A Chat with Richard Stursberg, My Ex-Boss and former Arch-Nemesis

The former CBC boss shook up my work world, got fired and wrote a book. Time to catch up.

This article originally appeared on The Tyee.

Those hazel eyes haunted my dreams as a young CBC journalist.

Richard Stursberg’s new book includes one particularly perceptive passage: “They would look at me as though confronted by the Great Satan himself. The stench of sulphur and charred flesh seemed to follow me everywhere. Employees looked aside when I came into view.”

He’s describing the climate in Toronto after the 2005 lockout at the CBC, but that searing hatred never completely dissipated during his tenure as executive vice-president in charge of English services. He was the engine pushing toward a more populist, commercial CBC. He also oversaw the elimination of 800 jobs in 2009. Sitting across from him on the patio at JJ Bean, I ask if the ill will we wished him ever affected his day to day mindset.

“Yeah, it slowed me down dramatically,” replies Stursberg. “The level of resistance within the news department, despite the fact it was failing, was unbelievable. I was very conscious of the fact that people were worried and resistant. But at some point it was pretty clear that if we didn’t do something, the whole thing was just gonna kind of vanish.”

Fort News

It was thus that under Stursberg’s tenure, local newscasts were stretched from 60 minutes to 90 — with the same staff. New, high-tempo graphics and music were brought in. And we had to be live, all the time. I remember as a videojournalist, editing my own news piece, having to abandon everything and run to the roof at 5:00 and 5:30 to deliver gasping, breathless “lives,” before running back up for a third time at 6:00 to intro my barely-finished story. Some days in Montreal there were only four reporters to fill an hour and a half of airtime.

“When you look now at CBC News,” I ask Stursberg, “do you see your vision realized?”

“Yeah, up to a point. But I had always thought there were two steps involved. One of which is, it had to be this sort of promise of breaking news, 24-hour-a-day breaking news. And going faster than the privates…”

I interrupt him. “I don’t ask this out of disrespect, but have you ever broken a news story?”

“Of course not, I’m not a journalist. Why would I break news stories? I’ve never worked as a journalist in my entire life. But that’s neither here nor there. I can still count. I can count how many news stories get broken.”

Continue reading at TheTyee.ca

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4 comments
  1. Look guys at this fragment: carefully as it will show how tricky and profiting in this system this guy still is. He says that he was fired and a few sentences later we see his words about leaving the CBC after agreement what means being paid (yes, well!!!) for ‘separation’:

    “Insubordination, he writes, is one of the reasons he was fired. Near the end of the book, Stursberg describes that day in Aug. 2010. “Hubert Lacroix came up to my office. He said, ‘We are parting ways.’ ‘Really,’ I replied as insouciantly as possible. ‘Are you leaving?’ He looked darker than ever. What happened after this, I cannot say. The terms of my separation agreement forbid me from describing the moment.”

    He should be seen more as a typical hit man acting among gangsters that was ‘honestly’ paid for his murders in the CBC. The point (or rather problem) is that on top of that he also wants to buy today the public’s sympathy/forgiveness for his crimes under Rabinovitch and Lacroix. BTW, it was a very murky business how Cretien nominated as the CBC’s president R. Rabinovitch (CEO in a tricky Bronfman family that took over 2 billion dollars from Canada without paying taxes and purchased Hollywood production – and he was promoting their production when the CBC’s president).

    I see Strusberg now as a resurrected Pol Pot writing book to promote his version of events in Cambodia. Will we see soon also books written by Rabinovitch and Lacroix?

    P.S. The Bronfman family made big money after intoxicating society with produced alcohol (during prohibition – smuggled production to the US) and now still intoxicates by their cheapest film/music products.

    • I’ve never sat across from Pol Pot, but I think the comparisons you make are overblown.

  2. I understand that you must be nice for this guy, but telling half of the the truth about the CBC is not acceptable and his book represents this approach. It was no problem for him to expose MSM’s manipulations and the role of the CBC. How this network paid by us was objective in reporting about about the Afghanistan war, Palestine conflict, governmental policies, promoting Hollywood products etc?
    We have guys being paid a lot of money when ‘separating’ from their jobs because they know too much about many questionable things in their companies. They should not use the term fired that is used for thousands of people put on streets without compensation after also many years of dedicated work.

    • Fair enough. “Dismissed” then. He didn’t leave voluntarily.

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