Lots of interesting discussion about the new-look CBC news. Critics generally see the revamped style as too much about the hosts wandering around brightly coloured sets littered with flashing flat screens. My colleague Paul Wells writes about this “frantic kineticism,” before going on conclude, sagely I think, that the real question here is not about the packaging but how the CBC fills up all that time now available for news and current affairs.
Of course ultimately this should be about journalism rather than showbiz. Yet I think the way you sell your substance does matter. And so I wonder if the CBC hasn’t missed a chance to play up its heritage. I’m thinking, if I may boast a bit about the Maclean’s aesthetic, about the instinct that leads us to have our name on the front of this week’s magazine in the same striking sans-serif typeface as on the June 15, 1961 copy I have framed on the wall of my home office.
It’s not that the magazine hasn’t changed in all those decades. It’s different in every possible way. Except that it’s still Maclean’s. The idea is to tap into a sense of lineage, even a tinge of nostalgia. There’s a risk, naturally: you don’t want to seem fusty. But, as Don Draper teaches us, “There’s the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash—they have a sentimental bond with the product.” If you can make an emotional connection, it’s a powerful thing.
There’s been some kidding around about the gleaming counter Peter Mansbridge stands behind on the National’s new set when he chats with fellow journalists and guests. Some see it as a bar stripped of beer taps. But the more precise observation, made to me by an astute friend in broadcasting, is that it’s like a futuristic diner counter. Exactly. Peter needs an old-school Hamilton Beach milkshake mixer to soften the image—or some reference point to remind us that we’re watching a news service wasn’t generated out of nothing this past Monday.