Tag Archives: CBC Radio Montreal

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).

Nancy Wood saga isn’t going away quietly (UPDATED with CBC bullshit)

It’s been a rough few days, that’s for sure. I am really heartened to see the support I have, especially from listeners. I can’t tell you how much I love hosting Daybreak. I just wish the CBC loved me half as much. I guess I’ll never really know why they don’t want me.

– Nancy Wood, Feb. 22

Nancy Wood hasn’t said much since she learned almost a month ago that she was being pulled from the host chair at Daybreak. Part of that is because Wood has never been one to draw too much attention to herself (at least, that’s the impression I get from listening to her), and part of it is that there are still discussions happening behind the scenes – and CBC employees have been told not to talk to the media.

The short note above is all she wrote to me when I asked her about this whole thing almost three weeks ago. On Twitter, where she has a personal account, only this tweet, saying she’d be glad to return to her job, but providing no new details about what’s going on. On her Facebook account (which isn’t open to non-friends), similarly cryptic messages.

Even though I’ve never conversed with Wood in person, those brief crumbs of thought tug at my heartstrings. Here we have a veteran journalist and a professional radio host who is being forced from her dream job and doesn’t even know why. It’s been reported that Wood was hospitalized for stress, and while I haven’t confirmed that (and it’s really none of my business), the emotional impact this has had on her seems pretty apparent.

Continue reading

CBC dumps Nancy Wood from Daybreak

Nancy Wood ponders future job as hot dog salesperson (from Fagstein files)

I first got a tip about this a few days ago, but was awaiting confirmation and more details. With a story in The Gazette, the news is out there: CBC is removing Nancy Wood from her position as host of Daybreak, as of June.

The corporation had wanted to keep the news quiet until Wood made the announcement on air, but after staff were informed earlier this week, it was just a matter of time until it came out. (To their credit, some of my usual CBC leaks kept their mouths shut.)

Wood tells The Gazette that it wasn’t her decision to leave, which matches what I’ve been told: the decision came from management, and the reasons aren’t clear.

The news also comes the same week the CBC announces a new regional manager for Quebec: Pia Marquard, who starts on Monday. Though one CBC employee told me they were told Marquard had nothing to do with the decision to axe Wood. Marquard replaces Rob Renaud, who was filling in. One angry employee found it ridiculous that such an important decision would be made while essentially nobody’s in charge.

Needless to say, the mood at CBC Montreal plummeted with the news this week. Another employee described the work environment there as “toxic”. Wood herself stepped back from the host mic after the decision was announced, only returning on Friday (Shawn Apel filled in).

Wood was hired as the permanent host of Daybreak only last August. She replaced Mike Finnerty, who left last summer for London’s Guardian website.

Has CBC gone mad?

Nancy Wood, CBC Daybreak

To call the decision bizarre would be an understatement. Wood has an incredible amount of experience, both in journalism in general and specifically at CBC. Before taking the Daybreak post, she was a reporter for CBC television out of Montreal, and before that she was the host of the province-wide Radio Noon. As I wrote in August, Wood was a shoo-in for the Daybreak job, which makes it even more ridiculous that she would be yanked from that post.

During her brief tenure, she continued Finnerty’s tech-friendly improvements to the show, which included using Twitter and Facebook, accepting emails and text messages during the show, and producing a daily podcast. As a regular listener to that podcast, I can attest to the fact that Wood is professional yet personable, and certainly has no flaws that would warrant such a decision.

It’s not clear what will happen to Wood, though she hasn’t been fired from CBC. She may return to her previous job as a TV reporter.


So why is Nancy Wood being pulled out of the Daybreak chair? CBC isn’t talking, and the person in a position to answer these kinds of questions doesn’t start her new job until Monday.

If this were a commercial station, the first place I would look is ratings. I don’t have access to detailed numbers, so until someone leaks them to me, I won’t be able to tell you much. One former CBC radio host told me ratings are probably a major factor in a case like this.

But even if the answer is ratings, so what? Wood hasn’t had a chance to build an audience in the morning, and this decision is more likely to alienate listeners than attract them. This is CBC, not CHOM. Supposedly the one place outside of community and campus radio where there’s a consideration more important than ratings.

The candidates

CBC hasn’t announced who it plans to replace Wood with (they haven’t announced she’s leaving either, technically), and the staff doesn’t know yet.

