Live TV does have its perils, as the folks at CBC Here & Now have been discovering in recent weeks.
As part of its souped-up approach to broadcasting, courtesy of American media consultants Frank Magid Associates, Here & Now reporters have been filing a good number of their stories live. I wrote about this back in July when I interviewed managing editor Janice Stein, who told me to expect a lot more live, on-location news coverage.
The idea is good in theory. The practical application, however, has had some problems. Pretty much every reporter has had at least one major flub on live TV (with the possible exception of Ronalda Walsh, who seems to thrive on live). I will not name or even criticize the reporters who have gotten tongue-tied whilst doing their stand-ups, or seen their trains of thought disappear into a tunnel, leaving them scrambling through their notes for entire seconds as they try to recover.
I won't name them because to err is human (and besides, thousands of us have already seen it; have already died a slow death with them as they flailed about on live TV). This is not about competency or matters of principle. The fact is, live TV is fraught with peril and extremely hard to do.
I think CBC should re-think this new approach, and only broadcast live when the situation warrants it, such as an event that continues to unfold at news time (as was the case recently with the Holyrood fire). I emailed this suggestion to Janice Stein, who allowed there have been problems but said CBC is not reconsidering its approach.
"The live (news items) bring a real sense of 'here' and 'now' to our newshour which is after all called Here and Now," she wrote. "We have certainly been talking about how to help people be error-free... as we do with all aspects of our work."
As an aside, there was an item on last night's news that caught my attention, about the decidedly un-sexy topic of crosswalks. Kudos to Lynda Calvert for exposing how dangerous it can be to cross the road, with a majority of drivers not even slowing down at crosswalks, even as pedestrians are standing and pointing.
Anyone who has spent time in larger Canadian cities will tell you that the attitude toward crosswalks is different here. In other cities, pedestrians are in charge they stride boldly into crosswalks, knowing that approaching cars will yield (and if they don't, strong enforcement means drivers may get nailed for a serious moving violation).
Around here, drivers are king and pedestrians are lowly serfs, forced to dodge traffic and eat exhaust as they make their way nervously across the street. As Lynda Calvert pointed out, the law states that pedestrians have right of way on crosswalks. There are no exceptions. When you see someone waiting to cross, you brake and let them go. That's the law here, but it's being largely ignored. It seems to be a cultural thing drivers in this province just aren't ready to yield to pedestrians. Why should we?' some will respond. We're bigger aren't we?'
It reminds me of an experience I had back in the 1980s, while on my way to an interview with a local photographer (now deceased) who was driving. Up ahead, I saw a person about to step onto the crosswalk, and became alarmed when my colleague showed no sign of slowing down. Finally, I said, Watch out there's someone at the croswalk!'
Oh, that's okay,' she said, flying past the pedestrian at full speed. The crosswalk is there to warn people to watch out for cars.'