Harvey Oberfeld: Where are the TV Anchors with Gravitas?

Andrew Chang


 CBC Vancouver Trades Experience for New Look …. But Is It Too New?


by Harvey Oberfeld

Keeping It Real…

September the 3rd, 2014

Gravitas: it’s the most important quality, in my view, that a television anchor MUST have to achieve credibility, engender trust …and attract viewers.

“A very serious quality or manner” …  gravitas is defined in the Mirriam-Webster dictionary …   a bearing leaders have that  “commands respect”.

In other words, anchors with gravitas are the people who, when society faces major troubles or disasters, we TRUST and turn to tell us what’s really going on, what we should do and make us feel we will all get through this …together.

Chet Huntley & David Brinkley

Walter Cronkite had gravitas; Huntley and Brinkley had gravitas; Peter  Jennings, Peter Mansbridge and Lloyd Robertson had gravitas … in varying degrees … to be sure, but they had it and during War, the assassination of John F Kennedy, on 9-11 and for weeks afterwards,  or in Canada, during the FLQ crisis,  the Quebec referenda or still on every Remembrance Day … we look to our news anchors to explain, to reflect and yes,  to comfort us.

In local Vancouver TV news, I have always rated TV anchors’ on a “gravitas” scale of who would WE turn to when THE BIG ONE  hits … the massive earthquake they say IS coming  ….  which will bring down entire buildings in the West End and throughout much of the rest of the city and suburbs , destroy much of the region’s infrastructure, cause a sunami that will liquefy half of Richmond, cut our water supplies, destroy our sewer systems and shred much, if not all, of our electrical grids?

Tony Parsons

Tony Parsons had gravitas when he led the Newshour at BCTV … a “10″ on the gravitas scale in my opinion: an air of great credibility conveying knowledge, experience and commanding trust. Ian Hanamansingh of CBC is an “8″;   Mike Killeen of CTV is a “7″; Chris Gailus of Global is but a “6″ (he could be higher, but his gravitas rating  is hurt by technical glitches that too often seem to surround him on-air) ; and, Tamara Taggart is a “3″.

At CBC Vancouver, I always viewed Gloria Macarenko as an “8″ … a solid anchor with a 25-year history as a journalist at CBC: you KNOW when you watch Gloria, she KNOWS what she is talking about … from Vancouver issues to suburban pressures to BC politics and federal problems and concerns and especially our unique First Nations and environmental concerns, sensitivities and challenges.

But Macarenko has now been pushed aside by CBC Vancouver as their evening anchor.  … relegated to a minor CBC radio show … to make way for a young new import, Andrew Chang.

A native of Ottawa (we can forgive that!), Chang is the new “anchor” of CBC Vancouver’s  News at 5 and 6 p.m. … after what CBC boasts was “a successful decade” as a reporter and video journalist and anchor for CBC in Montreal.

Wow! A full decade!

“He covered number of memorable moments in Montreal’s history, such as Montreal’s 2011 federal election night special … the 2012 election-night assassination attempt of Pauline Marois … and he was also the first, among local ENGLISH (my caps) television networks to tell Montrealers about the assignation of Mafia godfather Niccolo Rizzuto Senior,”  his CBC bio boasts.

CBC also tells us he interviewed “various news-makers” and produced news-length and feature-length reports!  Wow!   (If he won any awards ..or his work was ever NOMINATED for anything, anywhere …his CBC bio keeps it a secret.

But although the CBC press releases and bio info are quick to point out Chang is a “doting father” of a young daughter (one writer was even able to obtain a photo of the baby); he took time off his career for paternity leave;  and Andrew loves snowboarding, hiking and music … NOT A SINGLE CBC press release mentioned (or any of the puff stories published by the BC or Canada’s lamestream media about the new Vancouver anchor)  asked or pointed out his age.  So I asked and found out … he’s only 32 years old.

Why was it omitted? Gravitas … I believe …  or rather the lack thereof.

An Associated Press story that appeared this very day across North America noted that ABC’s World News also has a new anchor, David Muir.  And AP pointedly made reference to the fact out Muir is 40, and will be competing with NBC’s Brian Williams, 55, and CBS’s Scott Pelley, who is 57.

In anchoring, when times get tough  … age counts. Because it speaks of experience, knowledge, achievement …. and credibility.  Gravitas.

Something Andrew Chang clearly has yet to achieve.

He does look good on camera; reads well; seems friendly, likeable … and I have no doubt he will be successful, long-term, in the broadcast business. And with CBC local TV news ratings so low as to almost not show on the charts, he surely can’t do them any harm.

But when the BIG ONE hits, it won’t be Chang I’ll be tuning in to find out what I should do.

In one CBC promo piece, Chang wrote “In my book, the more we can show you about us AND the stories we cover, the better.”

