CBC finally picks Daybreak host, and it’s … Mike Finnerty?

Now CBC will need to put a giant Mike Finnerty poster on top of this Mike Finnerty poster which covers a Mike Finnerty poster

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.”

Aggressive? Me?

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).

31 thoughts on “CBC finally picks Daybreak host, and it’s … Mike Finnerty?

  1. Phil Monk

    As happy as I was when he left, I am that disappointed and in despair right now. What a horrible choice!

    He drove me away from Daybreak the last time as I am sure he will do again as he drains the life out of everyone around him for however far the broadcast signal can emit soundwaves.

  2. Justin Knotzke

    Get ready for more really hard hitting, muckraking stories involving metro tickets.

    CBC Radio 2 never sounded so good in the morning.

    Very poor choice.

  3. Chris

    Sorry – but I’m not going to “behave” just because he reads this blog.

    I stopped listening to CBC morning when Mike was on the air, It was dull.

    I started listening again when Nancy was on. When she was given the boot (or whatever the hell they did to her) I stopped listening again and have not been back. This news means NPR is permanently tuned in on my radio.

    I thought they pushed Nancy aside to take things in a different direction, instead they go back to the format that lost the listeners in the first place.

    Well done, CBC…

  4. Soon to Be a Former Daybreak Listener

    Ditto to what Phil Monk said!

    I was thrilled when Finnerty left. I’ll be looking into other morning listening options as of tomorrow morning.

    Thanks, RadioOne.

  5. Shloime Perel

    Regardless of the “host,” I’m sure Daybreak will continue working with the same formula: short interviews, short local newscasts, road conditions for drivers and bits and pieces on film and popular music. It’s as though it’s geared to drivers and others who can only listen for short periods. I believe the whole show should be rethought, with participation from listeners.

    1. Chris

      I agree the entire format should be rethought. Unfortunately, CBC does not listen to it’s listeners, hence Finnerty returning as host.

  6. Jim J.

    I’m of two minds on this….and before I get to deeply into it, I’ll disclose that I only listen to the daily podcast, not the whole show.

    (1) I couldn’t agree more with his statement regarding providing value to listeners – and a broad spectrum of listeners, not just the West Island anglo 55-75 demographic. In fact, I’m almost pleasantly surprised at his candor on this subject. Definitely not what I was expecting, although one would assume that he wouldn’t say, “Gee, I think we should really ought to narrowly cater to that West Island anglo 55-75 demographic.”

    (2) His interviewing style, despite his protestations to the contrary, has the tendency to being overly aggressive, plaintive, and occasionally just plain whiny. It’s as if he’s taking it personally when the subject of the interview doesn’t answer the question to his satisfaction.

    Is he a good interviewer, in the sense that he asks good questions. Yes, I suppose so. His style, though, occasionally leaves much to be desired. I recall one interview he had a few months before the last municipal election…can’t remember the specific person, but it was someone from Union Montreal. And he was relentless – and not in a good way – about the various and sundry investigations that were being conducted into the city government. It was as if he was trying to make a point, rather than to interview. In fact, it was pretty much advocacy journalism. Great for the the McGill Daily (at least when I lived there in the 1990’s); not so good if you want to be taken as a serious journalist instead of an angry person with a microphone.

    Also, he has a habit of sliding in a few pithy editorializing comments while interviewing people, which is incredibly off-putting. If you want to editorialize, fine. But don’t do it in the middle of an interview. CBC is not Mr. Finnerty’s soap-box, and it isn’t his venue for making what some people (well, at least me) would consider snide comments. Personally, I find it rather rude.

    He’s been in the UK for, what, a year now? Hopefully, he’s had the chance to listen to BBC Radio 4 a bit. Take a few lessons from that. They can ask tough, even relentless questions, without making it seem like they have a personal animus towards the subject of the interview.

    So, that’s my $.02. Dial it back a bit. Don’t be whiny. If this is just going to be Mike Finnerty on Daybreak, Part II, then I know I’ll be disappointed pretty quickly.

    This is a golden opportunity. A little reinvention might be called for.

    Good luck, and all the best. I’ll be listening.

