barack obama"
@blankwhitewall: The people on the CBC are gushing over Obama like old ladies at a Clay Aiken concert. Calm down Canada calm down. He's gonna think ur uncool
@eleckie: I love CBC's Obama news coverage - "this just in, nothing new has happened for 20 live minutes."
@gilliebee: I was hoping that Harper would turn on the charm. Maybe that switch is broken? #obamawa

On CBC vs CTV vs CNN:

@datachick: How important is #obamawa to US? @CNN is covering Clinton's arrival in Seoul instead.
#obamawa - CBC Newsworld: good coverage capturing the excitement, live hits from the hill and stuff. _boo_CTV, bunch of talking heads
fail CTV #obamawa coverage requires me to install Silverlight. Hello do you do

Bonus? @cbcyourvoice picked up one of my tweets:

starshine_diva: I wonder what they do with the decoy limo when they reach their destination. How do you camouflage a limo and lookalike?