Camille Ross, who three and a half years ago launched Global Montreal’s morning show, is leaving the station and the city to move with her new husband to London, Ont.
Ross made the announcement on the show Wednesday morning. Her last show is Thursday.
She hasn’t announced what she’ll be doing in her new home, though she said she would stay in the broadcasting/journalism world. Global doesn’t have a station in London, though CTV does, and Ross worked at CTV before joining Global.
That’s what Leah Lipkowitz, a columnist with Global Montreal’s Morning News, commented on the review I gave the show earlier this month. I’d heard the same thing from people involved with the show before its launch and even on the air.
It’s a common refrain from people behind new projects, particularly when budgets are tight. I’m never quite sure how to handle it.
It’s not that I want to be mean, or that I don’t understand that new shows improve over time. Rather, it’s that my reviews of these things are about the viewer, and viewers aren’t going to stick around for weeks to see if a new TV series is good or not. They’ll tune in the first day, maybe stick around an hour or two if they really want to evaluate it, and then they’ll make their decision whether it’s worth their time.
Broadcasters know this, which is why they do rehearsals before they go to air. Why even bother with the rehearsals if you’re going to build a show on the fly?
So as much as I would have been happy to wait a week, a month or six months before evaluating Global Montreal Morning News, I know that you only get one chance to make a first impression, and I have to evaluate it based on that.
“If we do a good job, people will watch, and the show will last forever.”
That’s what Karen Macdonald, Global Montreal’s station manager, said during an interview on the first episode of Global Montreal Morning News, that aired on Jan. 28. She commented on the growing pains the show was experiencing, and its technical challenges. She mentioned “a few occasions when we’ve been a little bit slow to come back from commercial, but that’s the only problem we’ve had this morning.”
It gives the impression of a show that is largely successful but has the usual small wrinkles to iron out.
Unfortunately, the technical problems with Global Montreal Morning News are far bigger than mere wrinkles. In the eight episodes that have aired so far as I write this, there have been multiple instances of nothing happening for more than 30 seconds, one case where the show ended a full two minutes early and just showed contact information and a cityscape for that time, and countless examples of awkward pauses, mistimed cues, wrong audio, over/underexposure, drifting cameras, wrong graphics, incomplete graphics, and just about every other technical problem you can imagine.
And the frequency and severity of these technical problems isn’t going down.
There are two possible causes of this problem: too few people in the control room, or the people who are there aren’t sufficiently trained. There’s a strong argument for the second, since the people hired are all new to the software being used (and have limited control-room experience). But my suspicion is that the former is the real cause, and if so no amount of experience will fix it.
Global has sung the praises of Mosart, the automated control room technology that is allowing them to put this show on the air with only three people at the controls (a producer and two directors). But the lack of specialized functions like an audio technician or a graphics director or a robotic camera operator is immensely apparent. The technical staff are overloaded with work and it’s clear they’re desperately trying to catch up to live TV.
The technical problems are making the show look bad, and in particular the on-air staff, who have to deal with visuals that don’t appear or are incorrect, cues that never come through or awkward delays between the time they stop talking and the beginning of a commercial break, story package or cut to another camera.
I’d compile a best-of package, but (a) 30 seconds of black screen isn’t very interesting visually, (b) It’s too depressing, and (c) I’m holding out hope that they’ll eventually improve to the point where the show is watchable.
Instead, I’ll leave you with this example, taken from an episode of the second week of the show, to give you an idea what goes on the air on a regular basis:
Global Montreal morning show cast, from left: Richard Dagenais, Jessica Laventure, Camille Ross
How do you compete with someone who outperforms you on budget, staff, technical resources, consumer loyalty and reputation? The short answer is you don’t.
As another ratings report comes out confirming CTV Montreal’s incredible dominance of the local TV news ratings, Global Montreal was doing its final rehearsals for a new morning show that launches on Monday. As Montreal doesn’t have a local morning show in English, it will have that market all to itself, at least until August when City starts up its morning show here.
But even with the million dollars a year that Shaw has promised this show to get it off the ground over the next five years, its resources are limited. Global Montreal has added only eight jobs for this show, on-air staff and technical people combined. It won’t have its own news team scouring the city for scoops (unless it steals reporters from the evening newscasts, which are already understaffed). It won’t look like Canada AM, which is still popular in Montreal.
Part of the station’s strategy for building an audience has been a focus on the anglophone community. In essence, it’s treating anglo Montreal as if it’s its own small town, going after the smaller stories that don’t make the same kinds of headlines.
That’s easier said than done, though. CTV’s news operation is still far larger, and Global can’t ignore the top stories of the day to indulge in community reporting. Global Montreal doesn’t have a sports department so it can’t really cover varsity sports. It doesn’t have the kinds of coverage of arts, entertainment and lifestyle stories that you’ll find on CTV News or even CBC News, so it has to be very picky about where it uses its resources, and its goal of making this the home of anglo Montrealers (rather than just an English-language newscast) is far from complete.
With a morning show, this community focus will become more apparent. The biggest aspect of this we know already is that the weather presenter, Jessica Laventure, will be doing her weather segments from a location on the West Island. This will plant the station’s flag there, allowing people to come by and interact with it, as well as show West Island residents watching from home that they’re close, at least geographically.
The three-hour show, from 6am to 9am weekdays, was a promise that Shaw made to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission when it purchased the former Canwest television assets, including Global Television, in 2010. (The promise was for a minimum of 10 hours a week, or two hours a day, so it’s nice that they’re adding the extra hour.) This is in addition to the evening newscasts at 6pm and 11pm which will continue to run (though the latter needs to find a new anchor).
The new face here is Jessica Laventure, who will be doing weather. She was a morning host at MétéoMédia, and before that worked at Global Quebec as a production assistant, reporter and host of the weekly QC Magazine. She also does a weekend show at Boom FM. But I know her best as a former teachers’ assistant at Concordia University’s journalism program, where she taught kids not much younger than herself how to use fun electronic equipment (myself included).
Global bills this as “the city’s only locally-produced English-language morning show”, which is true, but also conveniently leaves out the fact that competition is right around the corner. City Montreal, as CJNT will be known when its acquisition by Rogers is complete, is also launching a local morning show by September, which will go head-to-head with Global’s. Will the six-month head start make the difference for Global? We’ll see.
Shaw has promised a total of at least $5 million for the Global Montreal morning show through 2016-17, or about $1 million a year, second only to Toronto, which was promised $3 million a year. (This is the total of special funding and does not necessarily represent their entire budgets.) Shaw said the goal is to make the shows sustainable so they will keep running even after the special funds run out in 2017.
We’ve seen our first such move already: CTV Montreal reporter Camille Ross has been hired by Global to join their new morning show set to launch this spring.
Global News spokesperson Nick Poirier confirmed the news on Thursday, saying she will be joining the cast of the new show, but wouldn’t get into details because they weren’t ready to announce just yet.
Ross herself wouldn’t comment on the news, instead referring to Poirier for comment.
Ross grew up in Toronto and went to Ryerson University. She worked at the CTV station in Yorkton, Sask., and Global News in Regina before coming to Montreal to fill a maternity leave at CFCF.
CTV Montreal News Director Jed Kahane said he understood Ross’s motivations, pointing out that she was a freelancer for CTV when she left, and the prospect of full-time employment was an opportunity too good to pass up. Kahane said CTV wishes her well, in that way every employer wishes their former employees well in their future endeavours.
Kahane said CTV still has a rich bank of freelancers that it can continue to rely on to cover the news.