    1. Mike Finnerty

      Hey Jim J. – Thanks for the feedback and the constructive comments. I’m listening and reading. And I’m hoping you’ll listen in the fall.

  7. walkerp

    He’s completely missing the point about the “aggressive” critique. Of course we want aggressive questions put to people in power who are evading the question or being indirect. This is what made CBC great back in the day. And I am happy to hear Mike Finnerty taking on tough interview subjects and going after them when they are being dishonest.

    The part that is annoying is when he goes after people who aren’t being evasive, who give a direct answer to a straightforward question on an issue that just isn’t that controversial. He often repeats the same question he just asked in a more forceful voice as if somehow the subject is going to suddenly reveal that indeed the trains are late because of a vast conspiracy by Projet Montreal to disenfranchise West Islanders.

    It does sound like he recognizes the challenge and is a person willing to continue to adjust and learn. So if you are reading Mike, by all means go after the liars and the fakers. Get tough, box them in and make them sweat! But when it is someone who really is just giving you the answer, let it go! You don’t always have to dig for a sensational news bite. Often, we just like to hear the information and the back and forth.

    1. Jim J.

      This is a nice, concise summation. Being relentless in the face of demurring and evasiveness is one thing. Being relentless when you’re faced with a more or less compliant and reasonably forthcoming interview subject just makes you look like either someone with a personal agenda, or a bully.

      One other thing: this inane and ongoing habit (or fetish) about asking people whether they think a minister should resign over some minor irritant or bush-league “scandal.” Please. They’re stupid, softball questions that don’t shed any light, but just appeal to people’s sense of grievance.

  8. Mike Gasher

    I can’t believe this! I guess we’re going to hear more “When I was in the UK …” chatter. Other than top-of-the-hour newscasts, I’ll be moving over to NPR in the mornings too.

  9. Doc Brown

    I hope he brings his umbrella from London because I can guarantee he’ll be walking into a shitstorm in the office at CBC Montreal.

    A lot of his own colleagues aren’t too happy to see him step into the job after the way Nancy got 86ed. And some are even asking whether he was wooed back months ago and THEN Nancy got drop-kicked, with CBC management waiting to announce the move in the middle of July when most of their listeners are on vacation.

    Add to that it’s a totally unclassy career move on his part that confirms the ego-tripping hinted at whenever he opens his mouth to talk about himself, which is often.

    I’ve got ten bucks says he won’t last out the four years. Hell, make it 20.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      with CBC management waiting to announce the move in the middle of July when most of their listeners are on vacation.

      But Nancy Wood was removed from Daybreak months ago. Surely, under your conspiracy theory, they would have waited until now to do that.

      1. Doc Brown

        Steve, you’re making the fatal mistake of assuming CBC management is rational.

        When Nancy was informed she wouldn’t be staying on as host she wasn’t supposed to be removed right away. Management expected her to continue hosting the show through the spring up to the summer break! That’s right, they actually expected her to remain in place for three months after she was told she was no longer wanted! Can you say “humiliation?” How about “lack of respect?”

        It says something for Nancy that she stood up for herself and told them to stuff it…at least initially. Then she had second thoughts and asked to be allowed back on the job so she could finish out her string with some dignity but the bosses closed the door. At least that’s how I heard it. There’s a lot that went on behind those closed doors.

        And that’s where the “conspiracy theory” comes in. And I’m saying SOME are postulating this (believe it or don’t): They dumped Nancy because they already had Mike lined up to come back, as soon as he finished out his commitments in the UK. Because he’s such a big star and so much in demand in Montreal. *ahem*

  10. Ohara

    I have been listening to Radio 2 off and on over the last year. Mostly for the music content.
    Never having been a fan of CBC radio I only listened to Finnerty a couple times before his departure.
    The state of the industry, CBC will be amongst the last stations standing as more stations shut down.

  11. Leslie Alf

    Um, do we want the interview style of Gian Gomeshi on Q? Never has a host been so obsequious towards the guests, and that’s saying something since Gian replaced Sheila Rogers as the most buttkissingest host of a cbc show ever.

