Friday, September 8, 2006

Joan Donaldson dead

Muckraking journalist Alexandra Kitty, who I happen to know personally, once joked that "no one likes the CBC unless they get a job there." But there are times when Canada's state broadcaster gets its act right and tells the story without spin -- they let the story, in fact, speak for itself. One of the people who did that best was Joan Donaldson. She did it so well that she was given the job of being the first person in charge of the CBC's 24 hour news channel, Newsworld.

Their rating stunk at first when it launched in June 1989. In fact, their morning show averaged only 6000 -- that's thousand -- viewers. Their format was also very hectic, with rotating news desks in Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary. But it was very positive in one way; it allowed Canadians to get local stories of interest that never made it on to The National. It took a while, but people actually liked watching local newscasts from other time zones.

The network really took off a month later when it decided to cover, wall to wall, a public inquiry into how the RCMP and the Manitoba government fucked up the investigation into the murder of Helen Osborne in The Pas; and why it took so long to bring just two of the four suspects to trial (the other two got immunity in exchange for their testimony). Canadians were riveted when the man convicted in the affair, Dwayne Johnson, refused to take an oath to tell the truth -- flat out refused to testify period. Newsworld had found its niche, and was subtitled "The Inquiry Network" because it had the ability to do that, and cover other news events extensively.

Donaldson was in her stride. Unfortunately, her peak wasn't to last. Barely six months later, she was hit by a bicycle in front of Maison de Radio Canada in Montréal, presumably to give advice to the CBC's French network on how to start up their own news net (which they eventually did in 1995, RDI). While she was able to talk again, eventually, she was left a quadripelegic for life. She died last night at the age of sixty.

Some of the reporters at the CBC, and at other MSM outlets, still have the kind of integrity Joan had. Most don't, and that's a shame.

To vote for this article at Progressive Bloggers, click here.

No comments: