Wendy Mesley to host weekly news talk show in 2018
'I want people to have a chuckle and feel free to yell at the set'
The program — to air live from Toronto on CBC and CBC News Network each Sunday morning — "will focus on the intersection of media, technology and politics," according to a statement from CBC.
The as-yet-unnamed program will analyze and review the news and newsmakers of the week. It will feature a range of contributors and guests from across the country and around the world.
"The best news programs are those where if you haven't seen it, you feel you've missed something — whether that's a new idea, through analysis, a great debate between people you may not like, but respect — and that the process be enjoyable," Mesley said Thursday morning.
"We are of a generation now where people are comfortable talking like real people on television. The days of pointy heads preaching at you (and she counts herself in this category) — if Donald Trump has taught us anything, those days are no longer appreciated. But that doesn't mean you can't have smart talk."
I want people to have a chuckle and feel free to yell at the set.- Wendy Mesley
Mesley will continue as an anchor of The National until its relaunch with a new format in October, after which she will move to a contributor role for the flagship news show. She will also continue hosting the documentary program The Passionate Eye.
"With the kind of show we're imagining for Wendy, we see it having a natural synergy with the new National," said CBC News editor-in-chief Jennifer McGuire.
"There's a limit to how many shows you can host ... I had conversations with various people within news about the host jobs on The National. Wendy was one of them. As the process evolved, this idea came up and she gravitated to it … We've talked about launching a Sunday morning show for several years. Now, it seemed all the stars aligned to make it happen."
'Something brand new'
"This would be something brand new," Mesley said, not your typical Sunday morning political show, nor simply media and tech.
"These days, trying to separate media, politics and technology is impossible. Bots influencing an election, hacking in election campaigns — it's all so intertwined."
For instance, if the show were on air this week, Mesley said she might consider topics such as the Conservative Party speaking out in U.S. media about the Omar Khadr settlement (as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lands on the cover of Rolling Stone), using dating app Tinder to get out the vote or perhaps the story about Walmart developing facial recognition software to detect unhappy customers.
"We have to figure out how to take the best of current affairs shows and the best of the news shows," Mesley said.
"Lots of debate, lots of analysis, lots of interviews ... news-driven, but also things behind the news."
For instance, The Daily Show's Trevor Noah — a person influencing how we see the world and whom Mesley interviewed last year — is one kind of guest who would fit on the new show, she said.
Mesley, who won best host or interviewer at this year's Canadian Screen Awards, got her start at CBC News as a legislative reporter based in Quebec City. She moved to Ottawa in 1985 to become The National's first female correspondent to cover the prime minister from the parliamentary press gallery. In 1994, she helped create and host the award-winning weekly show Undercurrents, which took an in-depth look at the media and marketing worlds. She is also a past host of CBC's investigative consumer show Marketplace.
"There is no one better than Wendy to lead the charge with this new Sunday show," McGuire said. "Her deep political experience and keen instinct to unearth the hidden nuances in every story make her the perfect choice to helm this weekly destination for media criticism and political conversation from all sides."
Mesley's goal for the new show is to explore "serious issues, but also to have a bit of fun so people will enjoy watching it."
Leading the Sunday talk panels on The National, she said, has taught her that viewers appreciate respectful and lively debate, discussion and analysis from differing points of view.
"I get a lot of reaction from people saying 'I can't stand so-and-so, but I watch every week and yell at the TV set.' I think that's great. I want people to have a chuckle and feel free to yell at the set."