Saturday in The Gazette, I profile Global Montreal (CKMI), the station with Montreal’s third most popular local English-language TV newscast. With that piece is another about ratings for the local newscasts. Despite the generous space devoted to the stories in the paper, there’s plenty of detail I gathered over the past few weeks that didn’t end up in the story. Most is probably only of interest to people who really care about such things anyway.
So as a bonus for my blog readers, some things from my notebook and some meta-discussion about the story:
I have, in the past, been accused of bashing the local Global station, particularly by people who follow me on Twitter.
It’s true. I often use Twitter in particular to point out the errors of others. Not so much out of maliciousness, but out of interest. … Okay, sometimes out of maliciousness. But only when it really deserves it.
But I don’t have any particular beef with Global. I’m an equal-opportunity critic (except maybe when it comes to my employer). I’ve been accused of having crushes on the people I profile and having hate-ons for those I criticize. But my goal is to make everyone better, by recognizing hard work and making sure mistakes don’t go by unnoticed.
I first visited Global Montreal in the summer of 2009, shortly after it moved in to its new offices on the seventh floor of the Dorchester Square building that also houses The Gazette. Global is on the seventh floor (which was once used by The Gazette), The Gazette is on the second and third. The two were under common ownership at the time, and they invited us to a special open house. I went with my camera and had a look around.
I thought I would be incognito, and I was. (My blog was less than half the age it is now.) But near the end Jamie Orchard spotted me and engaged me in conversation, explaining the hard work she and her team do to put together a daily newscast. The things I had said about the station previously on my blog, about its plan to outsource local news production and use fake sets inserted via chroma key, weren’t particularly flattering. Not that it’s easy to sugarcoat when an organization fires three quarters of its staff.
What struck me about our conversation was that they didn’t think I understood the work they do on the daily basis, or might have thought I was blaming them for the quality of their newscast.
I don’t think Global offers Montreal’s best newscast, as the ads say. But that’s not the fault of the staff. The reporters are of high quality, and Orchard is a good anchor. Even Bill Haugland and a staff of Brian Britts couldn’t make a top-notch newscast with such few resources. My criticisms are directed at Global and its owners, who want to spend the bare minimum (I would argue less than that) on local programming so it doesn’t cut too much into the lazy profit it makes from rebroadcasting House, Family Guy and other popular American shows.
Considering the blog post I wrote after my last visit, I wasn’t sure if they’d agree to another one, this one to do a formal profile for The Gazette. I wanted to write something about them because of all the attention paid to their competitors recently, with CFCF getting its new studio and anchor, and CBMT announcing the coming arrival of weekend newscasts.
But Karen Macdonald, CKMI’s station manager, eagerly agreed, and in February I sat down with her in her little corner office for an hour to talk about stuff. After that, I was invited into the tiny studio (it’s about the size of two apartment bedrooms) to witness the broadcast of the half-hour evening news program live, with Jamie Orchard in the anchor chair.
It was a while until I could get the story done, partly because I had to track down a few people to interview, and partly because I had my actual job to do quite a bit.
Reaction to the published story has been positive so far. Jamie Orchard and Anne Leclair seem to think it’s positive, but I was more flattered when the latter referred to it as “accurate”. My goal was to give people a picture of what goes on there, and both sides of the argument about outsourcing production jobs.