Citytv’s bold move to nix traditional news anchors and steer towards a one-person newsroom.
As the winds of change sweep across the media landscape, the technology used in broadcast journalism has, for the most part, remained constant. The focus in TV has been on enhancing the viewer experience, instead of changing it, with a team of reporters, editors and camera operators employed in similar fashion for decades.
In July 2018, a small but significant change happened at Rogers Media’s Citytv station that could portend changes to come across the industry. Partnering with radio station News 1130, Citytv Vancouver announced that its new evening newscasts—at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.—would do away with the traditional anchor, as part of a series of changes to how daily news would be covered. Key to the shift has been empowering video journalists—a sort of one-person newsroom where the reporting, shooting and editing of videos is all done by one person.
Kyle Donaldson is managing producer of the new Citytv Vancouver efforts. A former producer at City’s Breakfast Television, Donaldson describes the changes to the format in entrepreneurial terms. “The biggest thing with this project for me was that it was a startup, really,” he says at the Citytv studios near Olympic Village. The Vancouver news program has been rolled out at the same time as Citytv newscasts in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal.
Many have expressed concern about the quality of newscasts without a host, but to that question Donaldson points to his days as an anchor with Breakfast Television. It wasn’t about being the star of the show, he says, but “the product that you’re putting out as a team. The days of your stereotypical anchorman or anchorwoman sitting behind a desk in their suit with their anchor-hair—that’s kind of coming to a bit of an end.”
According to Citytv reporter Isabelle Raghem, a video journalist who formerly worked at CHEK News in Victoria, the new newscast allows her to pursue stories free of the usual restrictions. “News has always been this very traditional look and feel,” she notes. “I think it is a great way to get into the community and actually be a part of it, and tell the stories that normally wouldn’t get this platform.”
For the man who oversees all of the network’s news operations—Dave Budge, vice-president of news and information at Citytv in Toronto—the future for broadcasting is bright, so long as media outlets continue to innovate. He sees the Citytv news structure as an example of where TV newscasts need to go—saying his organization’s focus on the intensely local is what keeps them alive where other programs are failing: “It’s a ray of hope for other news programs.”