New Brunswick — CBC news sites across the country have received a face-lift in an effort to make them look more hip, sleek — and horrifically gaudy.
This morning, The Manatee spoke with CBC New Brunswick news editor David Morris about the changes to his site, and what they mean for the future of local news.
“We’re incredibly excited about the new redesign,” he said, sitting down at his desk. “Here, let me give you the full tour.”
He opened the website to reveal an ungodly mess of flashing images and moving icons. “This top half here is entirely devoted to advertising,” said Morris, indicating to a seizure-inducing image taking up half the screen.
“Below, we have a comments section, where people can write their thoughts and grievances about the general state of affairs here in the province. Below that we have a sub-comments section, where you can comment on the overall quality of the comments.”
“And over here, on the left-hand side,” he pointed out, excitedly, “we have a window that continuously live-streams old episodes of Mr. Dressup. You know, for the kids.”
Along with these visual enhancements, Morris says the updated site also boasts customizable features as well.
“To create your account, you can use the fingerprint reader on your smartphone to send your information through LinkedIn to better integrate with your other social media accounts,” Morris explained. “Then, if you right-click the icon in the shape of the Queen’s head, it turns your cursor into a lobster, which then enables you to drag items from the drop-down menu into your personal CBC drive where you can convert them into .jpeg or .pdf files to be shared via our messenger app, or faxed over to Newfoundland and read live on the radio.”
As he spoke, he gave an incredibly confusing demonstration of these features on his desktop.
Some have raised concerns that the sleek new design both alienates CBC’s older, less tech-savvy audience, and also pulls focus away from their news section.
“Oh, that’s no problem — we fired our reporting staff weeks ago,” he said. “Our headlines are now generated using an algorithm that aggregates ‘keywords’ that would be of interest to the average New Brunswicker. Check it out.”
He clicked an icon on his screen, which began scrambling a list of words, forming a sentence that popped up in a separate window.
“OK, let’s see…‘Saint John power outages increase debt to water treatment for missing woman,’” he said. “There you have it! A perfect CBC headline.”
But how do you write an article for a story that doesn’t exist?
“The data indicates that exactly zero per cent of our audience bothers to read the article beyond the headline,” he said, dismissing the question with a wave of his hand. “So we just put a bunch of filler in. So far, no one has noticed.”
Sure enough, the page was almost entirely comprised of the word “asparagus” repeated several hundred times over, accompanied by an image of an RCMP car.
The Manatee asked Morris if he hoped that the dynamic update would bring new readers to the site.
“Not really, no,” he said, leaning back in his chair and placing his hands behind his head. “We’re a public service, so I get paid either way.”