Cluffy and the Bridge

It is not going to surprise any CBC Radio1 listener if I admit to being a firm Anti-Cluff-ite.

Rick Cluff is the morning show host in Vancouver on the Flagship Mothership, and comes to us after a long history of sportscasting in southern Ontario. This explains why the only thing he approaches with any intelligence or enthusiasm is sports. When talking to the Sports Guy in Toronto (whoever that is this week), he is in his element. And food; he seems to really be into talking about food. For pretty much any other topic, he is hopeless.

It is worst when he is interviewing someone on a topic he is less versed in, like, say, this morning’s interview with TransLink’s Sany Zein about the Pattullo Bridge. (you will be able to hear it here, February 21, just before the 8:00 news, so about 1:50 into the 2:35 program). Rick’s technique is to prepare for the interview by finding the conflict, then writing down a bunch of questions probing that conflict. That way, during the interview, he can read the questions off the page (and the cadence he uses make it clear he is reading through the bottom of his bifocals) and not have to worry about listening to or understanding the answers. It is especially funny when an interviewee provides the answer to the question before Rick asks it, and Rick just can’t break the script and have a conversation, so he boldly charges ahead and asks the question just answered…

In this morning’s conversation , the conflict narrative was New Westminster being a roadblock to replacing the aged Pattullo. Sany Zein tried to clarify and explain that New Westminster was in the middle of their Master Transportation Plan and that the two consultations would work in parallel, and together. There is no conflict there. Then he has a canned input from Wayne Wright saying the same thing, followed by Mr. Zein repeating it, but Rick kept on narrative- How can they move forward with New Westminster being so uncooperative? It was painful.

The worst part is that Rick’s blind devotion to the conflict he wrote down on his crib sheet kept him from asking questions most of his listeners wanted to have answered. How big will this bridge be? Who is going to pay for it? Will it be tolled? How can the public get involved in the consultations? You know, useful information that the news could provide, instead of trying to find a simple conflict narrative to attach sports metaphors to.

Contrast this to Stephen Quinn’s interview approach, where he carries on a conversation, responds to the previous answer, and prepares himself ahead of time so that he can follow the conversation wherever it leads. He also has a knack for fitting in that one slightly uncomfortable question that the public wants to hear answered. Quinn is clearly the best interview talent on the local CBC. Yet again, I digress.

In the case of this morning’s interview, Rick Cluff continues his trend of seeing the world through a windshield. He is of the generation that thinks you can solve traffic problems by putting more roads down, which is a frankly ridiculous approach in the year 2012. This might be because he drives in from White Rock at 4:30 am when the roads are empty, then listens to the traffic reports all day and can’t imagine the cars are the problem.

Regardless, Sany Zein is, in my experience, an approachable and thoughtful guy. So you should feel comfortable asking him questions directly during the open houses coming up this week. Starting tonight!

5 comments on “Cluffy and the Bridge

  1. I say we send round a hat to collect for Rick Cluff’s retirement fund. Maybe we can get him outta there sooner. Why, oh why, can’t CBC relegate this guy to the times when nobody actually listens to the radio? Like at noon or something?

  2. Don’t like him? Don’t listen. People need to stop bitching and find something else to listen to. Rick was not just a sportscaster in southern Ontario. He has been all over the world, covering hundreds of international sporting events. Rick was hand picked to be the voice of the Early Edition. So seriously guys, stop the complaining and just change the channel if you don’t like him!

  3. No, I pay for CBC whether I listen or not, so random complaints on-line is an appropriate response IMHO. I do, actually, turn Rick off more commonly now and listen to podcasts instead. Part of the issue is that most Vancouver radio is abhorrently bad: loud commercials interspersed with loud blovators and call-in opinions from the reactionary masses…or Nickelback. It’s terrible. Terrible.

    Cluff’s got that smooth voice, and knows a lot about sports. In contrast, Stephen Quinn sounds like he is interested in topics he discusses, and has spent a few minutes educating himself about the topic so he can discuss it in a meaningful way. Cluff just reads the script and never engages. He comes across as being not very bright. That is OK if you are on CKNW biding your time until you can become Premier, but I expect more for the money I happily pay to support the Nation’s Broadcaster.

  4. Please don’t assume that Rick Cluff’s opinions are those of “a generation”. This smacks of ageism. This is too simplistic. I can find just as many young people who express the same world view as Rick Cluff’s.

  5. 5 years on and we are still waiting for Rick’s retirement…

    And also, New West council has obviously no clue how to solve its traffic problem. It has been getting worse daily for the last xx years…

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