Updated Aug. 30 with comments from Marandola.
CBC Montreal has found a permanent replacement for Sue Smith, who departed its afternoon radio show Homerun at the end of June. And not only a new host, but a new name and a new focus.
Let’s Go with Sabrina Marandola, which starts Tuesday (still 3-6pm weekdays), will focus on the local community, according to the CBC’s story on the subject:
This is going to be a show that will leave people feeling informed and upbeat about their city. I think many people are tired of being inundated with bad news. Let’s Go will delve into the important issues we all care about, but will bring you stories of people who are trying to find solutions and make a difference.
Part of that sounded like either a rebranding exercise or an attempt to replace hard news with more fluffy feel-good stuff, so I asked Marandola about it.
“I really feel people are really tired of negative news, and I speak to a lot of people (who say) I really tune out of the news, it’s really negative a lot of the time,” she told me. “I want to really leave people with an upbeat feeling about the place where they live.”
Marandola insists they will still be tackling the hard news, not just in the regular newscasts (which won’t change) but in the show’s segments as well.
“We’re still talking about the issues that matter to people. It’s really just the angle we choose to cover.”
She gave an example of spring flooding in Quebec. On Homerun, the instinct might be to find a flood victim to interview, to talk about the financial and emotional toll of the devastation. But with Let’s Go, Marandola prefers to talk to someone who can help listeners with information, on how to get compensation from the government, for example.
It’s more about solutions than problems.
“Homerun, it did a lot of that already,” she noted. “With this new show, I want that to be our focus. That is the thread throughout the show. With Homerun it kind of organically happened.”
Another focus of Let’s Go will be meeting new people and learning new things.
“One of the questions we’ll be asking ourselves in the morning meeting is: Are we meeting someone new? I want to meet someone new every day,” Marandola said.
She also wants to have more panel discussions, featuring people at a table who don’t normally talk to each other much. Like a millennial and a senior. Trying to find common ground between them.
And she wants to talk about Montreal beyond its anglo hot spots of the west end and West Island. Coming from the east end, she knows “there’s huge English-speaking communities there,” along with places like Châteauguay, Laval and Brossard.
“I want to bring stories from all different places of the Montreal area,” she said.
The basic structure of the show, with news, weather and traffic reports, and regular columnists including Duke Eatmon (music) and Douglas Gelevan (sports) won’t change. Nor will the people behind the scenes, including producer Allan Johnson.
But one addition to the team is a transportation columnist, Akil Alleyne. (He was one of the reporters that launched CityNews Montreal. Even though that was only a year ago, most of that group has already moved on. Andrew Brennan and Emily Campbell were recently hired by CTV Montreal.) Once a week, he’ll be filing a story about some transportation issue, talking to commuters or answering questions from them.
With the recent launch of electric Bixis, for example, Marandola said Alleyne would try them out and offer a perspective on how it works and whether it would be useful for listeners.
So why the name change? Marandola didn’t choose the name. That was higher up the chain.
“We researched a bunch of names,” explained Debbie Hynes, regional manager of communications for CBC. “One of the things we liked about this name, and the audience liked about it, it’s the idea of movement,” which works for the time of day when parents are picking up kids from school or heading home after work.
Marandola, who saw a list of potential show names during the process, said Let’s Go was, coincidentally, “kind of a catchphrase in our (very Italian) family,” and fits her well.
All hail the CBC PM radio queens ? pic.twitter.com/GHU5g6MrrL
— Kamila Hinkson (@kamilahinkson) August 30, 2019
I talked to her shortly after she had a chance meeting with former Homerun host Sue Smith, who came into the office unannounced on Friday. She told me that while they’ve been in touch over the past few weeks, Marandola hadn’t gotten any advice from Smith (and of course, it’s her show, she’s not trying to replicate Smith), but she’d try to corner her before she leaves.
“I really already miss Sue. It’s so strange being here and not hearing her laugh or seeing her in the office.”
The new show has a Twitter account, @LetsGoCBC.
Let’s Go with Sabrina Marandola airs weekdays 3-6pm on CBC Radio One in Montreal, starting Sept. 3.