The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Local Newscasts sex up in run at CBC

How apropos. One losing team outside. Another inside.

Locked out CBC employees got a break from routine yesterday, when they moved their picket line to the Stadium to bring their message to 30,000 football fans come to see the (mis)fortunes of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. As the lockout heads for Week Five, we got to wondering what pickets talk about as they trudge in circles before an unnoticing public. So we tuned in.

They're NOT talking about the weather.
They're NOT talking about the Great NABET Strike of 1981.
They're NOT talking about the miserable showing of the Bombers this year and whether Jim Daly should be run out of town on a rail. (Oops, sorry. We digress).

One thing they ARE talking about is:


Where's Krista Erickson, the face of CBC news in Manitoba? There's been no sign of the poster girl for CBC Manitoba, anchorgirl extrordinaire last seen just before the work stoppage, filing fluffy stories from Toronto.

After all those months spent perfecting her make-up and getting the studio lighting just right for her, all those posters with her face on them, all the time spent polishing her signature leather outfit... so why no appearance on the line?

Marisa Dragani, her occasional fill-in, was at the Stadium, a 'Locked-Out' sign draped over her. But Krista remains M.I.A. despite the promise of a cool $240 a week for a mere 20 hours of picketing duty.

We're so concerned we've asked some senior Crown Attorneys to help uncover Krista -- her whereabouts, that is. We'll keep you posted.

But, then, she's not the only one missing. So, it appears, was the 'mass' in the "mass picket" held by the locked out employees last week.

If the "mass picket" comes as news to you, it's probably because none of the news agencies in town thought it was important enough to cover. We wondered if the reason was spite, a refusal to comfort a competitor.

Or at least we wondered until the CBC Media Guild posted pictures of the "mass picket". There was hardly anybody there in the pictures.

Maybe, we reasoned, the camera angle was deceptive. But lock-out blogger "Alison from Winnipeg" set us straight. "Dozens" turned up to show their support, she wrote.

Like in the four or five dozen you can count in the pictures.


The heady days of CBC being the cornerstone of local viewing habits was over long ago. One can only imagine the crowd that would have shown their support if a similar rally had taken place in the Sandra Lewis/Kevin Evans era.


Alas, the final nail in that coffin was hammered home a day or two later when the latest BBM ratings came out, forever putting the glory days to rest. Even with the lovely and talented Krista Erickson as their face, Manitobans are rejecting CBC's version of news, information and journalism en masse.

This past summer, Canada Now had 16,900 viewers. That's a slippage from 22,800 in 2004. And for you mathematacally challenged readers, that's a decrease of just over 25 percent in one year. That's one in four viewers who have tuned the CBC out, Krista or no Krista.

Let's face it. The CBC news in Winnipeg has entered the death spiral.

Believe it or not, there was a time when CBC boasted 100,000 more viewers. The present-day pickets must hear than and think it a Grim (sic) Fairy Tale. The CBC has lost more than 100,000 viewers in the past 20 years. And there's no end in sight.

It's that future that had CBC I-Team host Conway Fraser gulping for air on the blogosphere. He concluded: "Knowlton Nash said the CBC is a SERVICE, not a business. Should profit and viewership be the measuring stick? What do you think? "

Well, here's what we think.

The CBC I-Team is the most egregious waste of money and resources at the network. Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck has broken more important stories this year alone than the I-Team has in the past five years combined. And he does it without taxpayers money. And without pretending he needs weeks to conduct his "research".

To answer your question, Conway, we suggest you start by reading yesterday's issue

If you think that spending almost one billion dollars a year to provide a leftwing spin to news and current affairs to five percent of television viewers is a "service" to the country, then think again. And again. And again.

The locked-out CBC employees have spent a month painting themselves as victims. But that's not how they saw themselves in July --- when they took a strike vote.

Back then, they were talking tough (sort of like the Blue Bombers at the start of the season. But we digress).

Just before the vote, Russ Knutson, president of the media guild branch at CBC North's Yukon network, spoke honestly when he told a local newspaper:

"We're still optimistic that if we can get an 85- or 90-per-cent strike mandate that the CBC will suddenly have to sit up and say, 'They're willing to go, and it will cripple the CBC'. The public doesn't seem very aware of the ongoing negotiations and the possible implications of a strike," said Knutson. He suspects if there is a strike, people would initially be annoyed. But people listen to the CBC for a specific reason, he said. "If there was a strike, it may take some time, but I think those listeners would come back.
There's just a level of information that we provide that no one else does, because that's just not their focus or their mandate."

The guild members voted 87.3 percent in favour of a strike mandate in mid-July when the threat to shut down the CBC by employees was seen as a good thing.

Now, no one wants to talk about why a strike wouldn't harm the CBC, but a lockout does.
Maybe that's because nobody talks about the CBC.

There was a time when television columnists would preview a new season with discussions about changes at local news stations. Well, if they won't, we will. And the trend in T.V. news in Winnipeg is a general "sexing up" of the newscasts.

If there is one idea the private stations have adopted from CBC for their own newscasts, it is this: pretty faces like Krista's are making the male newsguy a thingy of the past. (And like Krista, faces aren't all they got...we're talking new flattering wardrobes here, people.)

New hires around town include CKY-TV's addition of wholesome sportscaster Leah Hextall and sultry news reporter Camilla Di Giuseppe, as KY continues to dominate the suppertime ratings. Not to be overshadowed by the new faces, Rachel Lagace may yet flash her unseen-on-camera tattoo to re-enter the sexiest reporter sweepstakes. Heck, even the crimebeat guy got a new haircut.

Other CTV affiliates have gotten more aggresive in trying to exploit CBC's absence from the airwaves, and we expect CKY will follow suit.

Global TV hasn't had the time to add the new faces to their webpage yet, so viewers may not yet have realized that the pretty new blonde weathergirl, Kate Stutsman, is not the same person as the pretty new blonde reporter/anchor, Stacey Ashley. One constant has been Adrienne Pan, anchor on the weekends where her charming assets are obvious.

Stutsman is filling in for soon-to-be-mother Stephanie Armstrong , while been-a-mother-for-awhile Eva Kovacs is headed back into the 10.30 anchor chair after a maternity break. Terminally uncomfortable Travis Dhanraj has moved on, and we also noticed that management finally ordered the microphones turned up so that the quietest reporter in history, Chris Bobowski, can finally be heard above the din of the background noise on his reports.

Rumours persist that the Global sports department is being pared, in the wake of the new one-hour evening newscast at 10.30 PM displacing the longtime dual anchor, 30 minute sports roundup at 11 PM. The Asper team is in a solid second place and obviously trying to establish Mike Brown as the best TV reporter in town.

But most eyes are on CITY -TV (formerly A-Channel). Barely behind CBC in the ratings and with the momentum of the new season launch, management is banking that fans of the new and improved Big Breakfast morning show with Erin Selby, will also tune in after work to watch the new and improved CITY News at 6 with anchor Lisa Saunders and weathergirl Adrienne Silver, both of whom have ramped up their sex appeal under the new ownership.

Someone even got entertainment reporter Sharney Peters to stop dressing like a Bratz doll and she is much improved on camera.

Now the challenge is for the CITY newsroom to break a few news stories that would allow them to convince former CBC viewers tuning in, that they aren't missing anything even if Krista wears her leather outfit again after the lockout.

If they succeed, then Winnipeg will be home of that unique antique, a CBC newscast that fell from first to last.

Maybe the I-Team will do an expose on "where the viewers went" but of course, by then no one would be watching.

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