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About the standing

It's always interesting and important to monitor reaction to change.  So far, there is no doubt there has been lots of reaction to the changes we have instituted at The National this week.  As expected, the comments cover the spectrum and we're getting lots of good ideas from our viewers on what they like and what they're not so sure of at this point. 

If there's one area that seems common to both points of view, it's reaction to the fact that I do parts of the program standing. Some seem to suggest that this is a radical departure from the past.  Well, sure, "sitting at the anchor desk" is a traditional mainstay of many newscasts, but standing is hardly anything new.  I have been anchoring The National since 1988, and I've done the broadcast "standing", on average, at least twenty times a year, and no one has said anything.  Guess they didn't notice. 

Last year on election night, a lengthy eight-hour broadcast, I did the whole program standing, and it was extremely popular - if the ratings game is anything to go by.  It also gave the program a flexibility and mobility that we feel is needed in this day and age, especially for our broadcasts. Some people seem to forget that The National is unlike any other network newscast in Canada.  It's a one-hour broadcast, not half an hour, and it deals with much more than news stories.  We have feature interviews, panel discussions and short documentary and background features.  And we do it all in prime time, unlike the other Canadian networks.  Global's main newscast airs in the late afternoon.  CTV goes to air in post-prime-time late night.  So the on-air competition for viewer's eyeballs to The National at 10 p.m. isn't news - it's drama and entertainment, the CSI's of this world.  So for us, flexibility is key in showcasing what is still, and always will be, our most important product - solid journalism..

On the interview front, I will continue to do lots of sit-down interviews, both on The National and on Mansbridge One on One on the weekend.  However, there will be times when in-studio interviews are done standing, because we think they bring a whole new energy to the moment.  And again it's not new.  Just a few months ago, I had a 10-minute session with Prime Minister Harper in Ottawa.  We were standing in the Parliamentary Library at the time. A few years ago, I did the same with
former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.  Much was made by some of my interview with General Rick Hillier on Monday night because we had that conversation "standing".  Perhaps those who thought that was something really different didn't watch it very closely, because I even included, during that encounter, a taped segment of an interview the two of us had had five years ago in Afghanistan.  And guess what - we were standing in that one, too.

Now the question has also come along about At Issue - Canada's most-watched political panel.  "Is Mansbridge going to make them all stand too?"  The answer on that one is "no".  That conversation, a weekly appointment-television moment for hundreds of thousands of Canadians every week, is different and calls for a different look.  This Thursday, Allan, Andrew and Chantal will all be in studio at a fancy new desk with fancy new chairs.  Hope you join in the fun and watch.

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