For more than a decade, CBC local news outlets have become all too familiar with cutbacks. Since 1991, a litany of local news staffers have found themselves out of a job — or cutback as it were — as the CBC faced increased budget constraints.
Fortunately, local news seems to have survived the worst of it. Now it’s slowly being rebuilt and has been given a recent boost in its budget. In a further show of support, at the beginning of the year, local news was moved from 6:30 to 6 p.m. and re-branded under a new name: CBC News at Six.
Diana Swain, Toronto’s News at Six anchor, couldn’t be happier with the network’s renewed focus.
“Since we re-launched in January, it feels like we’re doing a completely new show,” says Swain who was on hand to promote her program at the 2006-2007 CBC TV season preview. “For a long time, the show was neglected and there weren’t a lot of resources.”
While Swain has been part of the Toronto local newscast only since 2004, she was a major part of CBC Manitoba’s local news team before her move to Toronto. Ironically, Swain came to prominence during the local news cutback era, joining CBC Manitoba in 1990 as a reporter and four years later was the anchor of its award-winning newscast, 24 Hours.
She anchored 24 Hours for seven years, leaving shortly after the show was cut to a half hour and re-titled Canada Now. In 2001, became the co-host of CBC’s investigative newsmagazine Disclosure.
When Disclosure ended its run in 2004, Swain unexpectedly returned to local news in Toronto.
“It was a place for me to land, really,” Swain says now. “I spent three years with Disclosure and I traveled a lot. It was tiring.”
Still, joining the CBC Toronto’s local news must have been a kind of culture shock compared to her days as a leading newscaster in Winnipeg. CBC Toronto’s broadcast has long been the least-watched newscast in that market.
“Well, it gives you the freedom to change,” Swain says. “When you’re number two, paralysis sets in, you’re afraid to change the formula. We were able to change anything we wanted and we figured out what worked and what didn’t.”
With the future of News at Six looking brighter, Swain is now branching off into other projects. Those outside of Toronto can see Swain regularly on national television once again as the host of an upcoming, as-yet-unscheduled CBC Newsworld interview series titled Face to Face.
But don’t expect Swain to give up News at Six anytime soon.
“Initially, I was only planning on staying for a year or so to catch my breath. However, it was nice to return to the desk, especially since it’s as close to a 9 to 5 as you can get in this business.”