Mike Finnerty, who left his job as host of the morning show Daybreak on CBC Radio One to work at the Guardian newspaper in London, and was replaced by Nancy Wood, who was turfed only a few months later by management, settles back into his old chair starting Monday morning at 5:30am
Well, maybe not the old chair. The CBC radio studios have been moved to the basement of the Maison Radio-Canada, to share space with CBC television and better integrate the two newsrooms.
It’s been more than two months since it was announced that Finnerty would return. That gave him some time to finish up at the Guardian, fill in as a host of The Current, move back to Montreal and get back up to speed with his Daybreak team.
I asked him about his impending return, and he sent me a really long email, most of which I’ll share with you here (slightly edited).
Quite a few changes, actually. It will definitely sound different. I take responsibility for the different mind and voice, but Daybreak has a new senior producer Meredith Dellandrea. It’s a team effort, but she’s been working on this re-launch since I was hired in July. She’s very good.
- It will sound a lot pacier and more nimble
- It will deliver more of the crucial Montreal info you need more efficiently, and it will frontload that information tucked up to the end of our half-hourly newscasts
- It will update you more regularly
- It will retain the same team, and I like to hope the same magic/spontaneity/cheekiness we’d achieved before I left
- There will be a focus on interviewing, getting the Montreal players on air and on the record
We’ll continue to push ahead on the tech front – you may not hear it first day, but we’ll start making use of how easy it’s become to send quality audio files over the Web/Twitter.
The premium on audience interactivity continues — we consider they co-own the show (because they do lol), so you’ll hear their story ideas, their comments and even direct participation in the storytelling. We’ll up our game on social networking, especially Twitter. (ED: They use their Facebook page a lot too)
The 5:30 half-hour will be spruced up a bit for our early-morning listeners.
The podcast stays and you’ll hear in different ways that we’re keenly aware of how much the audience is interacting with us digitally through the Internet.
As for me, I’ve just come back from 15 months at guardian.co.uk — a news organisation with complete clarity about its brand and what it stands for: it makes an impact, is thoughtful, colourful, cheeky, provocative, interactive, creative, and seeks out viewpoints from across the spectrum of thought and opinion Those are all values I sign up to, so I hope they’ve been reinforced in me and you might even hear more of that on air.
Is it just like riding a bicycle? You’ll find out tomorrow from 0530.
Finnerty’s guests his first week include Mayor Gérald Tremblay, Canadiens captain Brian Gionta, McGill principal Heather Munroe-Blum, CBC boss Hubert Lacroix, some “surprises”, a longer interview with police chief Marc Parent (he presented an excerpt last week), and as usual the stars of the latest news cycle who are willing to wake up at 7am for a radio interview.
UPDATE: I listened to the first complete show with Finnerty as host, and I have some initial reaction on the subject:
- I rarely listened to the first half-hour of Daybreak – only insane people are up at 5:30am – but it’s really really dead. They’ve replaced the “Daybreak playback” with a press review, which is Finnerty and Dimitri Katadotis reading off the headlines of the newspapers that have just arrived. It’s pretty well as boring as it sounds. The rest of the half-hour is a daily chat with the folks at Quebec AM in Quebec City. I realize you’re not going to get many interviews for 5:40am (getting interviews for 7:40am is hard enough), but people who wake up at this time of the morning need much more energy than this.
- Finnerty is well aware of his reputation for being a confrontational interviewer, and only time will tell whether he’ll mellow out in the long term, but this interview with Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay is interesting in how cordial he is. Certainly Tremblay has had some questions to face over the past 15 months, but Finnerty is practically lobbing softballs at the guy. He also interviewed Christian Paradis over the Tory minister’s recent political troubles, and the interview was fair. Finnerty didn’t ask him 10 times if he was going to resign. Maybe he was unusually happy this day, maybe self-conscious about people’s criticisms of him, or maybe he just hasn’t found an issue to be really fired up at yet. We’ll see.
- A lot of the show is spent previewing itself. Here’s four minutes of Finnerty just doing station IDs and talking about what’s coming up in the program. Get rid of that and you can have a whole other segment.
Okay, I didn’t see this one coming. Four months after posting the position of Daybreak host, and after months of rotating in guest hosts and having a show with no real direction, CBC has settled not on Steve Rukavina or Sue Smith but on bringing back former host Mike Finnerty.
The Daybreak website has a release and The Gazette has a story (UPDATE: And a longer one in today’s paper). CBC.ca also has a story, which entirely glosses over what happened to former Daybreak host Nancy Wood.
The release has the usual quotes of how thrilled everyone is. Similar comments directly from Finnerty via email:
I’ve had a blast at guardian.co.uk and learned so much that I sometimes thought my head was going to explode. I hate the idea of leaving. It’s a great job.
