CBC evening news team Anne-Marie Mediwake and Dwight Drummond begin a new 90 minute newscast on Oct. 12.
ANDREW WALLACE/TORONTO STAR
With a new double anchors format and the promise of “faster-paced” delivery, the public broadcaster is hoping to shake up the local evening news landscape.
Veteran journalists Anne-Marie Mediwake and Dwight Drummond take the helm of CBC News Toronto Tuesday with an expansive program of three 30-minute broadcast starting at 5 p.m.
Lagging as the station currently does in that timeslot behind Global, Citytv and perpetually top-ranked CTV, it can’t hurt that between them, Mediwake and Drummond have worked at all the competitors.
But CBC Toronto’s Managing Director Susan Marjetti, who assumed the TV and online portfolio in January, isn’t simply counting on fans who follow the news anchors around; her quest is to “create a compelling, must-watch, 90-minute supper- hour show.
“We did a lot of work over the course of the first nine months of really just talking to people, looking at what we were doing, and asking ourselves ‘How can we make this product better?’ ” Marjetti told the Star.
“Our emphasis remains on the top stories, breaking news, but more: we will deliver context that leads to understanding, enterprise and original journalism and a range of stories.”
Marjetti is noted for orchestrating the restructuring which took Metro Morning to No. 1 for the first time ever in its history within two years of being named to oversee CBC Radio in 2001. That show recently celebrated its 25th time in the top spot.
However, she recalled that ratings initially dropped at CBC Radio One’s Toronto morning flagship after it began to broaden its scope, with more ethnically varied contributors, in September 2002.
“There was tremendous initial pushback to the changes,” she said. “I remember people saying ‘Get those accents off the air’ and ‘I’m never listening to this station again.’ Change is hard.
“What motivated the changes for Metro Morning was that the city had changed and CBC had not. So, we set about to create programming, in particular in morning and afternoon drive, that looked and felt and captured the essence of this city and all its richness and diversity.
“That’s a critical component for our supper-hour show as well. We want to be more relevant to more people. To be more relevant to more people, you have to reflect and connect your community. To reflect and connect your community, it’s an ideas business — you have to have a range of perspectives and ideas right at the story meeting table.”
Chosen from more than 120 applicants whittled down to 20 interviewees, Mediwake and Drummond are familiar faces; she from the morning anchor desk at CBC News Network after stints at Global and CTV and he, after 20 years at Citytv, where he moved from assignment editor to crime reporter and noon co-anchor.
This coupling makes them a rare non-white duo at the prestigious evening desk at one of the city’s four major broadcasters.
“We went out to hire the best journalists and television news anchors we could find,” said Marjetti. “We were looking for a chemistry and a connection with the audience and strong journalistic base. That they happened to be diverse is just one of the many positive attributes that they bring to the table.”
The Star spoke with the pair last week as they wound down nearly three weeks of rehearsals and publicity for the new gig. In tandem, seated under a giant banner of themselves inside CBC’s Front St. headquarters, they exuded the banter, charm and intellect that won them the job.
“We’re familiar with each other from the industry and events, but we have been purposely trying to spend a lot of time together to get to know each other,” said Drummond.
Both married and parents of young children, they were raised in immigrant families — hers Scottish-Sri Lankan, his Jamaican. They’re conscious of the optics of their hiring.
“I think that the intention was not to make a statement, but flipping through the dial at 6 o’clock, it makes a statement,” said Mediwake, 35. “It’s important, because I remember the first time I saw a woman of colour on television and thought ‘Well, I can do that job too.’”
Drummond, 43, recalled the import of job shadowing black Star reporter Royson James in high school and seeing late African American journalist Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes. But he maintained, “I don’t want people to say ‘They hired them because they want to put two people of colour on there.’ I’m hoping that they’re past that and they understand that we earned it and support us because they like the way we do what we do and not only because of the way we look.”
Marjetti can’t help gushing over the attractive combo. “I walked out of the photo shoot a few weeks ago with my managing editor Sophia Hadzipetros and I turned to her and I said ‘They’re absolutely stunning!’ Coming from radio, I’ve never talked that way about people we hire, but it is a factor in a visual medium. So yes, they look fantastic, they have great energy, they have fabulous chemistry together and that they help us reflect the diversity of this city I think absolutely is important.”