    I didn’t mind Mike nearly so much as the Sue Smith creature, who brought down the cbc IQ to the level of say, Q92. (Go back to promoting Botox use please, that was Sue Smith’s niche as a lite lifestyle TV host and she did it perfectly)

    Less laugh-filled chitchat with the other members of the daybreak team, please! How did radio hosting devolve into every communication between hosts must be laugh and giggle-filled? This is a news and information show ferchristsakes.

    ALso, I could do with a lot less “we just got texted,” please! More news and information, please! That’s what we are paying our tax dollars for. Not “lite” entertainment. Not user-generated content.

    And no “Mike has an axe to grind and he’s gonna dam well grind it” style interviews either. Let the listener decide for him/her self if the interviewee is full of it or not. Nasty is not needed, and Mike was frequently nasty.

    Finally, a host needs deep local knowledge, Replacement host Steve Rukivina did not have this. Dare I repeat again that Nancy Wood had all the positive attributes I ever wanted in a CBC radio host? Gawd, she was a amazing.

  12. Doc Brown

    Surprised to see my comments weren’t posted. Was it because I said “shitstorm?” Honestly, I wouldn’t mind it if you changed it to “sh*tstorm” or even “poo-poo storm,” if that’s the problem.

    If that isn’t the problem, I don’t see what else would keep you from posting my comments, particularly as I know whereof I speak, being personally acquainted with all involved in this story, including the senior producer who’s been Mike’s guardian angel from Day One, back when he was a reporter/fill-in host in the mid-90s long before he first f*cked off (oops, there I go again) to London.

    Something you don’t know and the CBC never mentions whenever they’re promoting Mike as the next Saviour of Daybreak: He’s not a Montrealer. In fact, he has spent roughly twice as much time in London as he ever did in Montreal (about 12 years vs. about six in MTL). He’s from Saskatchewan, his French is awful and now he puts on a sliiiiightly British accent whenever he opens his mouth because he thinks that makes him interesting. It doesn’t.

    Because, most importantly, he’s a bore.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      I don’t see what else would keep you from posting my comments

      The fact that I was on vacation is one. Haven’t had a chance to approve comments in a couple of days.

      1. Doc Brown

        Oops. My bad. You deserve a day off from time to time.

        Speaking of which, time for my valium-and-Olvatine nightcap.

  13. carl

    Welcome back Mike. Now tell management to get rid of David Blair.

    He alone makes the show’s credibility take a plunge.

    Mr. Blair should be working in a community radio station to hone his craft.

  14. Maria Gatti

    I like Mike Finnerty. I was systematically listening to CBC (as opposed to Radio-Canada) in the morning when he was at the helm. He was certainlly the least “suburban” of the hosts.

    Though now that the reactionary René-Homier Roy seems not to be at the Radio-Canada show, I’ll keep switching.

    An aside about this. I was gobsmacked to see a shitheat, in 2010, actually blasting Homier-Roy for being gay (if he is, which is absolutely none of my business and nothing to blast people about). What the f?

  15. Francis

    It’s not Mike to blame so much. But the new management…Ms. Pia Macquard is in a leadership role, but has done nothing but follow and be a back-patter…she’s a puppet with no knowledge of local radio or cbc…she gets paid well that’s for sure – and that’s the only thing she’ll stand up for. Otherwise she hasn’t LED any creative decisions on any issue at CBC Montreal – this should be obvious . She must have been prompted by the previous director P Pleshenska (sp?) as her decisions seem to follow her ideas.
    Staffing decisions have nothing to do with caring about listeners and the broadcast result – only who they get along with
    (btw, good advice for new staffers who want to get ahead!)

    1. Alexis

      Mike F is back on Daybreak October 4th.
      Pia tries harder now with “Visions” meetings – very new agey.
      Trying to get tough and rid of traffic guy Connell,
      and too many people still on extended stress leave – Pia thinks this is OK!

  16. Chris

    Mike appears to be doing his own campaigning. I keep reading on blogs and so forth that “he is listening.”

    Why wasn’t he listening the first time??? I think the pivotal moment for me (after countless interviews that were embarrassing even to listen to) was a good-morning fluff piece about a Monopoly game or something, and Finnerty went after the guest as though he was trying to uncover water-gate… Embarrassing.

