Makes anchoring debut on CBC News Network
This is the first Christmas away from home for David Cochrane, provincial affairs reporter for CBC NL.
But Cochrane is taking it in stride. He is, after all, enjoying a plum gig at the CBC Broadcast Centre in downtown Toronto, where he is anchoring the CBC News Network (formerly Newsworld) for several hours per day.
He first went live on Sunday, December 19, and his last day is today, December 27. (If you read this in time, you can watch him from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm NL time.)
Cochrane has appeared on national TV countless times already, filing major news stories and performing live stand-ups for the network, but this is his first gig as anchor. And he admits to being a bag of nerves, before his first time on air.
“My heart was beating like a kettle drum,” he said, in a phone interview. “It was nerve wracking, I gotta tell ya. I’ve done a lot of live television, been on Newsworld, been part of national election broadcasts, on TV and radio, but it’s a little different when it says ‘CBC National News with David Cochrane’ at the bottom of the screen. That’s a whole different game.”
But if Cochrane was nervous, you sure couldn’t tell. I was watching when Cochrane debuted on Sunday, and he was as cool as a cucumber. He appeared confident, relaxed and on top of his game. I asked Cochrane how he felt about his own performance.
“Everybody tells me it was good. The bosses and people in the newsroom are giving me really good feedback. I got an email from Rick Mercer, saying I did a great job. You know how it is when you do this – you tend to focus on the minor mistakes you make, and magnify them above and beyond. But, you know, I did it, and they let me come back the next day and do it again, and in journalism that’s all you can hope for.”
In fact, the bosses have told Cochrane that they’d like him to come back. “Apparently they want to put me into the semi-regular backfill rotation. So that could mean stints in Toronto during the summer, spring and fall, as hosts take vacations. So it seems
the try out was a success.”
So I asked the obvious question: If a full-time position on the national desk was offered, would he go for it?
“Right now, my focus is working in St. John’s with Here & Now, and radio news… With my job as provincial affairs reporter, and sometimes fill-in host on Here and Now and the Morning Show, I think I have the best journalism job in the province. And that’s a hard thing to walk away from. My wife has a good career in St. John’s, and moving would be a big deal… I don’t want to talk like the politicians I cover, but you never say never about these things.”
Cochrane wasn’t thrust in front of the camera without some preparation. He was flown in for several days of training prior to this week, to meet the people and get a feel for how the show is put together.
“I came up a week or so ago to meet the producers and see how the show works,” he said. “It’s very much like a stage production. You have to know where to look, where to move, who to talk to, and get a sense of their work flow practices. You just get a greater comfort level when you get to know everybody.”
Cochrane is a veteran of live TV, and has hosted Here and Now on numerous occasions, so I asked why he was nervous about the transition to the national desk.
“It’s a bit different when you’re a reporter. You’re familiar with the content, you know your subject matter, you can drive the hit where you want it to go, based on your answers. Usually, when I’m on the (national) network, I’m talking about Newfoundland and Labrador politics, and, narrower than that, Danny Williams most of the time… If we have breaking news back in Newfoundland, you can pretty well be sure that I have enough base knowledge to roll with just about anything… Here, I’m doing live hits with reporters in Vancouver, London and the Middle East. Things are coming at you at a hundred miles an hour, and it’s a different pace… The stage, quite frankly, is a little bit bigger.”
You have to stay “on your toes” and fall back on your journalistic instincts to get through it, Cochrane said, adding that he received strong support from the production team.
“The producers and technical people are world class,” he said. “It would have to be a very sudden, breaking, immediate thing for them not to be able to give you at least a 30 second primer of what you’re going to be running into. They’re very good at making sure you don’t crash the car. The level of support has just been exceptional.”
Cochrane said he didn’t seek out this engagement; that it came to him, when the head of CBC News Network contacted regional bosses, asking them to recommend talent for fill-ins over Christmas. When Cochrane’s name was suggested, he leapt at the opportunity.
“This is one of the good things about working for this company… you get these opportunities and, even if it doesn’t become a career in national news, you get the profile, you get the exposure, and you get the training, and that just makes you stronger, and the show you work for stronger. There is a skills and knowledge transfer that can only help us back in St. John’s.”
As noted, it was Cochrane’s first Christmas away from home, but the trip was made bearable by the presence of his wife, Amy, who flew up to join him just before Christmas day. Amy was given a tour of the studio, and was able to observe her husband at work.
“Amy has never been in a live control room before,” Cochrane said, “certainly nothing on the scale of what goes on here in Toronto. She got a pretty good sense of the organized chaos that happens behind the scenes. They do a good job of insulating the host from that though. You have no sense of any technical problems that are happening behind the scenes. They deftly move things around to give the show a seamless look.
“It was different for me, having her there though. I know she watches most days. But having her actually there, live in the control room, was different. Amy has been my biggest supporter throughout my career. So it was a nice moment.”