Sunday, December 27, 2009

Your opinion is important to us.

Over the past several months, CBC Radio One's Montreal morning program Daybreak has developed a rather irritating obsession with listener feedback. Comment has replaced content, as seemingly every news item or topic of discussion is framed by the constant prompt to call, email, text, or tweet one's opinion on the matter. "Matter" being the operative word here, as most of what comes in doesn't, and the result is continual interruption of the program's flow as air time is given to random, insubstantial comments on a host of moot points.

The apex of Daybreak's feedback loop came one morning when a listener wrote in to complain about the irrelevance of a certain 'news' story (something about a local couple's complicated divorce), which prompted host Nancy Wood to turn it back to the general listenership and ask: "Well, what do you think? Is this story relevant?" At that point I let out a stifled scream and switched the dial to CBC's French sister station, Radio Canada Première chaine, whose morning program, I might add, makes Daybreak sound like this. Seriously.

I can understand the impulse behind this desire to democratize news coverage - greater accessibility and involvement of the listenership in theory creates greater loyalty and better ratings. That's great, and there is, of course, room for feedback and listener input on the radio, (a stellar example being CBC radio's Cross Country Checkup on Sunday afternoons at 4pm). But proper context has to exist for it to be of actual relevance, rather than a shallow, free-for-all for the sake of "giving voice" and "being heard" about things that, in the end, are neither insightful, informative, or offer intelligent debate. A perfect example of this is (I hate to excessively pick on the Morthership, but she's the one I watch, read, and listen to most) where people can post responses to news items. Depending on the story, you can fairly confidently bet yer bottom dollar that these will deteriorate into a total nut-bar showcase. Racism, prejudice, and loud and proud red-necks are alive and well in this fair nation.

I can only hope Daybreak's bandwagon reflex/genuflect to the Twitterites and the cult of the iPhone is temporary, and that they'll realize that the 'average Joe' opinion is a poor substitute for intelligent, in-depth journalism. Until then, I'll be over at Radio 2.

Listen to a very good discussion about listener feedback on the Q podcast for Monday February 23, 2009

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