I am quick to criticize CKNW, mostly because I remember the years it did excellent work. Its newsroom, when run by Warren Barker, was the quickest and best source for local news. Reporters like George Garrett were our trusted friends. The morning news talk show under matchless hosts Jack Webster, Rafe Mair or Gary Bannerman were necessities to any person wanting to be informed about British Columbia public affairs. The radio staff was generously peopled by other broadcasting stars, like Frosty Forst, Jack Cullen, Al Davidson (in his own way), Hal Davis, Jim Robson, etc.
Today, beyond John McComb and Simi Sara, the station is talent thin, unable to produce in-house commercials and promos without the spots sounding like the product of first year BCIT broadcasting students.
The career of aging NW newsman Gord MacDonald, now filling in for McComb in the afternoon spot, has been on a downward slide for years. Hanging on, he’s trying a new “controversial” persona, bringing a sort of Faux News approach involving sensationalism, conflict, ignorance and intolerance.
Yet, I still have the radio station on pre-set. Someone who knows me well asked recently, “Why do you bother listening if you think it is so bad.”
Good question. The answer has much to do with the absolutely pathetic competition in local broadcasting. I’ve never been able to take the CKWX format because it seems that news reports are merely short interruptions separating lines of commercials. If they ever dealt with a subject in any depth, I missed it. CBC can be good at times but I have a feeling that if Vancouver Island started literally drifting out to sea, it would rank in importance behind stories from Newfoundland and Quebec. Other radio stations don’t even pretend to cover news.
However, at 1:30 today, I was listening to Simi Sara interview Vision pollster Bob Penner. He was intensely critical of the media performance during Vancouver’s recent civic election and I suspect he had NW specifically in mind. Unlike a deaf interviewer like Gord MacDonald, Sara listened to Penner’s comments and asked intelligent supplementary questions. She let the subject give his opinions and tried to ensure that all aspects were discussed. This is typical of work by Simi Sara; aside from McComb, she is the best interviewer at the station. Sara is also well informed and allows little BS to go unchallenged.
So, Simi Sara is one reason I still listen to CKNW. You should too, but always with a degree of skepticism.