CBC Digital Archives

Barbara Frum: The Journal premieres

Broadcaster Barbara Frum pioneered a tough interview style on CBC Radio's As it Happens and later on CBC Television's The Journal. Whether she was talking to Nelson Mandela, Harold Ballard or the grower of the world's biggest cabbage, Frum's unrelenting curiosity, her fearless search for the truth, and her empathy and humour made her one of Canada's most important broadcasters.

It's a huge gamble.
The decision to revamp CBC Television's prime-time format involves moving the 11 p.m.The National newscast to a new slot an hour earlier, putting it in direct competition with Dynasty and Hill Street Blues.
The National would then be followed by an innovative 38-minute current affairs program called The Journal, hosted by not one but two women: Mary Lou Finlay and Barbara Frum.

Finlay would later chuckle recalling the image of "a herd of guys. whispering, 'hey, can we do it, can we really put two broads on the air?'"
It is seen as a major victory for feminists.
Despite Frum's success on radio, CBC management questions her abilities on TV. Skeptics point to the failure of another popular radio personality, Peter Gzowski, and his short-lived television show, 90 Minutes Live.

Initially even Frum has apprehensions about being the host of the new program. The Journal's executive producer Mark Starowicz, who worked with her on As It Happens, eventually convinces her to make the move. It's a decision that will transform CBC Television. The Journal launches on Jan. 11, 1982 and becomes a huge success. Each night, it consistently pulls in 2.5 million viewers across Canada, far exceeding everyone's expectations.

It's the program Canadians tune into before bed and talk about the next day around the water cooler. Its host Barbara Frum becomes synonymous with The Journal.
. Barbara Frum said leaving As It Happens was like "getting a divorce from myself." She had been the host of the CBC radio program for 11 years.
. Mary Lou Finlay left her co-hosting duties after two years to become a field reporter for The Journal. The decision to go with one host was made by Mark Starowicz who believed a 38-minute show was too short to justify two hosts.

. Frum would become the master of the "double ender" interviews. Often both Frum and her guests stared into the lens of a camera, conducting the interview to a mirror image of their own faces. The technology fooled the audience into thinking that Frum and her guests could see each other during the conversation.
. The first episode of The Journal received mixed reviews.

. Frum lavished attention on her poodle Diva. Mark Starowicz jokingly referred to Diva as the "bane of his existence." He recalled how they had to stop taping The Journal more than once because Diva could be heard in the background.
. Her constant companion during the long hours she put in for The Journal , Diva had been a surprise birthday present from her daughter Linda.
Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: Jan. 11, 1982
Guest(s): Lloyd Axworthy, Dennis McDermott
Host: Barbara Frum
Duration: 6:29

Last updated: March 19, 2012

Page consulted on June 12, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Barbara Frum: Pioneering Broadcaster

The sudden death of Barbara Frum on March 26, 1992 shocked Canadians. The loss of one of the c...

1985: Electric eels light up Christmas tree

The electric eels at the Vancouver Aquarium light up a tree for the holiday season.

1948: Housewives save with margarine

The Supreme Court of Canada lifts a ban on the sale of margarine, a butter substitute that's h...

The Avro Arrow: Canada's Broken Dream

It's the closest thing Canadian industry has to a love story and a murder mystery. The Avro Ar...

1983: Trudeau on Peking peace mission

Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau takes tea with the Chinese premier as part of his worldw...

1936: CBC Radio takes to the air

CBC Chairman Leonard Brockington tells listeners about the challenges that face a nationwide p...