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