Mike Finnerty returns to CBC Daybreak (UPDATED)

Mike Finnerty ad from his last Daybreak stint

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 new face on the Daybreak home page

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.

15 thoughts on “Mike Finnerty returns to CBC Daybreak (UPDATED)

  1. Anonymous

    From the bullshi* and bafflegab department at CBC:

    -“I take responsibility for the different mind and voice”
    -” It will sound a lot pacier”
    -“It will deliver more of the crucial Montreal info you need more efficiently”
    -“it will frontload that information tucked up to the end of our half-hourly newscasts”
    -“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.”
    Hey Mike, here’s a thought.
    Speak English, be relevant.
    Its actually quite simple, the hard part is delivering the goods, which in radio I think is still attracting listeners, none of whom speak like you.

    1. AlexH

      he can frontload the crucial pacier information into a montreal need to know different mind and voice.

      Yeah, let me just tune in for that spew. Everyone wonders why the CBC is always a second class citizen, gee…

  2. Maria Gatti

    I do hope that people without cellphones will be able to send in comments by e-mail and have them received as quickly as those who send text messages. I work mostly at home and have no need of a cell phone, and no interest in buying any techno gadgets I don’t use for work.

    Oh please, Mike, I’ve been a faithful Guardian reader for years, but can do without stuff about its “brand”. Please eschew business buzzwords.

  3. Singlestar

    “It will deliver more of the crucial Montreal info you need”.
    He sounds like an AM Radio cassette already.

  4. Doc Brown

    I can’t wait. Oh, hold on a sec, yes, I can wait.

    More Twitter, more Facebook, more from the listeners. Finnerty interviews the mayor, the principal of McGill and his own boss. Yeah, sounds really different. Groundbreaking. Yaaaaawwwwwwnnnnnnn!

    Daybreak has everything BUT original ideas, truly listenable on-air banter and an engaging personality to host the show. Dull. Dull. Dull.

    Nothing to see (or hear) here, move along.

  5. Singlestar

    This morning Mike sounded rushed. He hardly gave some of the people he was questioning time to answer before racing onto the next question. Nice way to treat people who agree to talk to you at some ungodly hour in the morning.

    1. Chris

      He is a lousy interviewer – always has been – no matter how much he said he would change when coming back.

      Switch to NPR – 107.9 – they know what they are doing.

  6. Jim J.

    I haven’t listened to Monday’s Daybreak daily podcast yet – am intending do that during the evening commute tonight. I intend to give this about three days’ worth of effort to see if I will become a regular listener again.

    Finnerty didn’t ask [Paradis] 10 times if he was going to resign.

    If this is true, right there you’ve got quite an improvement. It’s a stupid question, posed by interviewers who value sensationalism over substance.

    As if any minister of the crown (or any elected official, for that matter) is going to announce, on air in response to an interviewer’s question, that s/he is going to resign.

    1. Jim J.

      Sooo…I listened to the Daybreak daily podcast for his first day back. Specifically, interviews with Mayor Tremblay and Brian Gionta, a story about the improved availability of MRI procedures for certain ailments, and some light banter between Finnerty, Lacombe and Landry.

      It was OK. He was never whiny or plaintive, which by itself is a pleasant improvement. I can see how some would characterize his questions to Tremblay as softball-ish, but I’m not sure it was intended to be a hard-hitting interview on his first day back. Finnerty gently challenged the mayor on a few things, but it was mostly an amiable interview.

      I’ll be interested in hearing the interview with the new SPVM chief of police, to see if that is any more contentious.

      Perhaps M. Finnerty took some very legitimate criticisms to heart, and maybe he listened to a bit of BBC Radio 4 and how they conduct interviews persistently and aggressively, without coming across as if the interviewer was personally offended by (non)responses.

  7. Maria Gatti

    I don’t like René Homier-Roy very much, so I don’t see what other choice I’d have (other than CBC or Radio-Canada Radio2, and I do like some news in the morning). I HATE commercial radio full of loud ads for products I want no part of, and unfortunately don’t find any of the community or campus morning radio shows really up to par. I do listen to community and campus radio, but shows on more specific topics.

  8. lower laurentians gal

    It’s awful. I am up at 5:30 and cannot stand the newspaper banter. It’s not happening at Daybreak 88.5 FM; it’s a dud.

  9. jonesy

    Finnerty is a bad host, whose interviews seem pervaded by bitterness, and confrontation at inappropriate moments. At the same it’s true that the format is limiting by itself. The quick pace is not “nimble” it is aggravating. Even if it is oriented towards people going to work, does that mean the entire program should be weather forecasts, traffic updates, and previews of upcoming weather forecasts?

  10. steve

    I left montreal about the same time finnerty did. I really disliked him as a host. Basically, every time he interviewed someone he would ask some shockingly backward question, and I would be in disbelief that someone would ask such a stupid/inappropriate question. One of the worst hosts on CBC, which is saying something. I moved not long after he left and had stopped listening by then, and it was a bad surprise to hear him on the current as guest host (I might add that he couldn’t do worse that Tremonti, neither current nor well-informed). Even worse that he reappeared as daybreak host when I tuned in during a visit back to mtl. Rant over.


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