Happy B-day CBC, and praise for a CBC Manitoba host/reporter

CBC’s 75 years old today and it deserves a hearty Happy Birthday! Lots of people gripe about it for various reasons – I’ve been part of that crowd at times – but without it we’d all be a lot worse off. There are things it does no-one else has the ability to do. (Yes, yes I know – it’s all with our taxpayer dollar. But that’s what government is for, isn’t it?)

With Remembrance Day only a few days off, the CBC’s archives are a treasure trove of reporting from the front in the Second World War, where its reporters pioneered the journalistic use of battle noises to add depth and a sense of closeness and reality to their broadcasts. (Their reporters were actually right up at the front with the troops.)

Check out the CBC archives for WW2, Korean War and other Canadian military stuff at web pages like this one: http://archives.cbc.ca/war_conflict/second_world_war/topics/1317. For some reason I can’t get the audio to work, but when it comes to the digital world, I’m a caveman. I’m sure you’ll do better.

Rather than discuss anything else about CBC’s 75 years, I thought I’d give praise for recent work by CBC Manitoba radio which no one else could do, and it was something that recognized and highlighted the flooding situation ravaging the lives of cattle producers, other rural people and aboriginal bands living around the shores of Lake Manitoba. The area has been inundated with floodwaters for the entire spring, summer and fall and cattle producers have had to rescue cattle, relocate them, flee their homes, even give up their farms and herds. It’s been a terrible tragedy unfolding. Right now farmers are hurriedly moving cattle to pastures and winter grounds away from the flood zone, hauling thousands of bales into the area (any low lying pastures around the lake have been unusable and will be next spring too), and trying to figure out if they have a future in the cattle industry.

Twice this year morning show co-host/reporter Marcy Markusa – once in the spring and once a couple of weeks ago – circumnavigated the shores of Lake Manitoba, met farmers, rural people and people in small towns, and gave voice to their stories. Story after story after story told true tales of people beset by problems in the less-visited parts of this countryside and let Winnipeggers and people in the rest of Manitoba get a sense of what has been happening there. I moved to this province 10 years ago and I have been stunned at how little the outside-Winnipeg world intrudes in the local media, but work like Marcy’s threw it in front of everyone and drew attention to something that would otherwise have been totally ignored.

Marcy Markusa of Information Radio

Private radio covers these stories too, but generally private radio has far fewer staff and resources and can only touch on the stories. They cover these things every day, but to really pop it up in front of the urban audience takes a lot of staff, time and money. It takes an organization with resources and journalistic depth to give this kind of heft to this kind of coverage, and CBC Manitoba and Marcy Markusa did that in this case, both in the springtime and recently.

Today I’m heading out to one of those farms, and I know from talking to the people that they appreciate their plight being recognized. The Manitoba Beef Producers told me the same recently. The CBC coverage has helped them ensure their situation hasn’t just disappeared from the public’s mind. Their greatest worry recently has been that they would be forgotten, now that the extremity of the situation has been reduced.

So, on this 75th Bday party of CBC, let’s wish them well and say thanks for coverage like this, which allowed farmers’ voices to be heard in non-farming parts of our society. CBC has dropped a lot of farm and rural-based programs across the country in recent years, but work like this offers hope that those hard-to-tell farming and rural stories can still be told to provincial and national audiences.

CBC has a website dedicated to its 75th, and there’s a lot of great stuff there, from a Friendly Giant episode to Wayne and Shuster stuff. As I noted before, the archival material on the Second World War is terrific and I’m going to be spending time with the online archives as Remembrance Day approaches.










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