CBC Radio News in Decline

Let me begin this small rant by stating that I’ve been a hardcore fan of CBC Radio since before most of you were born. It’s not just the lack of advertising (which can make listening to commercial radio — especially in the morning — downright torturous) that makes me a fan. It’s the high standard of journalistic integrity that I’ve come to know and respect over the years.

Some of that has been in decline recently. Specifically, I’m talking about the quality of news reporting from the local (Montreal) station. Most of it remains quite good, but on a pretty regular basis I find myself shaking the radio and yelling “stop saying that!”

I should have taken notes, because there’s nothing worse than a rant lacking in specifics. I do, however, have one example; something I’ve been hearing on the local CBC Radio news all day today.

As you may know, the price of gas is going up tomorrow due to the imposition of a new tax. The revenue from the new tax will be directed toward public transit costs. That sounds like a great idea to me. The amount of the new tax is 1.5 cents per litre of gas.

It drives me crazy that the CBC Radio reports I’ve been hearing all day start thusly:

Drivers in the Montreal area will want to fill up their tanks before tomorrow…

Grrr! There are two reasons why this news story should not begin like that:

Editorializing. News reports should not tell people what they should do or should want to do. They can say that so-and-s0 says you should do something, but the news reader (and by extension, the writers, editors, and the entire corporation) should not be telling people what to do. That’s basic journalism 101. You could argue that they’re just trying to be “light” and “accessible” or whatever, but that’s what the crappy news departments of commercial radio stations do. It’s not what CBC Radio, with it’s high standards, is supposed to do.

It’s stupid! Do the math; the average small- to mid-size car has a 40 litre gas tank. The price of gas is going up by one-and-a-half cents per litre. Thus, your exercise in racing off to the pumps to beat the increase will save you about sixty cents. Sixty cents! And that’s only if your tank is empty. Even if you have a huge car with a big tank, you’re still only going to save a dollar or two.

Rushing to fill your tank before a 1.5 cent price increase is a dumb idea, and an even dumber way to lead a news story. Any decent news editor would snip that opening line right off the bat, for both of those reasons.

So that’s today’s rant. I wish this was an isolated event, but as I said, I’m hearing this kind of bad news reporting fairly often these days.

Where is the editor? This is the kind of thing that is supposed to separate “real” journalism from Joe Blogger and Jane Podcaster. Professionalism! How about we add another half-cent to the price of gas and funnel it into improving the news department at CBC Radio Montreal!

6 thoughts on “CBC Radio News in Decline

  1. Hmm.

    I’d like to say that professional journalism has taken a serious downturn. (How’s that for a leader?)

    News is such a cheap commodity nowadays (hey, how many inches has the oil slick moved towards Louisiana in the past ten minutes?) that the way they render it has become irrelevant, if not desperate.

    It’s all in the buck now, and they know it. They’re going to hire younger and cheaper people to write and make it up . . .

    I remember being young and cheap, come to think of it.

  2. The CBC generally is in decline and lacks direction. I used to leave it on all the time, but now there are too many shows that have me lunging for the Off button with a Make It Stop!

    Peter Gzowski had his issues, but I really miss him.

  3. I’ve noticed the decline in the current affairs radio shows too. The Current is usually pretty good, as is the host. But lately, I’ve noticed that every now and then they’ll interview two experts with ‘opposing’ views for a particular subject. However, in some instances, the experts, in fact, agree on more than they disagree on. But, CBC charges on trying to pit one against the other, presumably in the name of good radio, and a good debate. But it’s ridiculous. It’s like they’re trying to compete with Fox news or something.

    Annoyance #2 is trying to make something more of a big deal than it actually is, again, presumably in the name of ‘breaking news’. The biggest example in recent memory is the whole H1N1 thing. It seemed like they were trying to sensationalize so many interviews by asking leading questions and by trying to make something out of nothing. Totally annoying.

  4. I mean, look at this header on CNN’s website. Who the hell comes up with this stuff?

    “How will Greek tragedy play out?”

    Exactly WHAT goddamn Greek tragedy? The murder of 18 people at a public protest by riot police? I don’t think so.

    Hey, a tragedy is a kid being killed in a drive-by.

    I don’t really listen to radio and don’t know CBC (other than being interviewed by them once!) but I know the days of Walter Cronkite and some semblance of veracity are long, long gone. It’s a free-for-all now, people!

  5. I am in despair over CBC radio, which I have listened to for a good two decades now. I can’t even listen to the crap they put on in the afternoons on Radio One, a bunch of hacked-together reruns (why do they think I want to listen to programming from 1950? or 1945?). I still can’t believe Radio One essentially no longer has an afternoon radio show! I’m with Alison; I used to have CBC on constantly but more and more often, I am having to hit the “off” button the radio. I have started listen to BBC online, and NPR, while pining for the old days of CBC. And now they’ve fired Barbara Budd, because apparently they are still trying to appeal to a younger audience (WHY?!) I know some people weren’t fond of her, but I was and it pisses me off.

    Radio news is in a sorry state these days, not to mention print journalism!

  6. It’s sad indeed. The Ceeb used to be great. Still is sometimes, but man, some odd choices being made. And yeah, I can’t believe they canned Barbara Budd!

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