Journal entry - October 26th, 1979.

On the eve of 26. A good year behind me - a better one ahead (I hope). I'm feeling pretty damn pleased with myself these days. Sweet little Rachel Blakeney to keep me warm .... a nice Toronto apartment ... an interesting job. Some real cash. Life could be worse. In fact, last year at this time - it was. Freelancing and working at the Keg with a bunch of coked-out wankers. Count your blessings.

But things are a bit stressy at Morningside. Richard's on the rampage. Doesn't like the show. Doesn't like our story ideas. Thinks we're hanging Harron out to dry with interviews he's not properly prepped for. The story meetings have become tense. Richard goes round the room...what do YOU have ? What do You have ? What do YOU have ? And you'd better have something.

My beat is the west. Oil policy. Alberta - Ottawa politics. Trudeau / Lougheed. Western Separatism. The problem is ... these are NOT Don Harron type interviews. He doesn't know what he's talking about ... and more to the point - couldn't care less. He's an actor not a journalist. I prep him as best I can...then he starts to interview ... gets lost...and I have to direct him from the control room.

He was interviewing Jack Horner recently about why he jumped from the Tories to the Libs...his first question to Jack....was -- "You Horner's are kind of like an Alberta version of the Cartwrights, eh ??" I DIDN'T HAVE A CLUE what he was talking about. Neither did Jack. Turns out he was trying to make a joke about Bonanza and thought that because Horner has five brothers we'd get the gag. Nope. A million Canadians probably wouldn't have either. This is why God made editing.

I think someone is going to get whacked soon. There's a rumour going around that Richard said "there'll be changes unless the show gets better". He's so damn competitive with the As It Happens crowd but they have about twice the staff and only 90 minutes a day to fill. We have three hours. And Don Harron.

All the radio chase producers are on 13 week contracts with no automatic renewal. So, if you fuck up...or they THINK you're fucking up....you're gone. Had way too many beers with Gzowski this week at the Red Lion. He's writing a book about cannibalism - says it's a metaphor for the CBC, except cannibals eat the dead ... to survive at the CBC you eat the dying.


Saturday, September 29th, 2007.

There's a word I've come to love over the past few years. Schadenfreude. It's one of those perfect words where both the meaning and the SOUND are comforting. Schadenfreude. Schadenfreude. Schadenfreude. The syllables just kind of roll off the tongue. Schaden - German for "damage". Freude - German for "joy" Harmful joy. Malicious glee. Or as the Catholic Church calls it -- the sin of "morose delectation" -- the taking of pleasure in watching someone suffer. It really is one of THE great TV industry words. And you sound smarter than saying "fuck you".

What am I schadenfreuding about ?? This week's New Yorker has absolutely TRASHED the Ken Burns "War" series. Allow me to quote (with morose delectation) -:

"They've taken a subject that is inexhaustible and made it merely exhausting....at 15 hours "The War" is too much of a not good enough thing...this kinds of burbling fatuousness does not aid the cause of getting to the truths of war, and Burns should know better".

The problem, of course is one of hubris.

Once you become American's go-to guy for "serious" documentaries (as opposed to Michael Moore's sit-com docs)...once you have a piece of editing software named after you (the "Ken Burns" effect)...and once you become your own little multi-million dollar industry - nobody is going to tell you that your work sucks.

The editorial process is brutal. Criticism burns -- especially when it comes from network suits. But, in my small experience at the end of the day ALL OUR WORK is usually better off after taking an editorial shit-kicking. Like the Drill Sergeants say "EAT THE PAIN".

In this case the suits at PBS are to blame for Kenny's flop. Sometimes the King really does have No Clothes. But it takes guts to point that out.

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