I’ll copy and paste some suggestions from my post after Finnerty left, linking to Daybreak podcasts (all MP3) from fill-in hosts last summer. Not to look down on them, but I honestly don’t see any of them improving upon Wood:

To that list I’d add Steve Rukavina, who has filled in for departed hosts, and Sonali Karnick, currently the Daybreak sports reporter and one of the hardest working people in that office. Both are professionals and would make good hosts, but would also suffer from a comparison to Wood.

“Boneheads, boneheads, boneheads!”

A Facebook group has been started to keep Nancy Wood on Daybreak. It has 17 80 369 members right now (including myself, though that’s more to keep tabs on it than to participate in any campaign). There’s also some commentary on the show’s Facebook page.

Radio watcher Sheldon Harvey has some comments as well on the news, which he calls “extremely disappointing.”

UPDATE (Feb. 21): The Gazette quotes Wood’s personal Facebook page saying she and the CBC are “in talks” but “nothing inspiring.” The International Radio Report on CKUT (hosted this week by Harvey) also quotes from Wood’s Facebook (MP3) and the brief, cryptic messages that appear there, including that it was not a “they” but a “she” (Marquard?) that made the decision to remove her, and that no, this is not a joke, she’s been “canned.”

UPDATE (Feb. 22): Rukavina filled in for Wood on this morning’s show and apparently will for the remainder of the week. No mention of this story at all during the first Daybreak show since The Gazette broke it Friday evening.

UPDATE (Feb. 24): Gazette pop culture columnist Basem Boshra on Wood’s dismissal:

Hey, guys, nice work finally getting rid of that Nancy Wood from Daybreak. I’m getting so sick already of hearing her warm, intelligent, engaging voice in the mornings. Can’t wait until she’s gone in June – it feels like she’s been on the air for, like, months! Definitely time for a change. And, hey, I don’t want to tell you how to run your business, but if you’re looking for smarter, more entertaining voices to anchor your flagship show, I hear Ted Bird and the equally hilarious Tasso are still looking for work. Think of all the wacky impressions!

UPDATE (Feb. 25): Mike Boone and Doug Camilli also weigh in, along with a bunch of letters to the editor.

Those who want to complain are being sent to Communications Manager Hugh Brodie, hugh.brodie@cbc.ca or 514-597-5813.

CBC’s Homerun expands to three hours

There wasn’t much in the way of big announcements, but CBC Radio One’s local afternoon show Homerun has been expanded to three hours from two. It’s now 3-6pm instead of 4-6pm, starting today (Sept. 1).

The expansion comes at the expense of national programming including Spark with Nora Young and Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald.

Fortunately, all these shows are available on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. You can see a full schedule here (PDF) (which hasn’t yet been updated with the extended Homerun).

The move is part of that big CBC “renewal” effort to focus more on local programming but with less money to do so.

In Quebec City and elsewhere in the province, the afternoon program Breakaway is unaffected yet. It continues from 4-6pm.

It’s also worth noting for those who haven’t tuned in in a while that Radio Noon, the province-wide call-in show, is one hour long when it used to be two hours. So this additional hour of Homerun simply brings the station back to the same amount of programming it had last year.

Sue Smith takes over CBC’s Radio Noon

Sue Smith

Sue Smith

CBC Montreal has announced that Sue Smith, currently the host of CBC Television’s Living Montreal program, will take over as the host of Radio Noon on CBC Radio One. Her first show as its permanent host will be one month from today, on March 16.

Radio Noon, which airs across Quebec from noon to 2pm weekdays, has been without a permanent host since Anne Lagacé-Dowson left to run as a candidate for the NDP in a federal by-election. They’ve been trying to fill it since August while relying on guest hosts, most recently Steve Rukavina.

McDonnell on Daybreak

CBC Daybreak this morning explored newspapers vs. the Internet, and interviewed local blogueuse Kate McDonnell as well as Linkie Giuseppe Valiante. The interview is online (sadly, in streaming RealAudio format) on CBC’s website.

Both McDonnell and Valiante agree that local news outlets have to focus on local news, because international news is so accessible.

