Source : The St. Catherine's Standard
TV news anchors are our prime-time stars, our windows on the world
Does a changing of the guard at the American network newscasts foretell a
similar change in Canada?
With Tom Brokaw gone from NBC, Dan Rather going from CBS and speculation
about ABC's 66-year-old Peter Jennings, will Lloyd retire from his CTV anchor
chair or Peter think about taking it easier at the CBC, or Kevin move on from
"Who cares?" may be the response from some, but most of us do care because
anchoring the network news is the hottest seat in journalism and the occupant of the anchor chair has the highest profile of any journalist in the country.
Anchors are our prime-time stars, our links to the world, the people we return to in times of national joy, sorrow or curiosity.
They tell us what kind of a day the world has had. The sense of integrity
they project is critical to their networks and some, like Walter Cronkite, are judged in surveys to be "the most trusted" man in the country. Trust is
especially important in these days of citizen skepticism about the
trustworthiness of the media in general.
While audiences for CBC and CTV news have shrunk in recent years, thanks to
the news competition from specialty channels and the Internet, television still is the place where most people get their news. Our Canadian TV network anchors may not earn the $10-million-plus annual salaries enjoyed by American anchors, but some Canadian network anchor paycheques these days are flirting with a million a year. So, no wonder we're interested in the goings-on among our anchors.
Most Canadians musing on possible anchor changes focus on Lloyd Robertson,
who holds the record for longevity, having anchored the CTV news for 28 years
and anchored the CBC news for six years before that. That's quite a run and more years in the anchor chair than any other North American network news host. Now nudging just past 70, Lloyd is ripe for retirement consideration.
But will it be this year, next year or the year after? He's playing it by
ear, and if and when he does decide to leave the CTV network newscast, he likely will carry on, a la NBC's Tom Brokaw, with documentary work.
NBC anointed Brian Williams as Brokaw's eventual successor two years ago, but
unlike NBC, CTV has not signaled an heir apparent for Lloyd.
Actually, there was an heir apparent a decade ago, when correspondent Keith
Morrison sought the job. Morrison, a news veteran of CTV, CBC and NBC, was the apple of CTV President John Cassaday's eye, and the plan was for Keith to
replace Lloyd in 1996. But Keith wanted to take over sooner than that and Lloyd felt Keith was being too pushy. He balked at the retirement pressures he was feeling, made known his unhappiness and with support from a number of CTV station operators, Cassaday was persuaded to call off the change. Lloyd has been anchoring ever since.
Today, Morrison is out of the picture and there is no clear front-runner to
eventually replace Lloyd. But names do pop up in the gossipy world of TV
journalism, including Lisa LaFlamme, senior CTV correspondent; Tom Clark, CTV
Washington reporter and former W-5 host; and even the long-shot possibility of Global's Kevin Newman. But unlike the abortive 1995 coup attempt, this time at CTV there is not a murmur of an ouster plot.
Nor is there at CBC, where Peter Mansbridge has been anchoring the CBC
National for 17 years. He's a decade-and-a-half younger than Robertson, and like Lloyd, he has no heir apparent in training. If at some point he should decide to slow down the frenzied pace he sets, he, also like Lloyd, probably would continue "on the box" in some less demanding but professionally fulfilling on-air role. From personal experience, I know old anchors don't fade away into retirement, but just change chairs and go on to other adventures.
While no one has been anointed as a future successor to Mansbridge, as at
CTV, there are possibilities being gossiped about: Alison Smith who's been
hosting the CBC morning news program and anchored many news specials; Ian
Hanomansing, anchor of the early CBC network news; Paris correspondent Paul
Workman; or one of the younger correspondents such as Mark Kelly.
Whether Peter or Lloyd follows Tom and Dan into retirement in the near or far
future, when it happens, and demonstrating the importance we attach to the
anchor role, I'll bet my old anchor chair it will be front-page news across the country.
© The Standard