- AUGUST 2016 UPDATE: Shortly after I published this post, Tara Weber found work – as I fully expected she would – with another media organization. For the past year she has been the Calgary-based western correspondent for the Business News Network.
You didn’t read anything in the Calgary Herald about Thursday’s job cuts at CBC Calgary. They were implemented the same day the broadcaster released the report of its inquiry into the Jian Ghomeshi affair, so it’s not too surprising the paper chose to go with what some would consider the bigger CBC story of the day. Besides, the Herald has suffered through its own downsizings in recent years, so why tempt fate again by doing a story about job cuts at another media organization?
What do we know, then, about the cuts at CBC Calgary? For one, we know they’ve been devastating. We know this from Brooks DeCillia, a former CBC Calgary staffer, who wrote in the Huffington Post on March 27 that after all the blood had been spilt, CBC Calgary would have the same number of journalists as CBC St. John’s. DeCillia’s figures showed that Alberta would take a bigger hit than any other province, with 37 journalists losing their jobs compared to 30 in Ontario. These, we now learn, include all but one of the CBC videographers in this province, many with 20 or more years of experience. As country singer Matt Masters said on Twitter, this sends a clear message from the CBC brass about its regional priorities. The head of the Canadian Media Guild, Marc-Philippe Laurin, wondered how a station could do a local newscast without videographers.
We also know about the negative impact of the cuts from Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who sent an email to CBC president Hubert Lacroix on April 1 deploring the decimation in Calgary. The mayor wrote that the 20 jobs eliminated at CBC Calgary would amount to almost one-quarter of the station’s entire radio and television staff. He echoed DeCillia’s comment that this would leave Calgary with the same number of journalists as St. John’s: “For a news station serving a population of roughly two million to have as many staff as a station serving less than 600,000 people does not make sense to me.”
One of the Calgary CBC staffers who received a pink slip was Tara Weber, who worked for both television and radio as a reporter and host. I haven’t met Weber (though we did have a brief Facebook exchange this morning), but I do know a little about her from what I’ve read – mostly in a column by Joe Warmington that appeared in the Toronto Sun in September 2010. It serves to put a human face on the story of Thursday’s job cuts at CBC Calgary.
Weber was 29 when she spoke to Warmington, which makes her now about 33 or 34. She grew up in Kelowna, earned an arts degree majoring in English and anthropology at UBC Okanagan, and then moved to Toronto to complete a journalism degree at Ryerson. She spent five years with the CBC, in Toronto, Yellowknife and Windsor, before joining Toronto’s City TV as a reporter in October 2008. Two years later, she left for Calgary. Why? Lack of wheelchair access in Toronto.
“I hate to leave but it’s just not easy for me to live here,” she told Warmington. “Ever since I came here in 2003 to go to Ryerson, I have found it so difficult to get around.”
Weber has been in a wheelchair since breaking her back in a car accident at age 17. She doesn’t make a thing about this – “I’m not an advocate or a spokesperson,” she told Warmington – but she did want to say something before leaving Toronto.
As well as talking to Warmington, she also wrote a note to the Toronto mayor: “I’ve lived in various places throughout Canada and can honestly say Toronto is one of the least accessible. The majority of places are not wheelchair accessible – bars, restaurants, transit stations, bathrooms and even stores.”
Are things any better in Calgary? Let’s put it this way, Weber has lived here for four years and eight months, more than twice as long as she spent working for City TV in Toronto.
Her response to losing her job has been gracious. She tweeted out the following after she got the bad news:
“My position was one of many cut today at @CBCCalgary. Thoughts with colleagues who also lost jobs & those who will now have to do even more.”
There will undoubtedly be life after CBC for Weber, and a good one at that. She is one-third of the way through an MBA at U of C’s Haskayne School of Business. The CBC’s loss will be someone else’s gain.Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 Brian Brennan - Writer