Thursday, November 14, 2013
Kevin Newman Wants To Reinvent TV News
How long have I been covering Kevin Newman, lately the amiable host of CTV's Question Period?
I remember covering the stink when Newman left CBC's Midday (dubbed "the baby Journal") in 1994 as he jumped to ABC News.
Turns out CBC management got their signals crossed because he really wanted to stay if given the choice.
From 1994 to 1996 he diligently hosted the graveyard shift known as World News Now on ABC.
And then came time on Good Morning America especially on weekend editions until 1997.
In those years whenever I'd chat up ABC anchor Peter Jennings the amiable Canadian would praise the efforts of Newman and predict big things were coming.
Strangest factoid I can remember from that time came when Newman referred on air to a child's "Christmas sleigh" and the producer on duty that day blew up saying "He should have called it a sled!"
Back in Canada he hosted Global News Hour first from Vancouver --that didn't treally work--and then moved with the show to Ottawa.
Then he jumped again to CTV for Question Period, W5 assignments and occasional news reading substitutions on CTV News at 11 p.m.
In other words Newman doesn't crave long stretches of doing the same thing.
And now he's been handed his most intriguing assignment --to reinvent that strange entity TV news.
Starting Monday At 9 p.m. there's a new news hour coming on CTV News Channel.
Of course it's titled Kevin Newman Live. But Newman is better at saying what it will not be rather than what it is.
"We're evolving," he says over the phone from the brand news studio which is located in downtown Toronto's City building.
Will he in any way be modeling himself on CNN's Anderson Cooper?
"Nope, too old," he jokes.
In fact Newman is only 54 to Cooper's 46. But he lacks the white hair.
And judging from the PR photos released he won't even be wearing a suit coat or tie.
"We figure that by 9 at night audiences already know the top stories of the day. Our challenge is to find a different way to interpret what has happened that day."
In fact Newman took a year off after leaving Global to specifically study the phenomena of social media and how it affects the younger generations.
I think he'd agree with me today's twentysomethings wouldn't normally be caught dead watching a traditional news cast.
When I ask if maybe Kevin Newman Live isn't coming on a few weeks too late he laughs.
"You mean mayor Ford. Well, we're using that story in our dry runs --we have been doing these for three weeks.
"You'll notice the way that story broke and how it quickly became the lead all over the place. It took on a life of its own, that's the way stories develop these days.
"But, yeah, opening the show with this story would really have gotten us noticed."
Will Newman be concentrating on the news junkies? "Them and anybody else interested in that day's news. We will have some panels like on Fridays with books.
"But there will be a lot of input from viewers and back and forward conversations."
Hmmm, seems to me CTV once had an entire cable channel dedicated to that sort of thing termed Talk TV and it bombed mightily despite the presence of such youthful chatterboxes as Ben Mulroney.
Let's hope Newman's solid professionalism can keep the talk on a much more interesting level.
The fact CTV management is ready to experiment with such a project speaks volumes about the way news networks are heading --remember Lisa LaFlamme taking over from Lloyd Robertson on CTV News at 11 has kept ratings high at 11 p.m.
And her newscast is as traditional as they come.
The studio set is up and Newman expects quick fixes in the early months.
The challenge simple stated is to get a young audience who spend their days twittering to sit down and watch TV news in any form.
But this veteran anchor sees seen the future of TV news as Kevin Newman Live.
KEVIN NEWMAN LIVE DEBUTS ON CTV NEWS CHANNEL MONDAY NOVEMBER 18 at 9 P.M.