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Tuesday, September 21, 2021
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A peek behind the curtain: How CBC staff are covering the pandemic

I’d like to take a moment to share how our journalists across the country are working in new and innovative ways to bring you the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But first, I want to acknowledge those working in essential services: from first responders, personal care and support workers, nursing home and shelter staff to everyone on the front lines of Canada’s public health and health care systems.

You are being tested like never before. We will continue to tell your stories and document the challenges you face as the pandemic surges

Let me also acknowledge the uncertainty so many Canadian workers face as layoffs, furloughs and workplace shutdowns mount.

We have documented the economic fallout, the impact on families struggling with rent and mortgages, how Canadians can apply for emergency benefits and what federal and provincial governments are doing for businesses.

Ottawa’s Omar Dabaghi-Pacheo puts a new coronavirus-era spin on the typical media ‘streeter’ as he and his interview comply with physical distancing guidelines. (Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco)

We will not let up on this critical element of the COVID-19 story.  

We would never compare to front-line health care services what we do at CBC. But we believe strongly that we are an essential service of another sort; that we play a critical role in conveying trusted, credible information in this time of crisis while also holding authorities to account for the life-changing decisions they make. 

A CBC/Radio-Canada vehicles gets a scrub down in the garage of Maison de Radio-Canada in Montreal, (CBC/Radio-Canada)

That sense of mission is shared widely by the many other reputable news organizations in Canada and around the world doing some exemplary journalism on TV, radio, digital and in print.  

Journalism, especially broadcast journalism, is not easy to do when the majority of staff are at home and newsgathering is constrained by physical distancing and risk mitigation. 

Journalist Julia Caron, based in Quebec City, is working from home during the pandemic and like many Canadians, is juggling family and work responsibilities. (Julia Caron)

Yet our staff are pulling off daily feats of invention and ingenuity to bring you the journalism you expect.

For example:

  • Newsrooms across the country are largely empty, with video conferencing the key connection point for staff all day long. 

  • Many of our radio hosts are broadcasting live-to-air from home (see some of them in action in the photo gallery above).

  • Staff are also producing our biggest TV programs, including The National and CBC News Network, from home, with only a core group left in our buildings.

WATCH | Lineup producer Meg Banks gives viewers a tour of her home studio, which she uses to connect with the control room inside the CBC building and bring The National to air:

Producer Meg Banks shows off the makeshift control room that she has put together at her Toronto home, from which she brings The National to air every night during the COVID-19 lockdown. 1:05
  • Our News Network team adapted an app that essentially turns a smartphone into an intercom so they can speak to each other and to hosts from home and the control room in real time as they program an extraordinary amount of live, breaking news. 

  • Nearly all appearance by guests, panellists and interview subjects are done by video conference. 

  • When the story warrants newsgathering in the field, reporters and camera crews are largely sticking to outdoor shoots, with a rigorous process built around distancing our microphones and disinfecting gear afterward. 

Interviews have gotten more challenging in the time of COVID-19. Here, Tina Lovgreen keeps her distance from her interview subject in Vancouver. (CBC)

Aesthetically, the end product is not always perfect: audio gets clipped; the sound can be flawed; video is sometimes pixelated or freezes or drops altogether; transitions can be bumpy. 

Thank you for your patience through it all. 

Rest assured the rigour of our journalism and the quality of the information we provide Canadians is as rock solid as ever. 

Working from home does have its advantages: no shoes and a cosy quilt for Janice Goudie, host of Labrador Morning. (Janice Goudie)

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