By Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
TORONTO – A revamped edition of “The National” will be more nimble, multiplatform and “truly national” when four new but recognizable hosts who vary in age and background take the helm of CBC’s flagship newscast this fall, the public broadcaster vowed Tuesday.
Adrienne Arsenault, Rosemary Barton, Andrew Chang and Ian Hanomansing have been tasked with shepherding in the refreshed version of the “The National” as the network attempts to break free of the traditional solo news anchor following the retirement of Peter Mansbridge.
All four journalists, who will be stationed at various locations across the country, have a storied history with the CBC and have contributed to “The National” over the years.
Arsenault, 50, a senior correspondent, will be based in Toronto; Barton, 41, known for her hard-hitting interviews on “Power & Politics,” will remain in Ottawa; Chang, 34, will stay at the Vancouver studio; and Vancouver-based Hanomansing, 55, long considered a front-runner to replace Mansbridge, will relocate to Toronto.
“If there are four of us, we’re not all going to be on the show every night all the same,” Barton said in an interview following Tuesday’s news conference to reveal the changes. “We are all going to be able to pitch things, go after breaking news, travel.”
The CBC also plans to change some of the show’s format to make it feel more timely in a digital age when news breaks on social media.
The new “National,” which will debut Nov. 6, will have a digital component and air live across all six time zones, allowing the hosts to track developing stories in real time. Traditionally, the newscast tapes at 9 p.m. ET and repeats the same broadcast for the West Coast, unless a major breaking story is unfolding.
“I think what it means is the stories don’t get locked into the format. The stories dictate the format,” said Arsenault. “That’s where we’re really going to be able to be flexible, because depending on the nature of the story, we’re going to be able to shift and move just to give it the context that we need, and you can’t do that in a traditional cast.”
Being spread out will also allow the hosts to jump in and anchor directly from the scene of breaking news in their respective areas.
“To not simply report from there but to own a part of the program, that’s going to completely change the dynamic of what ‘The National’ is, it’s going to change the feel of it, it’s going to change the flavour of it,” said Chang.
Arsenault added they’re not “playing with the format” but rather “realizing the culture of what people expect from their journalists now.”
“They expect not just the news but they expect the context immediately, as thoroughly as they can get it and as widely as they can.”
Mansbridge officially left his longtime post at “The National” on July 1, nearly a year after announcing his retirement.
His replacements said they’d heard rumours there would be multiple hosts but didn’t know about each other until Friday.
“There’s still a lot about the show we don’t know,” said Hanomansing. “We haven’t been able to publicly talk to our colleagues about this stuff. We need to be briefed and read-in and get active and be involved in the development of the program from here on in. And I need an apartment.”
The CBC said it looked inside and outside of the organization to find new talent for “The National.”
Editor-in-chief Jennifer McGuire said going live will cost more than the current delivery of the show, as will the digital pieces being added.
But “the net budget is actually neutral in the context of news,” she added.
“The National” managing editor Steve Ladurantaye was recently reassigned after what the CBC called “an inappropriate, insensitive and frankly unacceptable tweet” he made as part of a controversial debate over cultural appropriation. McGuire said they’ll reassess what happens to him in the context of “The National” in September.
Manbridge offered his seal of approval in a tweet shortly after the announcement.
“A great move into the future with four excellent journalists taking the anchor helm at the National,” he wrote.
Members of the public gathered at Tuesday’s press conference seemed to agree.
“I think it’s a good selection,” said Ursula Mausberg of St. Catharines, Ont.
“I think it’s good because each one can concentrate on their area. I think it’s variety…. I’m looking forward to it. I like that they’ve selected a woman.”