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News observers hope for change and more context at The National post-Mansbridge by Victoria Ahearn

Jun 29, 2017

Source: Hamilton Spectator

With Peter Mansbridge set to sign off as CBC News chief correspondent and anchor of "The National," speculation abounds as to what will happen with the public broadcaster's flagship program.

Mansbridge's last night on "The National" comes on Friday and he'll then helm the CBC's Canada Day coverage on Saturday. The CBC has said it will unveil a revamped edition of "The National" on Oct. 30 with multiple hosts, a new format, a new set and new graphics.

It's a change industry observers welcome.

"I would urge and applaud them to use this opportunity to create something different," said Janice Neil, chairwoman of the school of journalism at Ryerson University. "I think it should distinguish itself from the other stations. You only have to look at the ratings tumble over the years to see that CTV has continued to do so well with its newscast, it's not declining the way the others have. So why should the CBC try to go head-to-head? I know they're not the same hours but why should they?"

In an age when many viewers consume news all day on social media, some say "The National" needs to focus on in-depth conversation and context to the headlines.

"The only way a newscast like that, I think, is going to work in the future is (if) it's not going to tell you the news, it's rather going to make sense of the news," said Richard Stursberg, a former CBC executive and the new president of the writers' group Pen Canada.

"So then it becomes about context, background, analysis, investigatory. It becomes all that kind of stuff rather than just telling me what the news is — because I already know that."

Ian Morrison, spokesman for the advocacy organization Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, declared: "Judged by the hard numbers, it's time for a change."

"The status quo isn't working and so shaking things up and trying another approach is something that I think all viewers should welcome," said Morrison, noting he'd like to see a current affairs-style element to the show that appeals to a younger generation.

© Hamilton Spectator