Column

My critics live on a different planet

Barbara Amiel December 14 1998
Column

My critics live on a different planet

Barbara Amiel December 14 1998

Opening NOTES

TANYA DAVIES

Not a morning person?

When Canadian journalist Kevin Newman was appointed cohost of ABC’s Good Morning America last May, he took the job, he said then, “with no illusions.” Just as well: the New York City-based morning show, ranked second in the ratings, has lost more than 25 per cent of its viewers in the past two years, and apparently the network is laying some blame with Newman. Last week, several publications —including USA Today and Variety— speculated that the 39-year-old Toronto native is about to be replaced.

Since Newman’s debut, critics have complained that the show’s focus has become too soft, almost pandering, and that Newman and co-host Lisa McRee lack chemistry. Changes to his appearance— contact lenses and a new wardrobe—did not appear to make a difference. Last February, ABC hired another Canadian —former Canada AM. producer Fiona

Conway—as a senior producer for the show. But Variety reported that network officials, worried that the program may fall to last in the ratings, might make wholesale changes that include new producers. Last week, Conway said that she was “not aware of any restructuring” and ABC spokeswoman Eileen Murphy put it down to “rumors.” But a source at the network told Maclean’s that the changes are likely to occur in January.

It’s not all bad news. Newman—whose three-year contract will pay him an estimated $1 million this year—and Conway will likely be offered other jobs within ABC. If Newman does lose his high-profile position, there is a consoling precedent: fellow Canadian Peter Jennings lasted three years as ABC’s news anchor in the 1960s before being removed. He returned in 1983 and has been host of World News Tonight with Peter Jennings for 15 years.

CAPITAL CONFIDENTIAL

Quebec City Liberal MNA Margaret Delisle knows the meaning of the word squeaker. In the 1994 provincial election, the 52-yearold eked out a victory in her central Jean-Talon riding by a mere 25 votes. In last week’s election, the margin was even tighter before the mail-in ballots from Quebecers living temporarily outside the province were counted: Delisle led PQ candidate DanielMercier Gouin by only 17 votes. When the 200-odd mail-in ballots were finally tabulated, Delisle breathed a sigh of relief: her margin had widened to 156 votes.

That she managed to save her seat surprised some pundits, especially after the foot-in-mouth comments she made during the campaign. Delisle first landed in hot water after Liberal Leader Jean Charest suggested that the provincial bureaucracy costs about 30 per cent too much. Delisle, whose riding is home to thousands of civil servants, ac-

knowledged his comment, saying “We are heading into a battle with the unions.” In another gaffe, Delisle referred to civil servants as “pencil-pushers”. A former mayor of suburban Sillery, which is part of the riding, Delisle managed to survive her stumbles. And on election night, with her victory finally secured, she looked and sounded jubilant. With good reason.

EMPORIUM

According to the Geomatics Canada Geographical Names Database, the top six longest place names in the country:

1 Cape St. George-Petit Jardiin-Grand Jardin-De Grau-Marches Point Loretto, Nfld.

2 Cours d’eau du Cordon des Terres des Sixième et Septième Rangs, Que.

3 Ruisseau Katakuschuwepaishit Kachikuschikepaisham, Que.

4 Décharge des Neuvième, Dixième et Onzième Concessions, Que.

5 Cours d’eau de la Concession Sud-Est du Rang Saint-David, Que.

6 Lower North Branch Little Southwest Miramichi River, N.B.

GOLDFARB POLL

When Canadians were asked if the threat of AIDs had affected their sex lives, the majority answered no. Only among those under 25 did a majority respond in the affirmative, with people 25 to 34 split down the middle. By percentage of 1,400 adults:

DOUBLE TAKE

Alex

Baumann

When swimmer Alex Baumann won the gold medal and shattered the world record in the 400-m individual medley race at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, it was a glorious time for Canadians. Despite an East Bloc boycott, the 20-year-old Sudbury, Ont., native was the golden boy of the games, winning three gold medals and one silver, and setting two world records. “It made me proud to be Canadian,” he now recalls.

Fourteen years later, Baumann is still involved with amateur sport—but for athletes Down Under. After retiring from competition in 1987, he married Tracy Taggart, an Aus-

tralian nurse. They moved to her home town of Brisbane in 1991 and have two children, Ashton, 5, andTabitha, 3. Now 34, Baumann is a director with the department of tourism, sport and racing in Queensland. He praises the Australian government’s financial support of sport, adding: “Canada needs this—it leads to better results.” Baumann still sports the red maple leaf tattoo on his chest that he got to commemorate the 1984 Games, but he now has a hint of an Australian accent. “I try to keep my kids informed about Canada,” he says. “But I’m well-entrenched here.” It wasn’t easy, though. Baumann admits he is only now getting used to the constant hot weather and the changes to his favorite hobby, fishing. “I love to fish, and being from Northern Ontario I was used to lakes,” he says. “Here, it’s all ocean fishing.” LUKE FISHER