But I miss broadcasting. I miss being on air. I miss live radio. And yes, I miss Montreal.
I have a notice period here to serve out, three months, but I am taking two weeks off in August to host The Current for Anna-Maria Tremonti. That’s starting August 9th.
I think you know I’m a fan of Fagstein and a regular reader (and occasional visitor to the threads).
So y’all better be on your best behaviour, okay?
Back and forth, but this time to stay
Finnerty left Daybreak just over a year ago to take a job as multimedia news editor at London’s The Guardian. He was replaced by a TV reporter and former Radio Noon host, Nancy Wood, and … well, we all know how that turned out. (Wood has since taken a job at Enquête.)
Finnerty said when he left that the big reason for doing so was his partner, Dom, who moved with him to Montreal but had trouble finding work here. An opportunity opened up in London, and they decided they’d both move back across the Atlantic.
Now, Finnerty says, they both found they missed Montreal:
I think it’s fair to say that it was on moving back to London last year that he realized how great a city Montreal is. He used to say, “I finally get the Montreal state of mind”. He is totally onboard with the decision to return to Daybreak. He thought I did a pretty good job at it and might even do better this time around :-)
Finnerty says his contract with the CBC – which he signed on Saturday – is until June 2014. This is much longer than that given to Wood, which suggests that either the CBC has more confidence in Finnerty than it had in Wood (you’ll recall they referred to her as an “interim” host) or that they’re tired of searching for new hosts every six months.
Even with the four-year contract, Finnerty expects the kind of pressure on him to perform that his predecessor had:
A friend of mine who hosts on the BBC once said to me that when you’re on air for a living, you need to accept that you could be tapped on the shoulder at any time. I don’t expect the CBC to keep me on air if I’m not doing well. That’s being honest.
I am comfortable with management’s ratings expectations because they’re the same as mine. I expect that if you, taxpayers, fund CBC Radio we have to deliver something of demonstrable public value, in this case a type of local coverage of Montreal that you cannot get otherwise. Good, solid, reliable, essential, surprising, Montreal listening. When you listen to Daybreak, I want you to think you’ve had Montreal for breakfast, that you’ve got your money’s worth.
If no one is listening, or if just seniors are listening and not a broad range of Montrealers, than how do we justify spending your money? Daybreak doesn’t need to be Number One – though why not? – but it has to show that it is of clear, public value. It has to have good ratings. The CBC management are right to insist on that, and I am totally onboard.
The last time Finnerty was host, Daybreak on CBME-FM had an average minute audience of 15,100 listeners and a total audience of 61,000 with a 14.4% market share, according to numbers dug up by Mike Boone. Wood’s ratings were lower than that, with an average audience of 12,800 listeners, a total audience of 53,000 and a 12.4% market share. Wood’s ratings were the major reason for her being pulled from the host’s chair.
Even though the numbers suggest fewer people tuned in to his replacement, Finnerty acknowledged to The Gazette’s Basem Boshra that has has some hearts to win back: “I know there were a lot of listeners who were upset at Nancy’s departure, and what I would like to say to them is that it’s time for the page to be turned. It’s time for me to get to work on winning their affection back, winning their respect back, and proving to them that, day in and day out, we’re going to bring them the stories and voices that matter and make a difference to Montreal.”
Online reaction to Finnerty’s return is mixed. The Daybreak Facebook page, the Gazette story and CBC story have some messages congratulating Finnerty and others questioning the choice. A Facebook group originally setup to protest Wood’s removal also has some comments, as well, of course, as the Radio in Montreal group.
Finnerty was known for his confrontational style with guests (even where it seemed unnecessary), which turned off many listeners. Asked about it, Finnerty agreed people think that of him, but he disagreed that it was either aggressive or unwarranted:
I accept that some people think that of my style, yes. I read all the feedback that comes my way and I do care, and take it onboard. I also get a lot of positive feedback from people for putting the tough questions to people in positions of power. I don’t think my style is aggressive. I think I have a role to play hosting the CBC morning show in Montreal. I don’t think it’s fair to have someone on air to talk about an issue that demands a tough or assertive question and not ask it. I think Montrealers want me to pursue questions of importance, and if they aren’t answered, I think it’s fair to point that out or ask again. Fair is the watchword. Call me on it.
The bottom line is that I want Daybreak to be an interesting listen. I want its journalism to be robust. I want people to tune in because they know they will get good interviews where we focus on the issues that matter and try to find out what’s new, what’s important, what’s really going on.
Finnerty asked to add, even though it sounded “a bit luvvy”, that “the Daybreak team is bloody brilliant: Monique Lacombe, Sonali Karnick, Pierre Landry, and David Blair. Steve Rukavina is a tremendous host and one of the biggest assets at the station. I loooooooooove Sue Smith. They’ve been working really hard. I can’t wait to join them.”
