‘The National’ entering new era Monday with revamp featuring four hosts


TORONTO — Six time zones, three cities, four hosts.

CBC’s revamped “The National” debuts Monday with a new format that aims to reinvent the evening news experience.

“If we get this right, we will show how a late-night national newscast can still actually be relevant,” said Ian Hanomansing, one of a quartet of hosts for the refreshed version of the public broadcaster’s flagship news program.

“It would be the coolest thing ever if, A: this works the way we hope it’s going to work, and B: imagine if other broadcasters in other countries looked at this and said, ‘Let’s try this.'”

Hanomansing, a former Vancouver-based host on CBC News Network, is sharing anchor duties with a diverse group of established journalists who have contributed to “The National” over the years: senior correspondent Adrienne Arsenault, “Power & Politics” host Rosemary Barton, and Vancouver local news host Andrew Chang.

For the most part, Hanomansing and Arsenault will be based in Toronto, Barton will remain in Ottawa, and Chang will stay at the Vancouver studio. But each will also do field and feature reporting and may be in different cities from time to time, giving “The National” a different look every night.

Arsenault, for instance, was just in Syria for a feature series that viewers will get a first look at on Monday.

“I still feel rooted in being a reporter and this is just a different incarnation of it,” said Arsenault, after a day of technical rehearsals on the Toronto set.

“This show is so different from anything I’ve done before,” added Hanomansing.

The four hosts vary in age and background but are on equal footing, he said.

“Andrew is just as likely to jump on that plane as Adrienne is, or when the live special goes wall-to-wall, it could be Rosemary as easily as it could be me,” said Hanomansing.

“That alone sends a message about, maybe not egalitarianism, but about being collegial and teamwork.”

“The National” will air from Sunday to Friday and there will be a live component to the hour-long show in each time zone.

“The show will hand over in terms of the presentation of the show from Toronto to Vancouver after 11 at night,” said CBC News editor-in-chief Jennifer McGuire.

“We’re handing it over to Vancouver to allow the show to be able to be live until 2 a.m. eastern, so that will allow us to be able to respond to breaking news in a way that is built into the assumption of the show.”

The top of the show will be from Toronto in the first week, but it won’t always be the same host opening the broadcast.

“You’re rarely going to get all four of them on any given night,” said McGuire.

“We probably will do that a little bit out of the gate, just to establish that there’s four of them and getting the audience used to the idea that it’s multiple versus one host.”

It’s a stark difference from the previous incarnation of “The National” with Peter Mansbridge, who stepped down from his role as anchor and chief correspondent in July after nearly three decades with the program.

“The National” will also have an updated look, with a new logo and set design. And while the Toronto set has a desk, Arsenault and Hanomansing said they won’t just be glued to their chairs.

“It’s not just ‘The National’ changing. We’ve had a complete overhaul of the structure within the news organization,” said Arsenault.

The new “National” will also feed into a podcast, a daily newsletter, and stream on Facebook.

“Everything is designed to find a way to deliver the news to people where they are, as opposed to where we want them to come to.”

McGuire said the goal is to not only review the day that was, but also push stories forward with context and original journalism.

“This idea of capturing the day that was, it is important and I don’t want to say that we’re losing that,” she said.

“But by the end of the day, the audience has already touched the news in some way, so you’ve got to take them somewhere else.”

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press