    I didn’t return to daybreak until I got the word that he had left. Many of my friends and colleagues used to listen to Daybreak. One by one they dropped off while he was the host. I don’t have a single friend left who listens to the CBC.

    I’d like to be kind and provide a second chance, but he didn’t care what the listeners had the first time around, so why should he get a second?? And why a 4 year contract??! If someone is dumb enough to go down a beaten path by rehiring him, then give him 6 months like Nancy and see how he does. They hardly marketed her – she didn’t stand a chance in the ratings!

  17. Maria Gatti

    Alas René-Homier Roy is just away for the summer season… Perhaps someone can convince him to retire?

    Odd, I have several friends who like Finnerty and none who stopped listening because of him – or because of Nancy Wood. Only the current mishmash is annoying them, but other than listening to Radio-Canada, where on earth are they supposed to go? Commercial radio is utterly dreadful, and community radio patchy at best.

  18. Listening from the Lower-Laurentians

    CBC Montreal is not listening to daybreak listeners – you know we the TAXPAYERS!!! When I woke up last September to Nancy Wood’s voice i literally said ‘YAY!’! I have been a fan since her Radio Noon Days. She is a Montrealer; she is fluent in Quebec French; her demeanor is not affectatious; her interviews are strong without being over-the-top. I am very disappointed with Mike Finnerty’s return. He goes overboard in his interviews; I would always cringe. He needs to get a grip and respect the fact that Montreal is not an English-speaking city. Most guests are francophone or allophone and many do not fully understand his English and he does not even try to tone it down. I remember when he interviewed an Italo-Montrealer who won a seat in the Italian Parliament. The guy was hardly an intellectual and English was most probably his 3rd language. Mike cranked up his academic-speak and proceeded to ask the poor guy questions regarding complex geo-political issues. He basically made him look like a fool and I am sure that I am not the only listener to be ticked-off. Mike successfully diminished his credibility. He is snooty and arrogant. Totally unnecessary. DaybBreak is NOT the Fifth Estate. That interview finally turned me off to Mike. You can be well-educated, eloquent and well-read without sounding like a pompous snob. Such an example is Rhodes Scholar, Bill Clinton.

  19. mkr

    I’m delighted Mike is back – just a bit gutted that I am stuck in Halifax with the patronising, locally-blinkered, dull-as-dishwater Don Connolly and his unfortunate sidekick Elizabeth Logan. Talk about parochial. It’s a real pleasure to be listening to Mike on The Current, partly because I think he’s a good journalist, partly because I like the sound of his voice much better than Anna-Maria Tremonti’s. I was so curious to know why he was back that I googled and found this post. I like that Mike was a little adversarial – Daybreak needs to get serious sometimes, and there is such a thing as being too nice, believe it or not, fellow Canadians.
    For the record, I think Nancy Wood is amazing. I was once interviewed by Wood on Radio Noon, and I couldn’t believe how skilled she was: dealing with the phonecalls (including some rather unpleasant ones), interviewing me intelligently, fitting in the news and weather and other announcements as necessary, all at once. She was great. I’ve been a fan ever since. I’m sorry to hear that she was poorly treated and I hope she doesn’t utterly desert the listening/viewing public. Broadcasters of her calibre are few and far between.

  20. Beth

    Mike would be a good host if he never opened his mouth. He likes to talk over people, whether doing interviews or talking with others at the Daybreak table.

  21. kris

    Half a year later and the show which my tax dollars pays for goes from bad to worse. It has become a farce and I cannot take it any longer. Are there any other people out there who feel this way?

    The quality and the content of the programming let alone Mr Finnerty’s mediocrity make me cringe every morning. He seems to have learnt his style of journalism from the Tabloid press in the UK despite his stint with the Guardian.
    He ought to accept that we speak French in this Province but are able to appreciate English and if it weren’t for him would be listening to CBC Montreal.

    Thanks to Mr Finnerty and his insecurities, I have now turned to listening to Vermont Public Radio in the morning or Radio Canada.

    If you feel the same way please write and let’s do something to save English Radio in Quebec.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *