CBC program explores the future of news

News 2.0 on CBC Radio

CBC Radio launches a two-part series tomorrow on News 2.0: The Future of News in an Age of Social Media

What is now called the “mainstream media” has lost its control over the tools of its trade, and its importance as a centre of social and political influence. The business and philosophical model both appear to be broken, perhaps irrevocably.

There is much to celebrate about this democratization of the media, but there are also reasons to be concerned about the loss of an independent, professional journalistic filter at a time when everyone can be their own media. Can online communities of “citizen journalists” be counted on to help us make informed choices as citizens and consumers? What’s lost, and what’s gained when “News 1.0” gives way to “News 2.0?”

Hosted by Ira Basen the series includes interviews with Clay Shirky, Chris Anderson and Andrew Keen. Partial transcripts are already available at the address above.

The program airs tomorrow at 11am and next Sunday at 10am as part of Sunday Edition on Radio One.

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News chief Burman to leave CBC

The editor-in-chief of English-language news at the CBC, Tony Burman, has resigned and will leave the corporation July 13.

Burman has been with the the public broadcaster for almost 35 years, and for the past seven has overseen English news on radio, television and CBC.ca.

He told staff he was leaving because he had done the job long enough:

…my own work pattern has been to seek change every three-to-five years. And I have — as many of you know — worked hard to ensure this approach is common in different parts of our operation. I have always felt that an openness to change and renewal is at the core of the best journalism. In the end, I have to listen to my own words.

At age 59 retirement isn’t unusual, but those inclined to read the tea leaves will be scrutinizing this passage from Burman’s farewell note in an attempt to work out whether his departure is entirely voluntary:

Since so much of my life has been connected with the CBC, I obviously have mixed emotions about this, but mostly I have feelings of elation. And – can I say it? – liberation.

Only three weeks ago, Burman announced on CBC.ca that he was expanding his weekly media “letter” into a blog.

Why do that, and trumpet the fact, three weeks before resigning and barely six weeks before walking out the CBC door for the last time? It’s odd, to say the least.

And is he leaving the media industry entirely?

I really look forward to directing my energy, my enthusiasm and my ideas to new projects.

Answer: who knows?

Burman was in the news recently over his decision not to show pictures of the gun-brandishing Virginia Tech killer on the CBC’s television and web services — a decision contrary to that taken by most major North American news organizations.

CBC says “a search for Burman’s replacement will begin immediately, while his current deputy, Esther Enkin, will serve as acting editor-in-chief.”

> Tony Burman’s announcement to CBC staff

> Official announcement on CBC.ca

> Recent departures from CBC: Sue Gardner and Yann Pacquet.

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New CBC Radio front page a standout

CBC Radio front page

CBC.ca has launched a new front page design, plus new section fronts for Radio [pictured above] and Sports.

All three front pages, like the CBC News front which was redesigned a while ago, are built to the now-common 1024-pixel width.

Story pages and the CBC TV front page remain at 800-pixels wide, however, so are looking old-fashioned in comparison.

My favourite redesigned page is the Radio front. It’s stylish, but functional too: the all-important “listen live” information is at the top of the page, and it includes the current programs for each time zone.

My only gripe about the Radio front is the use of reversed text. I’m surprised the CBC would use grey text on a black background. Readability sacrificed for style?

The “main” front page at CBC.ca is designed to promote the network’s shows, but you can easily skip it to go directly to the section you want.

> Executive Director of Digital Programming Steve Billinger explains the key changes.

> CBC blogger Tod Maffin likes the new look for his beloved CBC Radio

> The readers’ views are – as usual – mixed.

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Inside CBCSports.ca

Andrew Lundy, senior producer at CBCSports.ca, is interviewed via instant messaging on the Tea Makers blog.

It’s an interesting chat, once you get past the fact that Lundy is being interviewed by a blogger who claims to work for the CBC but won’t reveal his/her identity [just like most everyone who adds comments to the blog].

Having adopted the name of a former CBC President, Alphonse Ouimet, the blogger then begins the interview by questioning whether it’s really Andrew Lundy on the line. Surreal.

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Departing CBC.ca head wants ‘new challenge’

Sue Gardner has commented on her reasons for resigning as head of CBC.ca, saying she’s looking for a “new challenge”.

Staff were told on Tuesday that Gardner would be leaving the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on June 1, after almost 17 years in various CBC roles.

I emailed her to ask why, and she responded as follows:

…I’ve done what I personally wanted to do at CBC.CA.

  • I wanted to launch the arts & entertainment section, which is done and terrific.
  • I wanted to get the redesign done, which happened last June.
  • I wanted to get the advertising expansion completed.
  • I wanted to make sure we got the technology section up and running, as well as Consumer Life.

Plus some other bits and pieces; all done now.

So the upshot is, you reach a point where you’ve achieved your own goals. There’s lots of work that remains to be done, and the CBC has terrific people who will do it. But for me, I decided it’s time to seek out some new challenge. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to take the summer off, then come the fall, I’ll start thinking seriously about what’s next.

There are similar comments from Gardner on Tod Maffin’s official CBC blog.

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New Chair at CBC

The Government has appointed Timothy Casgrain to be the new Chair of the CBC, replacing author Guy Fournier who resigned last year after he spoke at length about bowel movements during an interview (of course you remember).

Casgrain is currently Chair of aviation company Skyservice Investments Inc.

Canadian Journalist picks up the story.

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CBC withholds killer’s multimedia manifesto, NBC seizes branding opportunity

The CBC is the only major Canadian news website choosing not to run pictures and video that Virigina Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui mailed to US network NBC.

CBC editor-in-chief Tony Burman said on his blog that the material would not be broadcast on CBC’s radio or television programs either:

…we debated the issue throughout the evening and made the decision that we would not broadcast any video or audio of this bizarre collection. On CBC Television, Radio and CBC.ca, we would report the essence of what the killer was saying, but not do what he so clearly hoped all media would do. To decide otherwise – in our view -would be to risk copycat killings.

Speaking personally, I have long admired NBC News and I am sure my admiration of their journalists will endure. But I think their handling of these tapes was a mistake. As I watched them last night, sickened as I’m sure most viewers were, I imagined what kind of impact this broadcast would have on similarly deranged people. In horrific but real ways, this is their 15 seconds of fame.

I had this awful and sad feeling that there were parents watching these excerpts on NBC who were unaware they they will lose their children in some future copycat killing triggered by these broadcasts.

Commenters on Burman’s blog are divided about whether CBC made the right call.

Canada.com, canoe.ca, thestar.com and globeandmail.com all used the photographs and images supplied by Cho, as did major news sites around the world. No doubt they are by now also available on photo and video sharing sites and blogs.

Most major Canadian newspapers also had at least one of Cho’s gun-toting pictures on the front page of their print editions today — notable exceptions being the Winnipeg Free Press [which pointed from a small picture of grieving students on page 1 to a story about Cho’s manifesto on page 6] and Toronto commuter freebie 24 Hours [which led with a move to ban incandescent lightbulbs and the stranding of 100 sealing ships in ice off Newfoundland].

As for NBC’s handling of the situation. I don’t think many people would be surprised by their decision to broadcast.

But did anyone else feel as uneasy as I did that NBC had placed its logo on all the images before releasing them to other media? I can understand the network’s marketers probably saw this as a great branding opportunity, but I think it may actually have the opposite effect. Do you really gain when you associate your brand with a mass murderer seeking fame?

It was clearly Cho’s intention to use NBC for his own notoriety. With the logo, it almost looks in some photographs as if he was right there on NBC property.

>> More about the debate over publication at Huffington Post’s Eat the Press

>> Apr 22, 2007: The CBC’s Tony Burman in an audio interview with On the Media

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