Andrew …  take a word of free advice  from a 38-year news veteran who won a couple of Websters (that’s BC’s highest journalism award)  and several other regional and national awards, including a CAJ, and was a finalist for a Governor General’s Award: stop saying in “your” BOOK, when you haven’t yet achieved enough experience….  and gravitas …. to write even a full chapter about the business.

And Good Luck.

Harv Oberfeld


  1. I think Harvey is being a bit ruthless here. Its not the kid’s fault that the CBC hired him he just took advantage of an opportunity presented to him. I do though agree with his overall view of the local TV news scene but then again thats the state of the nation right now.

  2. Oh come on Harv, being a little hard on the guy aren’t you? It’s not like he’s fresh out of BCIT.
    You admit CBC news have had ratings lower than whale poop for years now and although I always liked Gloria it was time to shake things up yet again. Can’t hurt.

    Andrew is very likeble and more than capable and if age qualifies you for a certificate of “gravitas”, give him a break he’s getting there.

    On a side note, had to chuckle at the kids over on ‘NW at 5pm today. Come on guys, the new format isn’t that difficult to execute. Get it together, geez Louise 🙂

  3. Wow.. what a shocker – another old fart picking on someone new and young! Not a surprise.. but just goes to show that the old boys club never goes away….. as long as we have these ‘sage’ old white men telling us how “real” tv and/or radio works, what are the young ones to do??
    Give him a break!! He’s not fresh out of broadcast/journalism school… he has 10 years of experience…
    Here’s the thing you old farts keep forgetting.. the longer the ‘veterans’ keep on staying on air, what chance does anyone else have of getting experience or getting that really juicy story or basically proving themselves???
    If any of you veterans bothered to mentor or groom the new ones, we might be getting somewhere, instead you just give them grief because they are young… really nice…

  4. Harvs right Gloria was one of the best anchors in the country. Pity hes being compared to her though. Never follow animals, children or a damn good anchor

  5. I agree with Harv but don’t blame Andrew because I think he is appealing and is doing the kind of show CBC barons want. Gravitas for a tv news anchor is important. Parsons had it. Also Hudson Mack on the island. But it’s not just men. Sophie Lui on Global has some too.

  6. In one breath Harvey claims Gloria Macarenko was an “8″ on his “gravitas scale”, on the next he reminds us that “CBC local TV news ratings so low as to almost not show on the charts”.
    Can’t have it both ways Harv.

    Oh, and don’t remind us of your “awards” again. Television is an entertainment medium. News is no different. ‘Just a bunch of pretty girls and handsome guys filling time between the cartoons and the hockey game.

  7. My main takeaway from this column has nothing to do with gravitas or local news anchors. It’s that Webster-award winning journalist and 38-year veteran Harv Oberfeld apparently has little understanding of “the big one”. Nor does he know how to spell tsunami.

  8. Looks like good ole’ Harv is taking a beating from the peanut gallery, here ! LOL

    Completely disagree with you, Harv Oberfeld, re: Andrew Chang, I congratulate CBC television on bringing Andrew to the left coast. What H.O. does not mention is the fact that we have a Chinese-Canadian tv anchor with much star potential.

    I will watch, when I have time. As for Makerenko, same old, same old, unfortunately.

    This whole story also belies the fact that, even using anchors with so-called “gravitas,” (Parsons and Makerenko), CBC Vancouver TV ratings still bombed !

    So, what is the point of being on Harvey’s list of fame, if you get demoted ?

    Regarding Gloria Makarenko, it seems that in the lesbian management world of CBC, when female tv anchors are laid to rest, they are banished to the CBC’s radio division, a la Anna Maria Tremonte, Gillian Findlay, Barbara Frum, etc.

    In the rest of the real world (out side of CBC) you are simply FIRED with no cushy radio job ?

  9. Can anyone please tell me when inane, discriminatory, ad hominem attacks, e.g.: “old boys club”/ “old white men”/ “old farts,” etc., became an accepted technique to ignorantly discredit opinion and attempt to invalidate arguments??

    Thanks, Harv; I much appreciate your award-winning expertise.

    Cheers /

  10. When THE BIG ONE hits, we will be too busy looting the grocery store to watch TV, assuming we a) survive, and b) have any power anyway.

  11. Oh that’s rich, “Anonymous” September 7, 2014 – 9:22 am — you don’t like it when words like “old boys club”/ “old white men”/ “old farts,” etc are used.. but you’re fine with “lesbian management” ???
    I think you just proved my point! ha!
    But let’s not make this a pissing game shall we… let’s get to the point.. Harvey thinks he has a point.. .. and look how many people disagree with him! Who says Harvey knows all?? Clearly not everyone!!
    At the end of the day.. I think “AL” has the most valid point!

  12. @ Anonymous: September 7, 2014 – 9:42 pm

    The only thing you’ve proven, is that you have *zero* gravitas–your reasonings are absurd.

    “Contra principia negantem non est disputandum”

    Good luck …


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