Thursday, August 6, 2009

CBC: Layoffs + News Renewal = Upheaval and Resignation

At CBC News, these may look like quiet summer days…but they are days of complete upheaval. As if the layoffs weren’t bad enough to implement, there’s the process known as News Renewal, a massive reorganization of how the work gets done, and who does what.

For dozens of people, both behind-the-scenes and on-air, News Renewal means being reassigned – sometimes to a job that seems reasonable and interesting, and other times, to a job that’s not any of those things. Sometimes by nice conversation and other times, through curt and dismissive meetings. It’s disorienting for many people to be told that their views of what constitutes career progression are an illusion.

News Renewal is supposed to be in the name of making CBC News truly 24/7 on television, radio and online, national and local. I think most people understand and laud that intent. But then it collided head-on with the financial shortfall and the layoffs, which, among other things, led to greater uncertainty and varying degrees of pressure on senior employees to take voluntary retirement packages or simply resign.

The result: a feeling of deep hurt and resentment by those who weren’t quite ready to go, those who dared ask questions about the “multi-platform” 24/7 universe. They weren’t "laid off", but found they had no choice. They are people who gave years of valuable service, but who couldn’t relate to what they were now being asked to do.

How they feel is well expressed in a goodbye note from Dave Anderson of CBC Radio – which is contained in Jeffrey Dvorkin’s blog. Dvorkin is the former chief journalist at CBC radio and now distinguished visiting professior at Ryerson University.

What about the loss of all this talent? How do we address that? Who’s taking stock of who’s gone, beyond name and position? One way is a new section of the Guild’s web site – where we’re asking for people laid off this year to post their profiles so we know more about those losing their jobs. I’ll write more about this project later. But it’s only a small way to start documenting all this.

In the meantime, there’s a lot of hurt, a lot of disillusionment and a lot of anger.

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