Friday, March 27, 2009

Gone, baby, gone

The CBC is laying off 800 people, cutting programming, and hacking at CBC North's budget (at least $500,000 gone for the North, possibly $1 million.) At least two former colleagues are definitely losing their jobs.

I'm in shock. A part of who I am is wrapped up in that place. I believe in the CBC's mission, especially in the North and in remote areas of Canada, and especially radio. And I'm so very sorry for my worried friends at the Mother Corp., all wondering who will get the ax and who will get pressured into taking early retirement. (They say it's voluntary, but I've seen how management pushes people they don't like to quit or retire.)

It's like the lockout all over again, the realization that the corporate types are out to protect themselves, rather than programming. (Why couldn't they merge the dual bureaucracy of CBC and Radio Canada? Cut the never-ending stream of managers?)

I don't even have the energy to be grateful I'm no longer there and not part of this. How can I be happy I'm not suffering, when so many good friends are, and when the listeners will ultimately lose out?

And now the politicking really begins, but it's going to make no difference. Thanks for trying, MP Charlie Angus.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Who's on top?

On my very first day at CBC Radio, my manager sat me down at a table with a piece of paper and a pen between us. P. drew a triangle on the paper; he drew a little circle on the top and a bunch of little circles on the bottom. He then drew some lines horizontally through the triangle.

"This is the CBC," he said. "The circle here is the president of the corporation. These circles down here are our listeners and viewers. In between are the vice-presidents, directors, managers and staff."

I nodded. It seemed like a pretty routine corporate structure to me.

"This is the way some people see it," he said, showing me the graph with the president on top.

Then he turned the paper so the viewers and listeners were up top, and the president at the bottom.

"This is how it really is," he said. "These people who listen to us, who watch us, they are the boss. They are the reason we are here. They are the reason we produce shows and run the news and try to make them laugh from time to time.

"We're here to serve them, to give them what they need, to tell them stories they need to hear. Never forget that, and you'll do all right."

Over my years at Mother Corp., I tried to remember P.'s advice. I tried to tell stories my real bosses needed to hear. Because of that, I was lucky to do some fun, intriguing and (I think) important work. I often covered stories people outside the North would think unimportant -- but hey, my bosses were Northerners, and at least half of them lived in small Aboriginal communities.

With all of the problems at the CBC lately (the enormous budget shortfall, the passive-aggressive statements from the federal minister responsible, the anxiety and panic amongst the staff as rumours of 600 to 1200 lay-offs float about), I keep remembering that Sunday morning in Yellowknife, and the look in P.'s eyes as he showed me that graph.

That's what is the root of the problems at the CBC, really. Sometime in the past ten years (or longer), the upper levels forgot they are actually the lower levels. They forgot about the real bosses. And oh boy, it showed

They chased after potential listeners/viewers, and ideal listeners/viewers, and hip ones and young ones and ones who dig it when you use swear words on the air. They worried about being contemporary and trendy. They Stromboed the news, rather than just The Hour.

And you know what happened? Some of the original bosses quit. Especially the television bosses, the elusive viewers. A lot of them quit. They went over to CTV and Global, where they weren't the boss, but at least they weren't being condescended to death.

Then the lower levels forgot the middle levels are the ones who keep the bosses around, who make radio and television worth listening to and watching. They tried to make us all expendable, contractors with no job security and no defense against being fired on a whim. At the same time, the amount of managers (who do not produce stuff for your eyes and ears) increased dramatically. They locked out the staff and pissed off a lot of the real bosses. Some of them never came back after the lock-out.

And now we are in a recession, and revenue is down, because why spend money on ads on a network that is losing its viewers hand over fist?

I don't know how to solve this crisis. But I do know if the CBC is going to continue to exist in some semblance of what was meant to be, the guys at the bottom need to wise up and remember the guys at the top.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

...with a carful of quintuplets who are all cutting teeth

... and I'd be smiling underneath.

Having an Ani week -- this woman still speaks to who I am, all these years and vast changes later.

To you, Hubby. You're worth it, too, always.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I would defend to the ends of the Earth her perfect right to be here

I've been commenting elsewhere and on Facebook about my feelings on the media collapse. I have to admit much of it is selfish, because it looks like I will never get to go back. Tonight, after a busy evening with the brood, I'm remembering why I left in the first place.

For N.: I've been mourning my career, and my youthful appearance, and all I gave up for you to be here, and for the family to be in a financial position to raise three kids.

I will always regret leaving journalism. But I will never, ever regret leaving it for you and your brothers.

For the boys: You may not hear me on the radio anymore, but you see me every night. And my feelings of wasted talent are nothing compared to how I used to feel about my wasted motherhood.

I love you all. You are worth it. Keep reminding me of that.