Nancy Wood is coming back.
Two years after being removed from her job as host of Daybreak on CBC Radio, Wood has been given the job of late anchor on CBC television. She will replace Amanda Margison, who is leaving Montreal to move to London, Ont.
An exact start date is still to be determined, but the change is expected to happen by the end of the month. UPDATE: Wood’s first shift was Monday, April 23. You can see video of it here.
Wood has spent the past two years working in a special capacity at Radio-Canada’s investigative show Enquête, doing stories for them but also repurposing Enquête’s stories for English television (you know, all those “CBC/Radio-Canada investigations”). Wood told me yesterday that it was clear when the project was renewed for a second season last year that this would be its last, so she’s been preparing to return to the English side for some time.
With the opening of the late anchor position, Wood said it was a convenient way of bringing her back without causing any disruption to other positions or bumping anyone out of a job.
CBC’s union rules allow Wood to return to her old job of national television reporter based in Montreal if the anchor job doesn’t work out. It’s what kept her at the CBC after losing the Daybreak job and what she had planned to do before news of the late anchor vacancy came up.
I asked Wood whether being on a 10-minute late newscast was better for her professionally than being a regular reporter for national news. She pointed out the advantage of being a daily presence on local television versus a letter and more intermittent one nationally. She also said being a national reporter can often mean being told on a moment’s notice to run off to some distant corner of the province to report on a breaking story. Being an anchor is more predictable in terms of work hours and location.
But there are downsides to the new job, she admitted. With a shift ending at 11:15pm, it means not being able to spend weeknights at home with her two teenage kids, and only seeing them in the mornings, when they are much less verbal, as any parent can attest.
Wood said she’d also be a bit sad about not being able to work on long features like the stories she’s doing for Enquête. She just came back to Montreal from Louisiana, where she worked on her final story, expected to come out next week. After that, she’ll move to the English side. (UPDATE: Her final investigative story has come out, about the health risks of an anti-malaria drug given to Canadian soldiers)
It was actually Wood who used the R word first in our conversation, pointing out that part of her job will be to try to boost the ratings of the late newscast, sandwiched between The National and George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight.
Wood’s departure from Daybreak reportedly had a lot to do with the show’s ratings with her at the helm.
When asked whether she’s worried about ratings, Wood said it would be nice to see a boost, but that will depend more on how much promotion of the show will be done using the usual means as well as during advertising breaks of The National.
I’m sure it’s a coincidence, but I can’t help noticing how the timing of Wood’s job change matches that of CBC Quebec boss Pia Marquard. Though it’s unclear what role Marquard played in removing Wood from Daybreak, the move happened as she took over the job, and many CBC listeners angry over Wood’s removal blamed Marquard directly. Wood’s move back to a more public role happens just as Marquard is leaving the post for health reasons.
CBC Montreal News Director Mary-Jo Barr couldn’t be reached for comment last Friday and has since left on a two-week vacation. I’ll try to talk to her when she comes back. UPDATE (April 18): CBC Montreal News Director Mary-Jo Barr had nothing but praise for Wood. She also noted when I talked to her that Marquard was instrumental in Wood being given the late anchor job.
As for Margison, she confirmed she’s “moving on” but didn’t offer much comment on the matter, beyond her surprise that the news came out via Twitter.
“There are no secrets any more,” she writes in an email.
Not when it comes to anchors, I’m afraid.
Daigle, Marandola hired for weekend newscast
Meanwhile, the second of two jobs opened as a result of the impending expansion into weekends have been filled. Sabrina Marandola will be taking over the job of weekend weather presenter.
The move is hardly a surprise. Marandola has often acted as a backup to Frank Cavallaro.
Marandola joins Thomas Daigle, who was named to the anchor position last week.
UPDATE (April 18): Barr heaped the praise on both Daigle and Marandola, saying how thrilled CBC is to have them in these roles. Barr said Daigle, who has no previous anchoring experience, is nevertheless “a really strong live reporter” who is “engaging on camera, a great communicator”. Marandola, who started backing up Cavallaro around Christmas, is “dynamic and engaging” and “really has a love and passion for weather,” Barr said.
I asked Barr, because of Wood’s history, whether ratings would factor in to how these anchors are evaluated. Barr said that of course ratings are important (“that’s why we’re here,” she said), but that there are no expectations on anchors when it comes to ratings numbers.
The newscasts – 6pm-6:30pm on Saturdays and 10:55pm-11:05pm on Sundays – start May 5.