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:

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

CHUM to tell CRTC "Newscasts? We don' need no stinkin' newcasts!"

This story started out to be what's known as a 'quick and dirty.' Now we've had to add 'and bloody', too, thanks to the Wednesday whacking of CityTV, formerly A-Channel, formerly MTN.

With no notice, 28 CityTV staffers were fired and another 18 placed on death row pending the next round of parking lot executions.

Host Glen Kirby is gone. His co-host Lisa Saunders is on vacation with no job to return to. The 6 o'clock news show is history. Ditto the 11 o'clock.

Of the other "personalities" listed on the CityTV webpage, the status of Ed the Sock was uncertain at press time, although there are rumours he will have to share time with his twin Edd the Other Sock.

By now you know the nuts and bolts of the story. Bell Globemedia, which owns CKY locally, has made a bid to buy up CHUM Ltd., which owns CityTV as well as other TV and radio holdings.

To sweeten the deal, CityTV cancelled its evening newscasts in Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver and fired 281 people. (Even the original Craig Broadcasting property, CKX in Brandon, suffered cuts as did other small market A-Channel stations.) The local Big Breakfast morning show will be expanded to three hours. Winnipeg's 6 o'clock newscast will be replaced by a half-hour local "newsmagazine" show called (here and everywhere else) In Your City. The second half-hour will be a national and international newscast produced in Toronto, of course. CityTV in Toronto will keep its newscasts at 6 and 11. Of course.

The deal will close in September, but it will take another nine months to get through the regulatory process, which means satisfying the CRTC.

Following the noon-hour announcement that they no longer had jobs, the shocked staffers steadied their nerves with drinks at Branigans at the Forks.

Glen Kirby learned what it's like to be on the other end of a reporter asking "How do you feel?".

He couldn't say a word to the CTV reporter, smirked, and shaking his head, simply walked away.

The death of CityTV, even though it was No. 4 of 4 in the ratings, takes us back to the Dark Ages when Winnipeg had only three local television stations (CBC, CKY, and CKND). It's 9000 viewers will likely wind up with CTV, relegating CBC to the basement forever.

Especially with the news that CBC's host, Krista Erickson, is not coming back to the show after her five-week vacation. She's got a job in Ottawa, if our information is correct.

Everyone knew she was taking off to get married in Scotland to her beau Crown attorney Bob Morrison (hugs, air kisses, best wishes, have a good time). But when CJOB broke the story last week that Morrison was moving to Ontario, it dropped like a bomb in the CBC newsroom.

Regional managing director John Bertrand tried to play nonchalant when the Winnipeg Sun called, saying he knew she had applied for an Ottawa post. But his well-known tics and twitches told the story of how surprised he really was to hear the news.

Which is strange given that its been widely known for months that Krista was looking to leave.

Here in The Black Rod offices in the Baxter Building we first heard in the winter that she was moving---to Alberta. After her engagement to Morrison was revealed, we understood they were headed east as soon as Morrison exited his job in Manitoba. But apparently the news never made its way around the CBC newsroom. Damn.

Now all those Krista Erickson/Canada Now posters (with her last name spelled two different ways) and those big banners will have to go on ebay.

And what will be Krista's new job?

Before the surprise that she was leaving CBC Winnipeg, Krista had been featured in a newspaper story about 40 Manitobans under 40 to watch. She was quoted as saying she really wanted to be a foreign correspondent. It sounded at the time rather fanciful, yet given her meteoric rise within the CBC from a lowly researcher to host in a few short years, it can't be entirely ruled out. Especially since, believe it or not, three foreign correspondent jobs are opening up at the CBC in months.

Don Murray is coming home from London. Patrick Brown's term in Beijing ends later this year, and Paul Workman will be leaving Paris in August.

But wherever and whenever she leaves, maybe she will leave behind her trademarked leather outfits for her replacement. Will it be Marisa Dragani, the prickly Krista's best ally in the newsroom and currently the fill-in host?

Not if she keeps dressing like she did on Wednesday. What was that schmattah she had on?

Or will we see one of the CityTV faces reappear? Certainly, given the CBC's down-low ratings (a rock steady 23,000 for two years in a row, now) and uncertain future, there's no attraction for anyone from CKY or Global to make the jump.

Someone who had made a jump is Howard Kroger, the brains behind CHUM Radio property Bob-FM, as well as program and operations manager. He will be forever known as the man who invented the sound of BOB way back in 2002, which is now heard across the continent in various incarnations such as Jack, Tom, Dick and Harry. But as of now he's gone to the dark side, entering the murky world of media consulting.

Nobody knows more about consulting companies than the Winnipeg Free Press and we can see their hand in the latest behind-the-scenes changes at Winnipeg's biggest daily.

The personnel shuffles are all the talk in the parking lot and the lunch room and have even reached the ears of The Black Rod.

The FP is overjoyed at how well its integrating its print operations and its internet operations. In fact, they're going to do more integrating.

Translation: the staff will do more work for the same pay.

Except, perhaps, John Sullivan. He's become the Grand Poobah of on-line operations. Which means he's in charge of developing how the Free Press uses the internet to make money. Right now they say that almost half their subscribers are registered online. Now you have to realize that the newspaper claims a readership of 125,000 (regardless of what Dan Lett says) but doesn't reveal how many of that number are subscribers.

Paul Pihichyn, along with his staff blogging duties, will carry the heavy load as Little Poobah, or managing editor, online, as his bosses call him. His job is to put stuff on the web once Sullivan decides what stuff he wants. As well, Pihichyn's job will be to get reporters to post new stories on-line before they write them for the print edition of the paper. That's going to be fun.

Steve Pona must have been overjoyed to learn he's going to be responsible for all the work that Sullivan used to do. This means preparing the annual budget and getting stories for the various supplements. Plus stickhandling news investigations. Plus hiring new reporters. Can you spell nervous exhaustion, Steve (Pona, not Harper).

Boris Hrybinsky takes over from Steve (Pona, not Harper) at the assignment desk, which puts him in The Black Rod bullseye.

Margo Goodhand is upgraded to associate editor. Well, we hate to say it, but it sounds like she gets the girl's job. She gets to attend meetings, to run meetings and to be the duty editor on weekends and holidays when the real duty editor gets a day off. So far she doesn't have to get coffee for anyone.

And deputy editor Patrick Flynn has been assigned to be deputy editor Patrick Flynn. No harm. No foul. No movement. Somebody put a mirror under his nose.

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