Welcome to CFCF’s postvanderheyden era

Todd van der Heyden won't be seeing Jellybean around much anymore. (Fagstein file photo)

It ended not with a bang or with a whimper, but with the standard anchor goodbye. Friday was Todd van der Heyden’s last day at CFCF, and the 6pm newscast spent a few minutes at the end to acknowledge the departure of one of its anchors.

It was no Farewell to Bill, the special program devoted to long-serving anchor Bill Haugland in 2006, but CFCF’s tribute to van der Heyden was appropriate and classy. For those who missed it, the whole thing has been posted online. You can watch it in the CTV News video player here.

The segment starts with van der Heyden introducing a story about pandas (the usual fluffy, funny and entirely expendable story that fills time at the end of a newscast) only to have producers pull a switcheroo and run a story about van der Heyden put together by reporter/anchor Tarah Schwartz, which includes some testimonials from some of his long-time coworkers. The packaged report is followed by a one-on-one with Schwartz and a speech from van der Heyden thanking viewers for their loyalty (as far as he knew going into this, only the latter part was going to be in the newscast).

Unfortunately for van der Heyden and viewers, there was no message from coanchor Mutsumi Takahashi, nor from weather presenter Lori Graham, nor from sports anchor Randy Tieman. They’re all off on vacation, and I guess nobody thought ahead long enough to have them record a short video message before they left. The result gave some the impression that they had intentionally kept quiet as a snub. And with due respect to the people filling in during the holidays, this kind of moment isn’t the same with Randy Renaud and Paul Graif.

For the record, Takahashi (who was also on vacation at the beginning of the month when the announcement came that van der Heyden would be leaving), had this to say to me on the subject: “Bill, Brian, Todd… All I can say, Steve, is that I’m obviously having trouble holding on to my men…”

Though it’s possible they exist, I don’t know of anyone there who didn’t like van der Heyden. No matter what your opinion of his work, it’s hard not to like him personally once you get to know him.

Mutsumi Takahashi looks at Todd van der Heyden with a mixture of loving affection and facepalming disbelief at his silliness. (Fagstein file photo)

Van der Heyden starts on CTV News Channel on Jan. 16, co-hosting the show Express, weekdays 1-4pm with Amanda Blitz.

At CFCF, no decision has been announced for his permanent replacement, but weekend anchor Paul Karwatsky (who led the list of candidates) has been named the “interim” co-anchor. This gives management more time to make a final decision, and a chance to try out Karwatsky in the post to see if he’s the one they want.

Good luck to him, and to van der Heyden I can only say: Qapla’!

For more on Todd van der Heyden and his departure from CTV Montreal, see my post on the subject from earlier this month. He was also interviewed on CJAD.

27 thoughts on “Welcome to CFCF’s postvanderheyden era

  1. Just Me

    Maybe management at CTV did think ahead about Todd van der Heyden’s last broadcast, and their thinking was “Let’s not waste time with a bunch of video messages of Todd’s co-workers wishing him well and saying how much he’ll be missed, instead just let whoever is doing the news that night say something”.

    Reply
    1. josh

      Funny I thought, Todd never thanked Mitusumi in his farewell speech, and there was no message from her. Maybe they did not get along or Mitz is not liked by many people. Could be another reason Todd took the job in Toronto.

      Reply
        1. A.

          I follow Todd on Twitter and he professed his love and admiration with Mitsumi and a long conversation they had with each on the phone.

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          1. Michael D

            Story is legit, as I know who the writer is. she is a reporter for the Chronicle weekly paper on the West Island..so it’s not a fictitious reporter…

            Reply
  2. AlexH

    I would say that perhaps CTV Montreal needs to consider just going to a single anchor. Honestly, we are a small market here (english), and it is pretty hard to justify having two people in two chairs, especially when that money might be better spent on an extra reporter in the field. Having more people at the desk and less in the field seems a little weird to me.

    The whole “Todd is leaving!” stuff is a bit over done as well, he is transferring in the company to a better job, leaving the small time of Montreal (similar size market in English to Halifax) and moving up to a national news desk. He didn’t die or retire or anything like that.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I would say that perhaps CTV Montreal needs to consider just going to a single anchor. Honestly, we are a small market here (english), and it is pretty hard to justify having two people in two chairs, especially when that money might be better spent on an extra reporter in the field. Having more people at the desk and less in the field seems a little weird to me.

      There’s a common misconception that TV anchors work only a couple of hours a day and having two of them is redundant. But when you’re doing two one-hour newscasts every shift, that’s a lot of work for one anchor. They could probably make it work with one (and they often do when the other is on vacation), but eventually it would probably require having an extra person behind the scenes helping to write scripts, preparing interviews and other thing that were split between the anchors before. Or they would eventually figure that they need separate anchors for the noon and 6pm newscasts.

      CFCF isn’t seriously lacking in reporters (certainly not compared to other stations), and considering the weekday anchor team produces two hours of live television a day, I don’t think having two anchors is such a huge waste of resources.

      Reply
        1. Michael D

          yes it was one anchor before Mits, I should point out here, that Mits wasn’t the first co-anchor For Bill, there was Lynn Desjardins, now she I really liked,,,anybody know where she is now….they had good chemistry..

          but yes there was only one..but there was also no noon package also, that was the Flinstones then..and of course before the late Andrew Marquis came along in 1969, Pulse was only 30 minutes,
          so the anchor job has really become more demanding of sorts..

          Reply
          1. dean

            I often hear Lynn Desjardins late at night on CBC Radio 1-she seems to be a frequent guest, possibly a freelancer? Usually interesting, in-depth stories of international scope.

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      1. Montreal Critic

        It seems as if it’s only the English networks in Montreal still believe in having 2 anchors. Patrice Roy does an excellent job anchoring the hour-long Téléjournal all by himself. It’s the most professional news show of in town. If CTV followed SRC’s lead, they would have one anchor at noon hour show and have another at 6PM. It’s not as “glamorous”, sure, but it would be a lot better use of resources.

        Thoughts:
        1) Why is the noon-hour show 60 minutes long in the first place? It seems overkill and a waste of resources for a show that most likely has a minuscule audience.
        2) Does anyone know how many weeks of “vacation” Todd and Mitz get/got at CTV? It seems as if one of them was always gone as least one week out of every month. Most of us see this a the perfect example why a 2nd anchor isn’t needed.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          1) Why is the noon-hour show 60 minutes long in the first place? It seems overkill and a waste of resources for a show that most likely has a minuscule audience.

          You think we should have less local programming and local news? The main reason for it being 60 minutes long is to leave room for features like six-minute interviews that they don’t have on other newscasts.

          2) Does anyone know how many weeks of “vacation” Todd and Mitz get/got at CTV? It seems as if one of them was always gone as least one week out of every month. Most of us see this a the perfect example why a 2nd anchor isn’t needed.

          I don’t have their employment contracts in front of me, but it’s probably about the same as any other job with proper benefits. It tends to be concentrated around the usual vacation times – during summer (required this summer because of the limitations of the temporary set) and over the winter holidays.

          There are plenty of things they could cut down on to make more room for reporters – technicians used on all those unnecessary live remotes, for one thing. But I’m not convinced there’s so much duplication of work that the work of two anchors can simply be done by one over the long term.

          Reply
          1. Montreal Critic

            I’m all for local news and interviews, but CTV is going about it the wrong away. If, for example, they decided have JUST ONE weather segment instead of THREE, there would be a lot more room in the newscast. CTV already airs The Power of One and Sunday Bite on the weekends, so it’s definitely not much of a stretch to make room for similar content during the weekday newscasts. After the first 20 minutes, that’s pretty much it for local news. With added local segments, it might entice viewers to stick around a little bit longer and not change the channel (BTW, are there any stats on how long viewers watch the hour long newscast?).

            Fagstein, I would love to get your take on the Téléjournal. The contrast between the TJ and both CTV and CBC is striking (and yes, I know the SRC has a much bigger budget).

            A former Ottawa bureau chief, Patrice Roy has turned into a damn fine host. Anchoring the show all by himself, he manages to read the news (local and international), conduct interviews, interact with the weatherperson (shown only once BTW), as well the sports and entertainment reporters, all while standing up! The tone is professional and informative, without the gimmicky schtick (useless banter, fluffy stories, Moise Persico,etc..) that we’ve come to expect from CTV.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              I’m all for local news and interviews, but CTV is going about it the wrong away. If, for example, they decided have JUST ONE weather segment instead of THREE, there would be a lot more room in the newscast.

              It’s not three complete weather segments, so it’s not like they’d gain that much time, but sure they could cut down on weather. The problem is that viewers want to see the weather, and they don’t want to wait half an hour for the basics.

              After the first 20 minutes, that’s pretty much it for local news.

              It depends on the day, but local news tends to take up a large part of CFCF’s newscast. In fact, it’s far more than its competitors. And the latter half of the 6pm show consists mainly of weather and sports.

              Fagstein, I would love to get your take on the Téléjournal. The contrast between the TJ and both CTV and CBC is striking (and yes, I know the SRC has a much bigger budget).

              Which Téléjournal? The national newscasts at noon and 10pm are well done, but there isn’t actually that much local news on either Radio-Canada or TVA. What tends to happen is that Montreal-based news is reported on the national newscast as if people in Abitibi or Gaspé care about it.

              A former Ottawa bureau chief, Patrice Roy has turned into a damn fine host. Anchoring the show all by himself, he manages to read the news (local and international), conduct interviews, interact with the weatherperson (shown only once BTW), as well the sports and entertainment reporters, all while standing up!

              Why is the fact that he’s standing up good? How does that make the news better?

              I don’t watch Roy’s Téléjournal much, since I spend most of the time from 6 to 7 watching the anglo newscasts, but I’m sure he’s quite competent.

              Reply
          2. AlexH

            “You think we should have less local programming and local news? The main reason for it being 60 minutes long is to leave room for features like six-minute interviews that they don’t have on other newscasts.”

