CBC Will Compete Head To Head With Bloggers

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. does a course correction trying to clone its reporters as bloggers

By Stephen Pate – CBC brass have sent the word down from HQ. CBC News is will be all digital web and twitter. Reporters will be cloned as bloggers to compete online.

Old line media publishers were given a rude awakening when Amazon.com, the largest online retailer, bought the venerable Washington Post to keep it from going under.  Digital media will not end newspapers or television networks but will radically transform it. CNN

Is it ironic or sad that CBC fought bloggers for years? When NJN Network started publishing it’s news blog 7 years ago, CBC was enraged.  CBC management sent the Executive News Producer Donna Allen, and 4 of her subordinates, to her first  meeting of the PEI Press Gallery for the sole purpose of axing NJN Network.

“Quite frankly, the executive does not believe there is a place for bloggers in the press gallery because there is no room in the inn,” said Press Gallery president Wayne Thibodeau of the Charlottetown Guardian in a long diatribe against bloggers at the meeting.

Allowing bloggers to report the Legislature “will have dire consequences, and I am not over exaggerating,” said Thibodeau.

CBC’s Allen and her staff, with the exception of one reporter, supported the Motion to ban bloggers from the ranks of press gallery journalists and remove NJN’s media credentials.

Charlottetown Guardian spawning professional bloggers

Since then, declining readership and revenues have forced the Charlottetown Guardian to change their minds. Two of their press gallery journalists now call themselves Professional Bloggers, Theresa Wright and Ryan Ross. Guardian Turns A Page

CBC goes digital

Millennials are driving the world more than baby boomers.  Millennials want format changes and they want different news content, changes the slow-moving CBC may not be capable of delivering.

The audience has moved on from suppertime and late night scheduled news broadcasting of 50 years ago. People get their news all day long from Twitter, Facebook and BuzzFeed.  How social media is reshaping news

CBC management has seen the future and the future is smaller and digital.  CBC has been experimenting with all digital news in Hamilton Ontario. CBC now wants re-shape itself and stay relevant to audiences.  CBC Adopts Blogging Only News Room

Hamilton Ontario, with a metropolitan population of 720,000, can offer digital news to smartphones, tablets and computers. They don’t broadcast on television. If Hamilton can do it, why not PEI with its population of 140,000?

High level meetings with the Producers have made it clear that digital news and blogging is the future for CBC.

It is more than the fact the CBC lost $200 million in revenue with the move of Hockey Night in Canada to Rogers. It is more than the small reduction in the CBC’s $1 billion annual subsidy.

Code or be coded

In the digital world of news, writing and investigative journalism skills are not enough. Reporters have to learn coding. They are teaching digital skills in journalism schools all over North America.

“Coding is the new grammar. If students don’t know, at the very least, what web pages are and how they are built, they won’t last long in this game.”  The Big Conundrum: Should Journalists Learn Code? American Journalism Review

I know how hard it is. I had been a freelance journalist for decades but the hardest part of starting NJN Network was learning to code webpages, manage social media and stay relevant.  The internet is changing at a breakneck pace. What we learned two years ago is out of date as publishers struggle to adopt mobile strategies and beyond. How are we going, for example, to deliver stories to smart watches?

The change to digital news will leave many old-time journalist out in the cold. Journalist are being forced to learn new technologies such as blogging, video editing and HTML coding.  At the CBC, the journalists are unionized and indentured.

Kevin Yarr now Regional Online Journalist at CBC Charlottetown (Facebook photo)

Kevin Yarr, the web site geek at CBC, is now more powerful than Donna Allen, Sarah Fraser, John Jeffery or any more experienced journalist.

Once confined to trying to make the CBC website work and running interference on comments, Yarr is the gatekeeper of the news in the new blogger model with the title Regional Online Journalist.

There is a saying “you can’t put new wine on old bottles.”  Old line journalists like Donna Allen may find retirement easier than adopting the attitudes and technology of Millennials.  It’s not just the format, the new digital news is hotter, more engaged than CBC’s old style of cool journalism.

Based on insider information it’s highly unlikely CBC management will be changing the tepid news that CBC reports in Charlottetown. The Executive Director runs herd on the reporters and regularly kills stories.  That’s not how you succeed in digital journalism where you report the story first and correct the facts later.

Follow me on Twitter at @sdpate or on Facebook at NJN Network, OyeTimes and IMA News Buzz. You can also subscribe and receive notifications of new stories by email. We do not share your email with advertisers.

By Stephen Pate, NJN Network

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