Feeling like a Newman

PAUL WELLS on who will replace Global's Kevin Newman

Tuesday at noon Global Television will announce the next anchor of its supper-hour newscast, who will replace Kevin Newman. There is all sorts of speculation about who the new person might be. A woman? Thalia Assuras? Sun Media won’t be happy.

Whatever. From 2001 to 2003 Kevin and I had the same employer or vaguely defined cloud of employers — the Asper-era Canwest — and I would come on Global National now and then in a half-hearted convergence play. It was truly impressive to watch him produce and direct the whole newscast from his anchor desk, always in close and courteous consultation with the actual producers and directors, even while on remote anchoring assignments in Ottawa (this was in the days when he normally ran his show out of Vancouver). The breaks between segments were when the real action happened: Newman would check the progress of various bits of the newscast, chat with passerby pundits like me, often amend the show plan in mid-broadcast, and come back to air all calm and collected as if nothing had been happening.

The Aspers, in those days still including Izzy, paid serious money to bring Newman home from ABC as an anchor for their entire broadcast news effort, in an attempt to boost its credibility at a moment when the acquisition of the Southam chain, the National Post and the website seemed on the verge of making Canwest a cross-platform titan.

But they took on too much debt getting there, and they called the moment wrong, buying in at the top of the convergence bubble and in the early days of a secular decline in newspaper ad revenues. They weren’t able to keep their end of the bargain. But Newman kept his. He’s been a smart and affable anchor, a welcome face around Ottawa since the show moved, and replacing him presents Global with a formidable challenge.