Distressing news in the Island mediasphere this morning: among the six positions “made redundant” in the CBC cuts announced yesterday are four people I’ve had the pleasure of working with: reporter and erstwhile radio host Kerry Campbell, Compass assignment editor Claire Nantes, Compass reporter Ian Petrie, and radio studio director and technician Barry Vessey.
Kerry Campbell is one of those “jack of all media trades” people who seems equally comfortable as a TV reporter, radio reporter, radio features producer and radio host. He is arguably one of the better radio hosts ever to grace the Island radio dial, and if his “redundancy” means that we’ll no longer hear him in that capacity we will all be the worse for it.
Claire Nantes’ job as “assignment editor” is a behind-the-scenes roles that few people know exists but that is integral to production of a daily television newscast. Think of Claire as both the conductor of the symphony of reporters and camera operators, a liaison between the news-generating public and what gets covered, and someone who always needs her ear to the ground. I’ve no idea how you make a newscast — especially one that’s soon to expand to 90 minutes — without an assignment editor, especially one with Claire’s considerable talents.
Ian Petrie and Barry Vessey are in the slightly better position of not having had this all sprung on them, as they choose to make themselves redundant. But this doesn’t mean their absence will be felt any less.
I think it’s safe to say that Ian is the best television news reporter the Island has ever seen, someone with a great depth of understanding for his beat, the resource sector, and a talent for telling complicated stories and asking hard questions without needing to be confrontational or sensational. I’ve worked with Ian on several stories over the years, and it’s always been a joy; more importantly I look forward every evening to his reporting on Compass and I’m not quite sure I’ll properly be able to understand the Island without his nightly interpretation of it.
While Barry Vessey has a higher profile than Claire, as he squeaks out onto the air from time to time, his role as technician and studio director is, like Claire’s, a role that the public knows little about. I know Barry best from my days working with Wayne Collins on Island Morning: I would show up dark and early every week to do a live technology segment with Wayne on Island Morning and Barry would my first point of contact… he’d buzz me in the front door, greet when I made my way to the control room, and get me set up in the studio. Most importantly his steady demeanor was exactly what was needed to calm my frazzled pre-air nerves. A few years later, as a result of a bizarre double-booking, I found myself in a field at UPEI appearing on Morningside with Barry running the complicated-seeming gear that somehow beamed my voice to Toronto; again, having Barry behind the scenes, technically and otherwise, made it possible. In recent years as the CBC has scraped away more and more positions, and “synergized” others, Barry’s role has only grown in complexity and importance to the point where, for practical purposes, he’s “running the show.” I’m not sure how they’ll do it without him.
It’s one thing to hear about anonymous “redundancies” at the CBC and benignly imagine them away as “cutting the morning show in Moose Jaw.” It’s another thing entirely to know that when a position is “made redundant” there are smart, skilled people vital to the public broadcasting enterprise who are being sent away with it. Not only is a personal loss for those affected, but it’s a siphoning off of skilled interpreters at a time when the world needs people like this more than ever.
While I trust that all affected will land on their feet, and even return to the CBC in another guise, let’s all just take a moment to recognize them for the debt we owe them for their public service.