            Might it not be better to have a separate “interview” show instead? Perhaps instead of a two anchor newscast, the can create an interview style show (using the cozy nook thing) and really make for a 30 minute show that might be worth tuning in for. They barely have enough real content to do a full hour at 6, trying to do it at noon must be really painful.

            ” I’m not convinced there’s so much duplication of work that the work of two anchors can simply be done by one over the long term.”

            I guess it depends on what they are really doing. It seems that perhaps they are also being reporters and writers, and perhaps again that would be better handled by (gasp) writers and reporters. Isn’t a news reader just that, a news reader?

            It’s just an opinion, it just seems to me (as it appears to with others) that the two anchor thing is mostly part of the cover of trying to fill the dead space between stories with banter, with pointless “anchor switching” between stories, etc. The ones I see doing this a lot are local affiliate stations in the US. It’s all about being fluffy and padding out the time and making the “hour” work out.

            I think that TVA does a great job with a single anchor and “drop in” reporters and such. They seem to have done a bit better of a job at turning short news into longer pieces, giving it a friendly flow without having to have multiple anchors. Then again, they are also smart enough not to try to make 30 minutes of news into an hour show.

            Reply
  3. Michael D

    Some interesting politics here going on maybe…no permanent Quebec City chief yet…it would seem that Maya Johnson doesn’t mind going to QC for a day or two for the bigger stories, but obviously doesn’t want to stay ther that need someone there like the budget day or a big construction inquiry,etc…

    And now poor Paul Karwatsky being named interim, if he’s good enough for interim, why not permanent…or do they have someone else in mind, if not Paul, they should go after a veteran like Bill Haugland’s predecessor, none other than Montreal native, Gordon Martineau over at City TV in Toronto, but could he get along with Mits. he has been around much longer. Food for thought.

    Reply
  4. Apple IIGS

    Just watched the 6 PM newscast tonight, it feels hallow and lacking without Van der Heyden. Paul Karwatsky just doesn’t carry the same presence. At least Mitusumi is still there. Honestly, if not for her, I doubt I would continue watching CTV News.

    Todd Van der Heyden leaving for Toronto, to me anyway, is another sign of Montreal fading away into obscurity. How often do you see anchors leave major cities to come to Montreal? Or head offices or just about anything else for that matter. You don’t. Montreal CTV News doesn’t even broadcast in High Definition, that tells you something right there (I don’t particularly care about the market size, the fact that Montreal isn’t HD just says this city is behind the times).

    It will be interesting to see who eventually replaces Todd. Paul isn’t bad, but they could do better.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Todd Van der Heyden leaving for Toronto, to me anyway, is another sign of Montreal fading away into obscurity. How often do you see anchors leave major cities to come to Montreal?

      That’s a tough question to answer for the simple reason that local news anchors tend not to be imported. Usually it’s a reporter who gets upgraded, rather than someone doing the same job in a smaller town. The last imported anchor was CBC’s Jennifer Hall.

      If we expand the question to include other major positions, then I’ll point out that the new general manager for CTV Montreal is the person who was doing the same job at CTV Ottawa.

      Montreal CTV News doesn’t even broadcast in High Definition, that tells you something right there (I don’t particularly care about the market size, the fact that Montreal isn’t HD just says this city is behind the times).

      I’m not sure how you define “the times” – there are plenty of other cities whose newscasts aren’t in HD. (And I’ll point out that all of Montreal’s French-language newscasts are in HD, and CBC Montreal has just started in HD.) The fact that CFCF hasn’t upgraded yet is more due to the fact that it faces little competitive pressure than anything else. Though that may change now that its competitors are upgrading.

      Reply
    2. Montreal Critic

      “hallow and lacking without Van der Heyden”? Just the opposite, actually!

      At least Paul Karwatsky has a neutral and professional broadcast voice, unlike that of TvH who always managed to sound sarcastic no matter the story!

      Reply
      1. Apple IIGS

        At least Paul Karwatsky has a neutral and professional broadcast voice, unlike that of TvH who always managed to sound sarcastic no matter the story!

        Hah, that’s probably why I enjoyed Van der Heyden’s style. Not necessarily sarcastic sounding, but more dynamic and in touch with the story. Paul is more like a traffic reporter reading the news.

        Admit it, Montreal is a pretty backwards and absurd place compared with any other city in North America. Actually it’s the city and province equivalent of the Bizzaro universe! We need a Barry Wilson or Rex Murphy type reporter telling us the local news! :D

        Reply
  5. Will514

    I personally never liked Van der Hayden very much. He did his job well but never thought his comments or “jokes” to be very funny. Actually found him a bit pretentious but that’s what I got from him on air.
    I’m actually glad he’s gone and that Karwatsky has replaced him.

    Reply
    1. Roger Rabbit

      Yes, I agree with you. I found Van der Heyden to be childish. Sometimes when he was throwing the sport segment to Randy Tieman, he would just turn his head and stare at Randy about 1 inch away from his face when Randy was starting his segment and I would be thinking “wth are you doing?”

      I’m glad that Paul is working with Mitsumi now. I can start to watch the newscast again.

      Reply
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