Welcome Daybreak listeners

(or, at least, those who hear about a website in the morning and make a note to visit a half hour later)

In case you missed it, I was invited by CBC Daybreak to come in and give them an analysis of blog coverage of the federal election campaign (my super-secret project). I was originally supposed to go on yesterday, but with the debate going long I was bumped to today.

Unfortunately, in the first time in months (years?) that I’ve taken a metro train during morning rush hour, I experienced four separate delays (one of which had me stuck in the tunnel). I practically had a heart attack, knowing full well that radio deadlines aren’t flexible by even a second.

I gave up at Laurier metro as the lights went out in the train, and hurried outside to let the producer know I wasn’t there. They quickly decided to do the interview by (pay)phone. (One thing payphones still have over cellphones is that, because they don’t have to compress their data into compact wireless streams, the sound is much clearer and more radio-friendly. Not as good as in-studio, but desperate times…)

As I told host Mike Finnerty, I don’t blame the STM for the delays, which were due in part to technical problems and because of the traffic tie-ups those problems create. But I wasn’t thrilled with the transit corporation this morning, that’s for sure. (And, of course, the trip back home was entirely uneventful)

Anyway, we talked about this blog (it’s really a place for any opinions I like to give on anything, though I focus specifically on the media, public transit, stuff going on in the news, blogs, and of course myself. You can also read what I’ve written about the federal election so far.

We also got into the meat of the matter (though six minutes goes by so fast when you’re talking about stuff), discussing blogosphere reaction to Elizabeth May in the debates, as well as a video by Justin Trudeau (and the parody of that video by Prenez Garde Aux Chiens, whose season premiere is tonight at 10pm on Canal Vox) that has been making the rounds in the blogosphere recently.

I’ll try to get a clip of the segment up soon.

Daybreak hosts debate in Papineau riding

CBC Daybreak (the radio morning show) is coming literally around the corner from my apartment later this morning, and hosting a live debate between candidates in the Papineau riding, including Liberal Justin Trudeau, starting just after 7am (88.5FM).

Rumour on the street is, after the debate (around 8:15 or so), (UPDATE: Bumped to tomorrow at 7:40 because the candidates couldn’t keep their mouths shut) they’ll be bringing in some know-it-all journalist wannabe to talk about blogs or something.

Worth getting up early for… (again).

UPDATE: Daybreak has the debate up as a podcast (mp3).

Frank McCormick retires from CBC Radio

Exactly one week ago as I write this, Frank McCormick read his last newscast for CBC Radio One in Montreal.

Though you might not recognize the name if you’re not a die-hard fan, you’ve probably heard his voice. McCormick, who has worked in radio for more than four decades, has a booming made-for-radio-news voice that’s given the station an air of authority for years now.

On CBC’s Homerun last week, the final half-hour of the broadcast (after his final news report of the afternoon) was dedicated to celebrating his life and career.

The website has archived both the newscast and the half-hour special for those who want to listen after the fact. Unfortunately they’re in streaming RealAudio format (RealAudio? Seriously?), and my efforts to convert it into something else have failed:

The STM transit strike is over (for now)

STM maintenance workers are voting to approve an agreement in principle, ending Montreal’s strike after four days. The union’s executive has ordered employees back to work immediately. Service will resume slowly, with partial service tonight (they’ll get as many buses out as they can) and full service expected to resume tomorrow morning.

CBC Radio crack reporter Catherine Cullen is flirting with Bernie St-Laurent at the union meeting and reports the following:

  • No deal has been reached on a contract. In fact, both sides are still at a stalemate, so the agreement only covers ending the strike and sending everyone back to work.
  • The STM would reimburse transit users $3.50 ($2 for reduced passes) on their September passes to compensate for the reduced service.
  • Montreal Museums Day is still on for Sunday and will have the free shuttle provided by the STM, however there will be only one transfer site at the Journal de Montréal on Frontenac.

Meanwhile, an hour after the strike was declared over, the English online media is still silent, despite the thousands of Montrealers who need to know how they’re getting home tonight (and couldn’t care less whether the government falls tomorrow, unless it’s through a coup). The CBC.ca story sits unchanged since 3:25, and The Gazette and CTV (can someone get them a copy of WordPress so they can build a real website?) still say it’s a deal in principle but the strike isn’t over.

Of course, it’s all an academic point I suppose. Everyone knows Fagstein is the city’s most trusted source for STM-strike-related information.