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Four CBC journalists will share anchor duties as the network revamps The National to offer an expanded digital focus along with more insight and analysis on the day’s news, the public broadcaster announced today.
Senior correspondent Adrienne Arsenault, Power & Politics host Rosemary Barton, Vancouver local news host Andrew Chang and News Network anchor Ian Hanomansing were named hosts for the program that will debut in November.
“The four that we’ve chosen are quite different and they bring different skills to the program … we think they’ll resonate with audiences.”
It’s been a guessing game about who would take over the top post since longtime anchor Peter Mansbridge announced his retirement last September. Mansbridge hosted the show for almost 30 years before stepping down on July 1.
“It’s a big risk, for sure it is,” she said. “We’re not seeing it as a television show solely anymore.”
Her coverage of the Ebola crisis from Liberia earned her an International Emmy in 2015, and she was named the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association’s Journalist of the Year award in 2005.
Arsenault has also been a foreign correspondent based in London, Jerusalem and Washington and a senior correspondent in Vancouver and now Toronto, from where she will be part of anchoring The National.
“We all come from a reporting tradition,” she said of her co-hosts. “We are all still reporters, and we are still going to be reporting.”
What will change, she said, is how they present the news.
“We’re trying to work hard to make the story the focus.”
Arsenault said her international travels have helped inform her reporting in Canada, where she has been based for the past few years. This has taken her to some of the country’s biggest stories, including the housing crisis in Attawapiskat and last year’s devastating wildfire in Fort McMurray.
Facebook Live: The National’s new hosts
She knows the stakes for the revamped show are high.
Arsenault has been close to The National since her CBC career began. She started as an editorial assistant in 1991 but actually had an interview lined up for her then dream job at CBC Radio’s As It Happens.
Barton will anchor The National‘s coverage from Ottawa. Her name was floated by many guessing who would replace Mansbridge, speculation that heightened when she guest-hosted the program earlier this summer.
The veteran political reporter is the current host of CBC News Network’s Power & Politics. She took over that job after CBC fired the previous host, Evan Solomon, and led viewers through the marathon 2015 federal election campaign.
She is respected for her sharp, no-nonsense interviews and her conversational style, something she said she will be keeping as she switches jobs.
“This is not going to be as formal as people thought,” she said. She will be able to crack jokes, laugh and be tough as the news allows. “The idea is not to make this stilted, and I plan to be myself, because that’s what I do.”
Barton got her CBC start researching for RDI in 1999, the public broadcaster’s French news network, in her hometown of Winnipeg. After a stint with Global, she rejoined CBC as a legislative reporter in Quebec City in 2004 and then served as a national reporter with the Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa.
“It’s going to be a lot of work,” Barton said of the new show. “It won’t be easy.”
Chang is making the leap to The National after high-profile hosting gigs as a local anchor for CBC.
He is the current host of CBC Vancouver’s News at 6, for which he was named best local news anchor at the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards. Chang joined the CBC in 2004 and spent a decade at CBC Montreal, working his way up from researcher to local news anchor.
He also joined CBC in Sochi and Rio for its Olympic coverage, did a guest host stint on CBC Radio’s The Current and interviewed Al Gore for The National earlier this summer.
“It’s quite an opportunity,” Chang said. “It is uncharted territory in a pretty significant way.”
In 2012, he anchored CBC Montreal’s election coverage as Richard Henry Bain tried to assassinate the just-elected premier-designate Pauline Marois during her victory speech and she was rushed off stage.
“I think I’ve built somewhat of a reputation of being a live specialist.”
“If you think of the digital ecosystem that we’re in, everything is changing. The way people consume news is different. The National has to change accordingly.”
Hanomansing was perhaps the most expected contender for the job. Back in February, a widely shared report in the Trinidad Express suggested he already had the position, which Hanomansing was quick to rebut. 22 Minutes comedian Mark Critch even joked with Mansbridge about Hanomansing’s top anchor prospects during the 2015 federal election broadcast.
It’s something the B.C.-based anchor has been rather coy about.
“I knew that it was quite possible it was going to happen,” he said. But he had doubts, too.
“The beginning of July, I was fully prepared to either be a host of The National or not be a host of The National.”
Hanomansing will be based in Toronto. He currently hosts CBC News Network and has been a longtime guest host for The National, as well as other CBC shows such as Canada Now and Pacific Rim Report.
Hanomansing was born in Trinidad and grew up in the tiny town of Sackville, N.B. (current population about 6,000). His family didn’t have cable TV so he would obsessively listen to the radio. He started as a summer student at a nearby radio station in Amherst, N.S., days after he graduated from high school.
“Our family were the only people that looked the way we did for miles and miles and miles and miles around,” he said in a recent interview with Open Chest‘s Raj Girn. “I used my name, my last name. Imagine that last name on the radio in 1979 and not once did [the station manager] ever question that.”
Hanomansing first landed at the CBC in Halifax in 1986 and has held many jobs over the years: local reporter, national reporter, local anchor and national anchor. He has spent the bulk of his career on the West Coast, where he has covered major events including the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and both Stanley Cup Vancouver riots.
He said there’s a huge amount of uncertainty about how his new job will look, but that excites him.
“We don’t frankly know what’s coming next, but I’ve seen enough and have enough faith in the people that I know are involved in this that I really do think this is going to be an opportunity to remake news.”
McGuire said the revamped show will have an expanded digital focus, more visual storytelling and a push on original journalism. That includes original content for digital and more insight and analysis on the day’s top stories, with a goal to push the stories forward.
“It absolutely is risky,” she said of the revamp. “But we think it also is a unique opportunity, and our belief is that we had to, at this moment in time, wrestle with the question, what do Canadians need to get at the end of the day in a continuous news environment?”
The show has faced setbacks to get to this point, though, and has been bumped back to a November launch.
In May, managing editor Steve Ladurantaye, who was spearheading the show’s redevelopment, was reassigned after he tweeted his support for a so-called appropriation prize.
Christopher Waddell, a Carleton journalism professor and The National‘s former senior program producer, was closely watching Tuesday’s announcement. He said the revamp is a big risk, which may alienate the show’s current audience.
Great colleagues and one prolific selfie taker. This is the National. pic.twitter.com/FkrNP2Icqh
“Any time you make change and you’re alienating an audience you have, you’re doing it with no real confidence that you’re producing a different audience that will replace the audience that you’re losing,” he said.
“But if a public broadcaster won’t be innovative and won’t take risks and won’t take advantage of the status they have and the position they have to try and do things that no one else will do, then I think that that will be a sad day too.”
Facebook Live, Aug. 1, with The National‘s new hosts: