Monday, October 26, 2009

On the new #CBC News Network

So, what do you think?

Personally, I like the new CBC News Network, overall. I like the fonts, I like the colours, I like the feel... but.

There is a "but".

I don't like the casual feel of CBC NN.

Let me explain.

I know Jennifer McGuire says that's what Canadians want from CBC. The new jingles? Yes, they're catchy. In a Euro pop kinda way. But some of them dismiss the seriousness of the headlines. They make me feel like I'm watching CNN. And I have many a bone to pick with CNN.

I'm not sure what the point is to having a "news now" block graph in your lower third... Or the CBC logo, for that matter. I miss my transparent bug: it's a much less cluttered look and still does the job branding-wise. There's a reason I'm watching CBC instead of CTV's Canada AM or CP24 (if it were available in Quebec!)

And the scrolling headlines? They no longer scroll! It took a while, but I've gotten used to it. Unfortunately, I find that the information contained in the scrolls is not as complete as it used to be.

The weather lower third is useful, sure, but all day long? At least give us a more relevant forecast like Now, Later, Tonight. Or something along those lines. Not Now, Tuesday and Wednesday. I can get that information online or on the Weather Network.

Speaking of the weather... Pointing to a giant screen (how much did those cost, by the way?) seems ineffective so far. I miss my swirling weather maps, and I bet the meteorologists feel insecure at no longer being in control of the switching. I'm glad they're alternating with the green screen instead of making it all big screen.

I do love the set. I like the clean lines and open space: it matches the crisp fonts and bold wipes. I think some anchors are really embracing the standing up news-telling and it fits them well - especially Carol MacNeil. I'm also glad to hear, via a tweet by Hill reporter Rosemary Barton, that they don't really have to stand if they don't want to. Plus, the anchors are seated when interviewing in-studio guests.

More on the set: I love that Entertainment and Business and all that stuff is now in studio. I like the hits from across the newsroom, but I really do wish the camera was on a tripod instead of handheld. It looks amateur, not trendy.

I don't like seeing a reporter on the big screen behind the anchor. It diminishes the anchor (literally and otherwise!) and is way too CNN for my liking.

I know CBC will be working out the kinks for the next few days -like segment wipes with audio timing - and I hope they take our feedback and truly make it a network for Canadians.

Again, there's a but. I have a big problem with all these changes. As much as I like them (see below for more on that), it puts extra pressure on the already strained local workforce. The local crews not only have to deal with extended 1.5h newscasts, it now also has to put on a nightly newscast. And those will be live, not pre-taped.

And although the extended local newscasts are very repetitive with 3 nearly identical blocks at 5pm, 5:30pm and 6pm, the producers and reporters are still overworked, trying to make the content seem original or putting together multiple versions of the same package. With all the added workload and the smaller workforce, it's no wonder the reporters trip on their words during their live fronts. And yet, there's no added value for the viewers. In fact, we don't even notice. As one of my CBC friends puts it, "It's more work for less people, with a shiny cover put over it to make us all feel better."

But there are some positives:

I like that new stories are introduced on the 2pm newscast. Who needs to hear the same packs all day?
I like repeat in-depth interviews with guests like CBC's Defence specialist Bill Gillespie. Give me more extracts from that and less of this morning's pack.
I like variations on the same story, ie the H1N1 virus/vaccine. Not just the clinics opening and the US story, but also the pregnant couple who needs to find a new pre-natal class.
I like Carol asking a Toronto hospital official if they've over-hyped the pandemic. That's CBC bringing us into the news-making process.
I like Anne-Marie Mediwake as my mid-morning anchor. She looks right at home on the set.
I like the breaking news reporter, even though she's stuck in the newsroom. It adds a different voice to the mix.
I like that Your View or Your Voice or whatever it used to be called is now simply POV. Much easier to remember.
I like the new accompanying websites for The National, Connect with Mark Kelley, World Report, and Politics & Power. They've got great cross-platform integration features.

I love that the anchors now throw to each other between shows. No more awkward "hey, where'd she go?"
I'm in love with the yellow in the fonts. Bright! Happy! A bit of positivity in an often negative news cycle.
I love Colleen Jones' style on the story of the day... She makes it personable and shows us how it relates to us.
I love how well Carol fits in to the redesign. It's like it was made for her.

I still wish CBC would make it easier to find News Network stories online, and put them up there quicker. I can't wait for their "make your own lineup" feature. I hope it's easy to share and doesn't apply exclusively to The National.

I also wish they would cut to developing stories even without tape, especially if they have that breaking news reporter on air instead of one on the scene. If not, make mention of it, and say you're going to follow up on it. A good example? Today's House of Commons climate change flash protest. It was tweeted by a CBC reporter 20 minutes before CBC NN made any mention of it at all. The information wasn't right, but you can safely report the fact that the protest is happening.

And I wish there were more sports... Apart from Jeff Marek's new morning show sports segment, there is barely any sports content throughout the day. I understand that it's not developing news, but neither is entertainment, and at least it would mix it up a bit. It wouldn't be that difficult to put together a template for moving from a recap kind of pack to a preview pack as the day progresses, and hey! Maybe even add in some sports business news, like today's NHL/bankruptcy court action in Phoenix.

And so while I like the new CBC News Network overall, all of these changes haven't really improved news content, have they?

PS: Follow my tweets on this and other topics at

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