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Bob Wakeham: Musing over N.L.'s media moves


I’ve worried myself into an unwell state this week, an absolute tizzy, a disconcerting condition that has given my normally fine-looking noggin the look of a twisted knot. 

There’s just so much to be concerned about, and I’m not just referring to the rattling of nuclear armed sabres by that vertically and intellectually-challenged fat kid in North Korea and that ethically and stability-challenged buffoon to the south of us.

Indeed, I find myself splitting and stacking wood at an increased rate these early Fall days to calm my nerves when I contemplate those two disturbed leaders possibly provoking a real life version of “Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

If that turns out to be the case, here’s hoping Donald the Dunce adopts the Slim Pickens role from “Dr. Strangelove,” saddles himself onto the bomb and rides all that TNT into Kim Jung-un’s bedroom, waving his “Let’s Make America Great” baseball cap, wearing a white robe and pointed hat, and singing “I Wish I Was in the Land of Dixie.”      

Puff! Just like that.

Two neurotic, shallow and frightening men evaporated in a second.   It’s a start. (Unfortunately, millions of innocents would also disappear into the atmosphere along with the two nut bars).

But, as I indicated at the top of this Saturday homily, the avalanche of worry tumbling throughout my ageing skull has been precipitated by much more than Trump and the Little Clapper; it has to do with local media stuff.

For starters, I can’t make hide nor hair of the shuffling taking place within the news gathering business in Newfoundland these days, as much role switching as we’ve seen in a donkey’s age, and it’s costing me a good night’s sleep.

Now perhaps you don’t care a hoot, but my journalistic neurons started twitching when it was announced, somewhat quietly, without the bells and whistles you’d normally expect, that Anthony Germain, the mainland media star brought to St. John’s a number of years ago to host CBC Radio’s Morning Show, will be the new co-host of Here and Now with Debbie Cooper.

(Cooper has been a popular and welcome fixture in Newfoundland homes since, it sometimes seems, Frank Moores was in power — OK, in reality, since Clyde Wells became premier — and should be given a medal for, at the very least, adjusting to endless reinventions of the supper hour mandate and format).

So who’s taking over for Germain? Well, in a relative shocker, it’s Fred Hutton, who’s

deserting a gig as VOCM’s news director right about the time the radio station is airing some cryptic ads about “losing our way,” or words to that effect.

Under Hutton, a meat-and-potatoes reporter, a tireless worker, there were news and interview segments all over the place on VOCM (ironically, it had some of the sounds of a CBC station, at a time the public broadcaster itself was continuing to pay an inordinate amount of attention to turkeys, Valentine’s Day, free coffee, and other community events, the sort of foolishness you’d usually expect from the private stations).

Do those ads and the departure of an old-fashioned newsman like Hutton mean VOCM is having second thoughts about that newly discovered focus on journalism?

A shame, since it was just starting to lose its reputation as a soft landing spot for politicians: VOCM, the Voice Of The Cabinet Minister.

Easy to forget, by the way, that Hutton was co-hosting the NTV Evening News when a few editorial and production brain cramps by CBC management allowed the Stirling boys  to take over the number one slot in the ratings, a position they’ve never relinquished.                

You can see what I have to worry about.

And then there’s the perpetuation of the journalist/politician shuffle.

Now stick with me on this one: Pete Soucy, owner/operator of the “Snook” franchise, who was axed from his afternoon hosting job on VOCM’s “Backtalk” several months back, is thinking of taking another crack at politics (he once ran, unsuccessfully, for the Liberals in a provincial election, a move recalled only by political junkies like me).

Soucey wants Judy Foote’s seat, and who wouldn’t? It’s as safe a Liberal seat as there is in the country. Foote, a scattered soul might recall, was herself a journalistic foot soldier decades ago before heading for the dark side (as I’ve always sanctimoniously perceived such traitorous acts) to take a job as a Clyde Wells flak.  Eventually, she won her own provincial seat, and continued her political success in Ottawa.

And Foote’s position as Newfoundland’s representative in the federal cabinet has been filled by Seamus O’Regan, another former journalist, or, more to the point, a morning television star on CTV, tonsils with feet.   

O’Regan has big boots to fill, given his raw rookie status in politics, and the fact that Foote was a real throwback to the days when Newfoundland actually had a strong voice in the federal cabinet (think Jamieson and Crosbie, not Penashue).

So you can understand why the Kim and Donald showdown is not nearly on a par with the type of worries I have.  

Will Debbie and Anthony have any chemistry? How about Krissy Holmes and Fred?

Who’ll replace Fred? 

When will Ryan Cleary leave the wharf for another expedient shot at politics or journalism?

If he wins the nomination and then gets elected, will Snook begin his maiden speech in the House of Commons with: “Mr. Speaker, how ya gettin’ on?”

Stay tuned, so to speak.  As I know many of you will.

 

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com

 

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