The branch office mentality

Speaking out - Don DiCesare

Published on April 3, 2014

How did we let this happen to us?  How did we become the “branch office?”

If you are now asking yourself, “what the heck is he talking about?” let me explain.  A branch office, in my opinion, is an appendage of a big, far-away head office, whose primary function is to blindly obey the orders from head office and make lots of money for the big bosses in that big head office, and do all this by spending as little money as possible.

Still don’t know what I’m talking about? How about if I say NTV, CBC and CFCB? These are all media outlets that, at one time, had a strong local presence.

They are all now a mere shadow of their old selves, a mere branch office, if you will.

NTV,  at one time, had a full TV production studio on West Street in Corner Brook.

Even the late, irrepressible Bas Jamieson made his headquarters here. What have we got now?

Don Bradshaw, bless him, with a 20-second video bite on the evening news, unless it suits the head office in St. John’s, like the recent Janeway Telethon kickoff in Meadows, which received massive coverage while the Haywood Canadian National Cross-Country Ski Championships going on in Corner Brook at the same time was virtually ignored.

Other than some coverage of the provincial political scene, most of the other news centres around fires, vehicle accidents or criminal activity and related court proceedings in St. John’s.

There is life outside the overpass, you know. But that’s what happens when you become a branch office. You are relegated to second-fiddle status. In the case of NTV, it’s not even a branch office. The western Newfoundland telephone directory listing for NTV shows it at Logy Bay Road in St. John’s.

The CBC, however, at least has a local branch office. Not very big mind you, and stuck in the corner of a local mall, but at least they have a few local employees. Six at my last count.

That’s a far cry from the radio and TV studios of the past, in a large, earthquake proof and bomb proof building perched on Hospital Hill, with over 50 employees. With the exception of a little bit of local morning programming, the rest mainly is from St. John’s, reporting fender-benders and court items, all of little relevance to western Newfoundland.

If they want people to listen or watch their stations, then the programming must be relevant to that audience or at least more balanced than it is.

CFCB, on the other hand, has a few more employees than the CBC, and while it purports to be “local,” it is, in my humble opinion, still a mere branch office of VOCM in St. John’s.

I base this on my observation that with the exception of a few hours in early morning, and a bit of time at noon and Sunday mornings, the rest of the programming is from St. John’s.

I get particularly irked by the early morning “local” news, all of which seems to be taking place in “metro,” wherever that is.

I’ve looked at various maps and can’t find this town anywhere, but it seems to have a lot of fender-benders, fires and drug busts, because that seems to be all the news that’s ever reported.

Frankly, a fire on Merrymeeting Road or an accident on the Outer Ring Road is not local news to anyone who doesn’t live in this town called “metro.”

In fact, in true journalistic terms, it’s not even news, but could more aptly be termed tabloid fodder.

To get back to my original question, how did our city become a mecca for mere branch offices?

And does it even matter? Well, if a city is not growing but actually shrinking in population, the odds of new business and industry starting up and having head office status are somewhat slim.

In fact, the opposite is probably likelier, as branches that had equal status with their head office, are reduced to minion status.

With the media outlets that I noted earlier, perhaps it doesn’t matter anymore. Technology seems to have overtaken them.

Ask any 20-something if they listen to radio news or the evening TV news, and all you’ll get is a blank stare.  Their news all comes via social media, on the smartphone growing out of their hands where fingers used to be.

I think it’s a sad state of affairs when so many of these young techies know so little about what’s happening in their country or the world.  

Then again, maybe I’m just an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy.

Don DiCesare lives in Corner Brook and is a member of The Western Star’s Community Editorial Board.