Finnerty’s start date as host of Daybreak hasn’t been set yet, but will be in the fall, possibly around Thanksgiving. In the meantime, he’s filling in as host of The Current for two weeks starting Aug. 9.
UPDATE (June 22): Mike Boone, in his column yesterday, didn’t mince his words about Finnerty being replaced by Wood and then coming back within 14 months:
What a joke.
But there is continuity at CBC Montreal. The same gormless twits keep making hare-brained programming decisions. On our dime.
UPDATE: You can listen to Finnerty’s interview with Daybreak the next day in their podcast (MP3).
In case you missed it, Friday was Mike Finnerty’s last day as host of Daybreak on CBC Radio One. Finnerty announced last month that he was leaving the CBC to move to London and take a job with the Guardian.
The theme of the final show (all links in this paragraph are streaming RealAudio format, which astonishingly it still uses) was what people will miss about Montreal (including lots of suggestions from listeners), since Finnerty is leaving the city. Finnerty also took the time to interview two CBC bosses, the big boss Hubert Lacroix, on the future of the public broadcaster, and local boss Patricia Pleszczynska on who would replace him as Daybreak host. Finally, he invited all the other CBC Montreal radio hosts to talk about what they’d miss about the city.
Despite hinting otherwise, there was no announcement of a new host. Pleszczynska said to “wait until September” while they evaluate the various candidates, many of whom we would expect would test-host the show over the summer.
You can listen to Finnerty’s final podcast here (MP3), which includes some original “live… to download” host banter and repeats the morning interviews. Or you can listen to my selections from Finnerty’s last Daybreak (MP3) from the over-the-air version.
Now it’s time to decide who will replace Mike in the anchor’s chair. I suggested a few names last month, but in the past few months during Finnerty’s vacations to London we’ve had a few guest anchors who might be candidates for the job. Links below are to the podcast versions of their shows in MP3 format, which isn’t a perfect way to evaluate how they do live on-air, but gives you an idea of their interview abilities and ability to socialize with the staff.
- Shawn Apel (currently Daybreak’s municipal affairs correspondent and resident philosopher): April 30, May 1
- Susan Campbell (currently the host of Quebec AM): May 18, May 19, May 20
- Brendan Kelly (currently an entertainment columnist for The Gazette and Daybreak): June 4, June 5
- Stephen Puddicombe: May 21, May 22
- Nancy Wood (currently a national reporter for CBC television from Montreal, and a former host of Radio Noon): May 4, May 5
Shawn Apel is the first temporary host to take over the Mike’s mic on Monday morning.
UPDATE (July 15): The Gazette’s Mike Boone suggests it should be a woman in the host chair. Wood, Campbell, Sonali Karnick and Anne Lagacé-Dowson are mentioned as possible candidates.
Mike Finnerty, the host of Daybreak on CBC Radio One in Montreal, announced this morning that he will be leaving the show at the end of June and moving to London (England, the good London) to take a new job as multimedia news editor for The Guardian.
The reasons are mostly personal. Finnerty’s partner moved with him to Montreal when he took the Daybreak job in late 2006, but had trouble finding work here. Finnerty’s partner got a new job back in London, and Finnerty decided two and a half years was enough sacrifice to ask of someone else.
Mike Finnerty leaving CBC Daybreak (MP3, 6:05)
Both of them came here from London when Finnerty was tapped for the Daybreak job to replace veteran Dave Bronstetter. He worked at BBC World Services for 10 years, and before that he was a radio reporter for CBC in Quebec City and Montreal. Lest anyone question his loyalties, the Esterhazy, Sask. native told The Gazette’s Kathryn Greenaway in 2007 that he still wants to be buried in Montreal. I assume that sentiment still applies.
Who wants to host a morning talk show?
Finnerty says that although the Daybreak crew has known about this departure for months, they don’t know who will be replacing him in the show’s anchor chair.
The job has a lot of exposure, but also involves a lot of work. Getting up at 3:30 every weekday morning is a deal-breaker for me (you know, in case they were considering me for the job).
So who should jump into the big chair now? With the budget crunch hitting the corporation, acquiring a high-paid external candidate would probably not look too good, and there are plenty of capable people from within the organization.
Two names that jump immediately to mind are Steve Rukavina, who has been a temporary host of Radio Noon and seemed to connect with some listeners until Sue Smith was given the job, and Sonali Karnick, who has been the hardest-working person in that office for years now and is currently on the sports beat for Daybreak. Both are young, dedicated, and most importantly adorable.
UPDATE: Brendan Kelly (who double dips as a Daybreak columnist) writes about Finnerty’s decision in The Gazette.